How to be Relevant as CMO to Company Objectives Studio CMO Podcast


The CMO is one of the shortest tenured slots in the c-suite. And it’s often due to a lack of alignment. In this podcast interview, you will hear me speak about how marketing can (and should) work cross-functionally between sales and product.

  • Why sales and marketing alignment is critical for a CMOs success.
  • Being a master of your ecosystem is crucially important to meet your objectives.
  • How to move marketing into its rightful position in the c-suite next to the CEO & CRO.
  • How marketing leaders should be investing their time: hint, it’s not managing people.
  • The unique value that CMOs can bring to the business & why many fail to do it.

5 Traits of a High Performing CMO (excerpt interview)

show notes

Marketing and Revenue Leadership Alignment

Back when Mark was a sales leader, he quickly uncovered the need to become a student of the market.

This realization allowed Mark to become more strategic in his roles and facilitated opportunities to work closely with CEOs and CROs as a major driver to the success of the business. 

Taking a Strategic Seat at the Table

The marketing role inside technology organizations recently transitioned from creative arts to data science, becoming a revenue driver and more strategic function.

“I make it my business to be a master of the ecosystem.” – Mark Donnigan

When you invest in understanding the ecosystem, you learn the big players and systemic risks so that when the time comes, you are in a much better position to influence the customer or market.

Moving Marketing Into Its Rightful Place on the Executive Team

Marketing is an essential part of the revenue picture, planning, and development of any company. Unfortunately, not everyone views it as such.

Mark never went to school for marketing, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a student.

“I’m not saddled with the legacy understanding and framework of what the marketing function is and how it’s executed.” – Mark Donnigan

How CMOs can ensure that they are producing value in an organization:

  • CMOs should step away from the traditional playbook and focus on producing actionable ideas that can move the business forward with a clear revenue target. 
  • Get to know your ecosystem. This may mean spending nights and weekends reading and studying. 
  • You need to be able to answer these questions, always: What are the trends in our industry? How are we talking to the market? Are we talking to the market in a way that’s consistent with where it’s heading?

The Marketing Leader’s Role Outside the Office

“If you’re going to be filling the CMO chair, you’ve got to be out in the field.” – Mark Donnigan

If you look at Mark’s LinkedIn activity, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that he’s a marketing consultant. Why? Because LinkedIn is a channel he frequently uses to explore the ecosystem, master the industry, and make connections that will benefit the business.

Unless a marketing leader is selling to other marketers, no more than 30% of their content should be aimed at their colleagues.

“As a marketing leader, if you’re not aggressively working to maintain objectivity, you’re vulnerable to be becoming irrelevant.” – John Farkas

The Unique Value of a CMO

One of the most important things that a CMO can bring to their organization is a strategic perspective of what’s happening in the market, ecosystem, and industry. For a CMO to be indispensable, they must be the force that’s keeping that perspective.

The CEO is regularly speaking with their peers and fellow industry leaders, and CROs are constantly in the field speaking to buyers. 

CMOs should be the keeper of the buyer’s journey — that is how the buyer is arriving at their buying decision and what steps they’re going through to get there.

A primary job for the CMO is to map the events that their buyers are attending and solicit feedback from those events while continuously talking to key ecosystem participants about emerging trends and technology inflection points that could impact the business and its go-to-market sales and marketing motions.


Mark Whitlock: Welcome to Studio CMO. Hi, I’m Mark Whitlock. You’re listening to the podcast where we have real life conversations about the issues and the wins and the woes that B2B tech marketing executives care about. The most. Grateful to be alongside my cohost today, Angus Nelson.

Angus Nelson: Hello!

Mark Whitlock: And the host of our show, the CEO of Golden Spiral, the agency, which brings Studio CMO to you — John Farkas is here.

John Farkas: Greetings, everybody.

Mark Whitlock: And John, we’re going to be talking about an issue today that you have seen time and time again as being one of those bugaboo things that companies face, but unfortunately not a lot of people come right out and talk about it.

