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Brian Kardon, CMO of InVision, on Preparation, Curiosity, and Speed


Being raised by an opera singer and a surgeon seems to have been unexpectedly perfect preparation for Brian Kardon’s career. Featuring unexpected twists and turns, that career now finds him as CMO at InVision. “My upbringing gave me a good balance of left brain and right brain – creativity and logic.”

As creative as Brian is, he’s a stickler for preparing, through musical practice as a kid and now through means like A/B testing as a marketer. In fact, preparation helps him take the important step of improvising when necessary.

He learned this lesson when his middle-school band instructor encouraged Brian to play his saxophone solo in the Watermelon Man by Herbie Hancock from his heart instead of his head. “I had the fundamentals down. I knew every chord and every scale and was prepared to improvise. The same holds true in marketing – you need to prepare before engaging customers.”

They took a big chance on me since I hadn’t led marketing for a tech company. It was a great experience because I wasn’t just a marketer for a software company – I was evangelizing a new way to do marketing.

Unlike so many of his peers, Brian short-circuited the typical management track and took a seat at the executive table when he entered marketing. After business school, he served as a consultant for a large global consulting firm where he worked with consumer goods brands including Coca-Cola and Ralph Lauren.

When a search firm came calling with a CMO position at a $5 billion-a-year company, Brian jumped at the opportunity. “I was fortunate they were looking for someone with a strong consulting and strategy background.” During Brian’s time there, the company grew to $10 billion in annual revenue.

He next helped Forrester Research establish its leadership brand in the technology research sector when he served as Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer. Then a startup in the marketing automation space came knocking: Eloqua. “They took a big chance on me since I hadn’t led marketing for a tech company. It was a great experience because I wasn’t just a marketer for a software company – I was evangelizing a new way to do marketing.”

That evangelism helped Eloqua grow from $10 million to $100 million in annual revenue in just four years, paving the way for an IPO and eventual acquisition by Oracle.

Brian then served as CMO at both Lattice Engines and Fuze – the latter of which grew from $30 million to over $125 million annually during his four years. He next took the marketing helm at InVision. Shortly after his arrival, Brian got a surprise. “Two months in, the CEO told me that sales now reports to me. It has been extremely energizing to use different muscles and learn new things. With both sales and marketing working for me, I can make things happen very quickly.”

Some of Brain’s other keys to success:

  • Understanding the world of sales. Brian encourages every marketer to sit alongside a salesperson to better understand the job and better enable sales to succeed.
  • Continuously learning. Having seen many changes in the discipline of marketing throughout his career, Brian believes in staying curious and trying new things.
  • Speed matters. To beat the competition, Brian encourages his teams to move forward with campaigns and product launches as quickly as possible, knowing they can course correct as needed.