Aptean welcomed veteran marketing expert Leo Tucker as the company’s new Chief Marketing Officer. We sat down with Leo to chat about his background, his early impressions of Aptean, and how he spends his time outside the office.
Q: Leo, can you start by telling us about your background and the path that brought you to Aptean?
Leo: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with technology companies for more than 20 years. I’ve worked with some of the largest companies in the world, like IBM, as well as mid-sized companies like Aptean. I was a product manager in the late 90’s, and grew my skillset to eventually manage every function of marketing, from lead generation, to product marketing, to communications and more. Immediately before joining Aptean I served in a similar capacity as the global head of marketing for PGi, so I’ve been fortunate to run all aspects of marketing globally over the course of my career.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing?
Leo: After I graduated from business school in the mid ‘90’s, it was apparent that technology was going to be a great place to focus my career. I had the opportunity to work at IBM, which gave me my first exposure to technology products and services. After that, I joined an Atlanta-based company called S1 as a product manager. The role I had was 98 percent product marketing. It required me to understand each product’s key differentiators, what message resonated for each product, who we should be concerned with from a competitive perspective, and which new markets we should enter. I found the products interesting, but I fell in love with the strategy behind all of these questions – and I realized that’s where I wanted to focus my career.
Q: What excited you most about the opportunity to join Aptean?
Leo: When anyone is trying to decide whether to join a company – whether they are fresh out of college or well into their career – it comes down to the team. From top to bottom, the team here at Aptean is top notch. Kim Eaton is a fantastic leader, and the vision for the company and the business model is fascinating. I’m especially impressed by Aptean’s focus on how to make strategic acquisitions that create a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts for our customers.
Another exciting thing about Aptean is that under Kim’s leadership, the company has become even more customer-centric. Every company talks about putting your customers first, but I’ve rarely seen it put into action the way it is at Aptean.
Q: You’re still getting your “sea legs” at Aptean, but in these early days, what are your initial observations about the company and the CMO role?
Leo: The laser focus on the customer that Kim introduced means that we have spent less time in recent years on what you might call traditional lead generation. Aptean has great products and customer relationships as a result of this strategy, so customers are choosing to stay with Aptean and expanding the business that they do with us. This has been exactly the right strategy for Aptean. But we’ve reached a point where we need to spend some cycles reinvigorating our demand generation function to add new customers as well. In addition, the brand hasn’t been refreshed in a while, and the time has come to think more deeply and creatively about how we tell our story. It’s going to be a really fun challenge.
Q: As a marketer, you work alongside technical experts and need to speak their language. How do you stay current on technology in order to convey the value of products to customers?
Leo: At the end of the day, it comes down to understanding who your buyers and your users are – and then communicating in a language that makes sense to them. In my career, the buyers and users have been on the business side, so I’ve had to understand their business challenges and goals, and how to translate technical features to address their goals and challenges. So I’ve always seen the marketing role in a technology company as being the translator – translating technical capabilities into solutions.
Q: One of Aptean’s strengths is that it provides products to customers across a broad number of industries. Is it challenging as a marketer to keep up with so many different industries and truly understand each customer?
Leo: From a marketing perspective, it has to be a two-level approach. First, we need to have a strong corporate identity that can serve as an umbrella across all of the different products and services that we offer and to all of the different industries we serve. Second, we need to translate this identity at the product level and apply the right messages to individual business challenges that we’re trying to solve. And of course, it means that our marketing team has to stay very closely aligned with our product team so that we’re always synced upon how to convey the value of what we do to clients, and also relay customer feedback as we continue to build and iterate on our products.
Q: As fast as the tech industry changes, how do you balance the need to deliver the products that customers say they need today with investing in the products you believe they will need tomorrow?
Leo: It’s a critically important question, and a balance that many, many companies struggle with. Our basic approach at Aptean is to start with understanding the business challenge we’re trying to solve for our customers. If a new technology is cool – but we can’t envision how it will help our customers today or in the near future - it tends not to be our top focus. It’s tempting to place big bets on emerging technology to stay ahead of trends, but if you can’t draw that clear line between what you’re investing in and how it will tangibly help your customers, you’re not going to be successful. We also take special care to look at some technologies in the macro sense – to identify the capabilities that we need across our products and across all the industries we serve – but we primarily think about how to apply our technologies to specific client needs and use cases.
Q: Let’s talk about culture. What kind of company is Aptean? What’s it like to work there?
Leo: One thing that became apparent from day one is how well-communicated and understood Aptean’s vision and priorities are across the company. It’s so common in companies of Aptean’s size, and particularly with Aptean’s complexity, for there to be confusion about priorities, strategy, and how everything fits together. Kim and the executive team have really excelled at conveying the vision at the companywide level. And this takes away roadblocks, because we are all clear where we’re going. So as a result of that, the culture is extremely collaborative. And there’s a tremendous amount of energy. When everyone knows the direction they’re heading, it really lends itself to productive conversation. And, from a purely personal perspective, I felt welcomed and comfortable at Aptean right away. There is a great warmth and camaraderie here that I’m excited to be a part of.
Q: You are active in the Atlanta-area community. Tell us about your work with the Atlanta Children’s Museum.
Leo: It’s been a real honor to be on the board of the Children’s Museum for six years now. We’ve just completed a multi-million dollar renovation, and it’s a jewel of downtown Atlanta. My children were frequent visitors to the museum when they were young, so when a friend asked me to join the board, I was excited to do it. Not surprisingly, I was asked to help with development and marketing, which has been a lot of fun. The museum really focuses on learning through structured and unstructured play, and I’ve seen the tremendous impact is has on the community. There’s also a good lesson there about volunteering in ways that leverage your skills to help others. There are endless ways to make a difference, but I find that if you focus on the things you are best at, you’ll have the greatest impact and enjoy yourself.