MarTech Interview with Isabelle Guis, Global CMO & CEO of North America at Brevo

Gain valuable insights from Isabelle Guis, Global CMO & CEO of North America at Brevo, as she shares her expertise in marketing and leadership. Explore innovative strategies and industry trends that are shaping the future of business.
MarTech Interview

Isabelle, congratulations on your new role as CEO of North America and global CMO at Brevo. Can you share a bit about your background in marketing and how it has prepared you for this position?

Why global CMO

  • I have a background in engineering, but have always maintained a strong customer-centric approach. This focus on customers led to my natural transition into product management, product marketing and other functions of marketing before I transitioned into the CMO role.
  • Marketing, especially with the advent of SaaS has become more data-driven (product usage, performance marketing, etc.), which fits well with my background. I like numbers, and coupled with my product marketing strength, it greatly helped in creating differentiated positioning and defining a go-to-market strategy for the right product in the right market at the right time.

Why Brevo

  • When I immigrated to the U.S. in 2001, I had the opportunity to help several global companies in expanding their presence in the EMEA region. It was crucial for me to make sure early on that they appreciated the cultural differences, as well as the regulations that were emerging, like GDPR, and the differences in go-to-market strategies.
  • Throughout my career, I held various cross-functional roles that allowed me to gain valuable insights. For instance, I served as the General Manager for the SMB market at Avaya and Chief Strategy Officer at Egnyte, a governance platform.
  • When I met the Brevo team, it became evident that my knowledge of the U.S. market would contribute not only to the marketing efforts for North America but also to the overall expansion of the business. Being French, I could leverage my bi-cultural experience to bridge both worlds and connect with the executive teams overseas.

As a marketing leader, you must stay updated on the latest trends. What are some of the most significant marketing trends you are currently observing, and how do you see them shaping the industry?

  • As an adjunct professor in Marketing at Santa Clara University I have an unfair advantage: my students. They serve as a constant source of inspiration, challenging me to provide new and unique insights about new startups in the tech stack.
  • I also talk to a few VCs on a regular basis to see their perspective on the market – they are definitely the first to know when something new comes up!
  • At the moment, I’m closely monitoring three major marketing trends: community, purpose, and AI.
    • Community – With COVID a sense of community has been lost and the market, especially SaaS, has been evolving faster than before. It is important to maintain a close link with your customer community. Having the right platform to communicate at the right time over the right channel, creating in-person or online opportunities to reach out and connect them with each other, etc. All of these aspects are becoming critical to stay engaged and grow with your customers.
    • Purpose – Nowadays more than ever, customers, employees, partners, and everyone care about a cause. Brevo is a CRM company with a purpose. We offer two models. A for-fee version for businesses but also a freemium version so many mission-based organizations like city halls, churches, sport associations, non-profits, etc. can reach out to their community and support each other. We really give these hard-working community leaders a voice to make an impact. This is definitely part of our DNA, what our employees and customer values and a critical tenet of our culture. Today you cannot market without taking this into consideration.
    • AI – I’ll be remiss if I didn’t mention AI. In a market where professionals act more and more as prosumers, with expectations of highly personalized engagement (right message on the right channel for the right person at the right time), it becomes also impossible for marketers to do this even with a marketing automation platform. The micro-segmentation needed, the trends analysis in real time, the content customization, and more are just too many combinations and AI can play a critical role in allowing marketers to better target, time, and communicate with their audiences. It’s like having a secret weapon that helps us cut through the noise and deliver personalized experiences at scale.

The tech industry has traditionally been male-dominated. What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders who want to succeed in the tech industry, particularly in marketing roles?

  • Yes, the tech industry has been traditionally male-dominated. However, things are improving. While there is still progress to be made, we are on the right path. So first of all, don’t get discouraged.
  • I actually believe that marketing is the most diverse profession when it comes to gender in the tech industry. I’ve seen many exceptional women assume CMO roles. Companies are realizing that in order to better serve and understand a market, an employee base has to reflect its composition. Clearly marketing is leading the way.
  • My advice is to take risks and trust your instincts. If you overthink things, you will be less likely to try. When you write down your list of pros and cons, don’t overly fixate on the cons instead try to give twice more credits to the pros. Nobody can fully see around corners, it is best to enjoy the ride.

Brevo is a company that supports the needs of growing businesses. How is Brevo uniquely positioned to address the challenges faced by these businesses, and what role does marketing play in supporting this mission?

  • I believe we have a superior product. The CRM industry is mature and has many players. But businesses are still underserved. Small businesses find them too expensive and large corporations too complex. Brevo recognized these gaps and built an easy-to-use, powerful solution that delivers immediate value for your money.
  • So we have the right product, and there is a strong demand. This is especially evident in the North American market because it is the fastest-growing region in our portfolio. So far, the majority of our business in North America is driven by marketing only and it is still a large driver of our business in the rest of the world. This verifies our marketing expertise and ability to execute; it is why we are uniquely positioned to help our customers. We tried it ourselves and achieved this by being the #1 user of our own platform.
  • Brevo’s ability to execute thanks to marketing allowed it to reach the highly coveted Centaur status, which is actually based on the ability to generate real revenues – $100M ARR (annual recurring revenue) in contrast to a Unicorn label, which is based on expected valuation, not previous earnings.
  • Currently, Brevo is actively building up our sales and marketing teams to service bigger accounts. These resources will allow Brevo to gain market share in underserved markets and solve the top issues that businesses struggle with in customer relationship building.