John Farkas: Yeah. You know, it’s a widely known fact in our realm that the CMO is often one of the shortest tenured slots in the C-suite. And from my vantage point, that is often because of the lack of alignment. And that alignment is really critical to understand. There’s a lot of different reasons organizations have chief marketing officers. Understanding what those reasons are are really important coming out the gate and, you know, looking for a position and are looking for a job and understanding what the organization may say they need and what they ultimately need. Sometimes those can be two different things, getting that understanding, first of all, but also understanding what has happened in the last probably seven to 10 years as marketing in the B2B realm has moved from a, uh, “maybe we need that kind of thing” into an essential ingredient that’s trackable, measurable, and absolutely, uh, critical for the modern, uh, technology B2B organization. Understanding that and assuming your role at the table in a way that is commensurate with what it ought to be is really an important factor.

John Farkas: And, and seeing the, the role understanding, you know, what is this team that you have around you? Some organizations have a chief revenue officer, right? And they’re, they are about driving revenue. The CEO is most likely focused on how do we build grow, make this business excel. And the marketing function has to fit in there really, really carefully as, as what we call the translation layer. You know, making sure that you are understanding the needs of the market, understanding the objectives of the organization, knitting those two together, inseparably, and providing that critical conduit between the objectives of the organization and the organizational leadership, and the customer somehow, you know, and, and, and how that fits in with sales and how that fits in with product. That’s going to be our focus today. And I’m really excited about who we get to talk about this with. So I guess why don’t you introduce who’s on board today?

Angus Nelson: My pleasure. He has 20 years of experience contributing to the success of startup emerging and growth stage product and technology companies. Then, early in his career, he began in a sales role and he was in business development. And he since evolved into this marketing responsibility, uh, formerly he was the VP of marketing at Beamr, which is a video streaming service behind a lot of the world’s largest streaming brands. He’s also a podcaster just like us. He’s got a show called the Video Insiders, where he addresses all sorts of geeky issues around video streaming and the professionals behind it.

John Farkas: We’ve already given him certified geek status.

Angus Nelson: We absolutely obligatory bow in reverence. Yes. And he’s, uh, in addition, currently he’s a business growth consultant. He works at the intersections of marketing, revenue, and strategy as the marketing playbook, developer, and practitioner. So please welcome to the show, Mark Donnigan.

Mark Donnigan: Well, it’s awesome to be here, guys. Thank you.

John Farkas: Hey Mark Whitlock. We need to get a little bit of that canned applause stuff that we can insert.

Mark Whitlock: Do you want small room, big room golf, claps. What do you want?

Mark Donnigan: Yeah, you’re from radio. You’re used to pushing the, you know, the five buttons. Absolutely. Oh, well, that’s great. It’s great to be here.

Mark Donnigan: Really excited. And this is a topic I’m passionate about, have a lot of experience, uh, you know, living through, dealing with. And so I think it’s going to be a great conversation.

John Farkas: So Mark, this is one of our favorite lines of questioning on this show when you’ve probably heard us talk about it a few times, but I think that I’m, I’m curious to know, um, how did you evolve into your understanding of the critical nature of alignment between the leadership of the organization, the marketing function of an organization or the marketing leadership of an organization and the revenue leadership of, of a B2B organization? How did that, how did you see, uh, or come into your understanding of the critical nature of that mesh?

Mark Donnigan: Yeah, so, you know, I think, um, for me personally, I work from, uh, I’ve always kind of approached things from a little bit of a, not to get, you know, to business speaky, but, um, first principles, you know, the idea is, is to, is to break down, um, why something is working the way it is.

Mark Donnigan: In other words, what is, what is the core tenants of that? Um, or why is it not working and then to address, um, uh, you know, address, you know, either the, the problem, the obstacle, or, um, you know, if we’re trying to say, why is this working, you know, well, let’s, let’s go do more of that. And so for me, um, you know, what’s interesting is, uh, as, as Angus said in the intro, I started in sales and I started, uh, working my way through college, uh, at a radio shack. I am certified geek status. Um, actually before that, um, I was, I was selling car audio systems.

