For nearly six years, Anthony Christie has served as CMO of Level 3 Communications – a premier global network-services provider. For starters, the company reports, Level 3 sees traffic crossing 75% of the world’s IPv4 address space. Additionally, Level 3 has regularly appeared in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Global Network Services – and is now positioned to build upon its market success with a recently announced SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide-Area Network) offering (see my recent blog on SD-WANS and the IoT).
Christie is well pedigreed as a top technology marketer in his own right, holding an advanced degree from MIT and having been recognized with multiple marketing awards. DMN asked Christie about both his past experience and future aspirations as a marketer, as well as details about Level 3’s new product offering. DMN also got some good tips from Christie on marketers who aspire to be CMOs themselves one day.
What was your first marketing-related job?
I had a paper route and landscaping business in my neighborhood where I grew up. Both jobs had aspects of marketing. I would try to sell daily papers to weekend customers and weekend papers to daily customers. I would ask the customers whose lawns I cut if they wanted a paper delivered and vice versa. In the winter, I would clear the sidewalks of snow; in the fall, rake the leaves…so a mixed but, I guess you could say, vertically integrated product line, ha!
How has that experience informed your work as Level 3’s CMO today?
Believe it or not, a lot of those same fundamentals apply:
- Know your market and the products it needs
- Good service and relationships are critical
- Cross-sell/upsell and lead generation capabilities are key, and
- Time and territory management are necessary no matter what you do.
What do you hope to accomplish at Level 3 in the next year?
We want to improve our customer experience on solutions that matter most while also improving employee experience for the people that deliver these solutions to the customers.
On June 20, Level 3 announced a new, “purebred” SD-WAN product to complement your MPLS and hybrid WAN offerings. Can you tell me a little about it?
Many enterprises are struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of change brought on by digital transformation. Level 3 SD-WAN, an important component in overall hybrid networking execution, helps simplify network operations while driving improved performance through greater visibility and greater control. With SD-WAN customers have the flexibility to create secure private networks over a mix of public and private infrastructure whether that’s broadband, wireless, cable or dedicated access.
How do you see your offerings — and SD-WAN evolution in general — impacting both brick-and-mortar retailers and eCommerce?
In general, as I said, this is all part of our hybrid networking strategy in which SD-WAN is a component. This allows all types of customers, not just brick-and-mortar, to execute on operational benefits of agility, efficiency and performance. Hybrid networking is allowing business growth through transformation.
In your view, which technology trends and buzzterms are most impacting marketers in 2017? And which are more bark than they are bite?
I’ll answer that by saying [that] it depends. AI holds a lot of promise; however, the use cases are for the most part limited to B2C applications today — not B2B. I suspect this will change in time, but right now simply stating AI is the be-all and end-all is not true. I also think that, in some respects, [for] something close to home in our product line, SD-WAN is not entirely understood — and, as I’ve said earlier, we view SD-WAN not as a means to an end, but as one more component in a broader hybrid networking strategy [that] includes private networking, public networking, adaptive networking, security, a cloud-connected ecosystem, and professional services.
You have multiple degrees in business administration and management, you wrote your MIT M.S. thesis on wireless thin-client tech, and you have worked in telecommunications for many years. Which educational and/or “real-world” experiences have you found most influential in your marketing career?
I had several internships that were in marketing and sales. They were helpful, but I would say the experience that has been the most impactful was as a direct-sale person early in my career. That experience allowed two things to happen: help me become a strong customer advocate, and at the same time understand what good marketing content is — as well as what poor marketing content is — and how that content enables you to sell…or not.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to people in the early stages of their marketing careers who are aspiring CMOs?
Don’t be afraid to take the dirty jobs. Look for the jobs that have biggest impact (not necessarily the ones that are most sexy). At all costs avoid being too academic. And make sure you stay in touch with stakeholders inside and outside the business — not just those in your work group or HQ location.