Customer experience is a critical aspect of marketing. How does Brevo prioritize and deliver an exceptional customer experience? Are there any specific initiatives or tools in place to enhance customer satisfaction?

  • Customer-centricity is ingrained in our DNA. It permeates every aspect of our work, rather than being limited to a single action or initiative.
  • We have 500k customers around the world, from all sizes and diverse backgrounds. From local Parisian butchers to Tuscan winemakers, Silicon Valley startups, and renowned brands like Louis Vuitton and Decathlon – we easily connect with businesses from various industries. We intimately understand the needs of smaller businesses as we use their services daily, while also catering to the demands of larger businesses that require advanced technology and robust support. Brevo is the only CRM vendor that offers support to businesses of all sizes. We answer the call of a small store owner and a large corporation while others focus solely on the top. We have managed to build a global, multi-language support team that is not only cost-efficient but can scale to meet increasing demands. All of our customers are important and we learn from them and each and every call. The more customers we engage with, the better. It helps us refine our product and onboarding process. By actively listening to their insights, we can improve our operations, reduce costs, and minimize support ticket volume.

Brevo operates in North America and globally. What are some of the unique marketing challenges and opportunities you have encountered while expanding into different regions?

  • Brevo originated in India and launched in Europe. This means that from day one we had to support multiple languages – we are the only one to support up to 6 languages! – regulations, etc. Expanding to new countries, and more recently, growing in North America was straightforward. Our ability to scale and support new regulations made for a smoother process.
  • There are many differences between countries. For instance, on the go-to-market front, a local strategy is needed to authentically engage with customers in a way that resonates with them. For instance:
    • Engagement channels – WhatsApp is more popular in Europe than in North America
    • Business practices – The North America market is more tech friendly and buys online more than other countries who prefer in-person shopping
    • Cultures – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected in some countries vs. others
  • All of these are both challenges but also opportunities if you use them as a way to differentiate yourself.

In your role as global CMO, how do you ensure consistent messaging and brand positioning across different regions and markets?

  • I have always been a strong believer in messaging hierarchy. The top of the messaging is our vision and mission and what we stand for and this is immutable no matter what market or region we are in.
  • Then there is campaign or solution messaging around the top 4-5 business problems we solve for our customers. While they are the same, some apply more to a certain region or industry (e.g., GDPR) or a specific time (e.g., productivity increase with AI). We use the most relevant one for the market and region we’re engaging with.
  • Finally the product messaging and positioning is linked to the product roadmap and also to the competition and how their offering evolves as well. This is not changing frequently but needs to be updated when major shifts occur.

What role does customer feedback play in shaping Brevo’s marketing strategies and product development? How does the company gather and incorporate customer insights into its decision-making processes?

  • As we discussed earlier, customers are at the center of everything we do. We listen to all signals and feedback they share with us from live interactions at events or over the phone, to product usage, marketing metrics of content downloads, email/SMS/WhatsApp open rates and responses, to social media.
  • We use Brevo Customer Data Platform to consolidate all the marketing activities and leverage this information and the product usage to better segment and serve our customers. This allows us to engage with them in the most relevant and timely manner.
  • Our product team uses the same information to drive the roadmap and also have focus groups or beta trials to go deeper in qualitative information.
  • We also have a Brevo community that includes our beta program and Brevo Academy.

Can you discuss any recent marketing initiatives or campaigns that have helped Brevo reach new audiences or expand its market presence? What were the key objectives and outcomes of these initiatives?

  • We are creating a team of field marketers and sales reps in the U.S. to go beyond our online presence and interactions with our customers in North America. As part of our strategy, we have been present at many events – the next one being SaaStr in the Bay Area in September.
  • In Europe, we started verticalizing our marketing message as many retailers like Aquarelle, Louis Vuitton, and other brand names rely more and more on our solution for mobile loyalty cards, marketing campaigns over multiple channels, and more.
  • Each time the objective is to get closer to our customers and better anticipate and answer to their needs as the market evolves. It evolves faster since COVID as the familiarity with anything digital increased and the consumer expectations for high personalization are also the ones of professionals.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and vision for the marketing function at Brevo? How do you plan to leverage marketing as a strategic driver of growth for the company?

  • Our goal is crystal clear: to be the absolute best in digital marketing and CRM. If we want to be the number 1 solution for our customers, we need to use it ourselves and demonstrate its efficiency. We reached the Centaur status in large part via self-service where marketing was the sole revenue engine of the company, and of course, using Brevo ourselves.
  • Marketing will be critical in powering our growth strategy, which is to expand in North America, increase our market share with larger accounts and launch innovative products to become the go-to CRM suite for marketers, sales and any team managing customer relationships.

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Isabelle Guis, Global CMO & CEO of North America at Brevo

Isabelle Guis brings two decades of experience in B2B technology marketing to her role as Global CMO & CEO of North America at Brevo. Her extensive experience includes multiple go-to-market motions including SaaS, direct and through channel partners, as well as product marketing and management across the IT industry. Prior to Brevo, she was Chief Marketing Officer at Commvault, a public data protection company. Earlier Isabelle was vice president of sales cloud product marketing at Salesforce, where she oversaw product messaging, launches and innovation for the Sales Cloud portfolio. She also held executive and senior management roles at Egnyte, EMCCorporation, Big Switch Networks, Avaya, Cisco Systems, and Nortel Networks. Voted a Top 100 most influential B2B tech marketing in North America in 2016, Isabelle resides in Silicon Valley, California, where she provides pro bono consulting work to local Bay Area public and non-profit organizations. LinkedIn.
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