Mark Donnigan: I mean, we were putting big woofers in cars and all this kind of stuff.

Angus Nelson: A little bump in the trunk.

Mark Donnigan: Oh yeah, absolutely. Oh man.

Mark Donnigan: It was a, it was a fun time, but, um, but, but what I really am so thankful for the fact that, um, this gave me, uh, back then, uh, sales was still commission. Nowadays, you know, I think, you know, retail, I don’t know if you can earn a commission other than selling cars or something, but maybe furniture. But, um, and so, you know, I got, I mean, I’m 19 years old, I’m digging into Zig Ziglar books. I’m, you know, I’m learning sales because hey, you know, I wanted to make more money. I was having a great time. I was selling stuff I love. And, um, the point is, you know, what that did was, you know, that put me on this journey for about the next 10, 12 years or so of where then I progressed into sales. I moved pretty quickly out of retail.

Mark Donnigan: I figured out that radio shack is not really where I wanted to spend the rest of my life though. I’m very thankful for that period. Um, but then, you know, I begin to move into sales management. I started to have reps working for me. I started, and now I’m responsible for like the big number. Now. It’s not just my number, you know, my production, but it’s, it’s a team. Right. And so very quickly, um, you know, I started interfacing on the marketing side of things. What are we saying to the customer? Hey, you know, I really needed, uh, I need a piece of collateral or I need something. And this predates, because this is really before the internet. So, um, you know, there really was sales collateral. There were —

John Farkas: What do you mean by before the internet? Before the internet?

Mark Donnigan: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Now, now everybody knows how experienced I am. Um, but, uh, this, you know, through this process of, of understanding and beginning to really, I realized that for me to be more successful, um, as a sales leader, as a revenue leader, I needed to understand the voice of the customer. I needed to understand how to talk to the customer. I need to understand messaging. Now, um, in those early days, because I didn’t come at that point from, uh, you know, I went to computer science. My first two years in college were computer science. And then I decided I wanted to be a rock star. I went to music school. So, so, um, so I, you know, I, I didn’t go to business school, so it’s not that I had this formal education, but I very quickly began to realize, hey, I need to become a student of how to talk to the market and how to move the market outside of just the sales process, the sales motion.

Mark Donnigan:And, and, and, and so all of this then connects to the fact that, um, I found myself moving from sales leadership to where I was getting much more strategic in the organizations I was working in. And so now it was like, Hey, you know, Mark’s heading up our sales team. Maybe we should have Mark also look after some strategic business development, you know, Hey Mark, you know, in your spare time, why don’t you, why don’t you go see, you know, what, what we can do in this area, or, Hey, you know, let’s go explore. And so, um, then, you know, that moved me into more corporate development and, and now I’m now I’m getting involved in the strategy, the organization, and, and I was involved in the strategy organization. So suddenly now, rather than just either reporting up to, you know, the CEO or the founder, or to, um, you know, to a senior executive who, who reports to the CEO, now I’m working directly with the CEO.Mark Donnigan:And so being a sales leader, now getting involved in the strategy, and then eventually my path was, um, to then, uh, really begin to expand my scope and reach into the marketing chair. Um, all of these experiences connected just showed me, um, because I was living it because I actually was in the sales chair. I was in the strategy and the business development chair, working very closely with the business objectives and, and having to do modeling and having to think about, um, where our business might be in five years and is our current direction sufficient to get us there. Uh, and then to propose changes or in some cases even implement those changes, um, within my realm of responsibility and then moving into marketing. And so, you know, for me, I think my journey was, uh, as much because I have sat in each of those chairs, except for the CEO. I’ve never, never been a CEO, but, um, but I’ve sat in the CRO chair or sat in the CMO chair as leading marketing. And they were always working very, very close with the CEO. And it’s out of that experience base that then, um, I bring this understanding that I, that I think is a little bit unique, um, compared to, you know, what others have experienced.John Farkas: Yeah. So bringing that, that perspective and especially because your career in marketing kind of mapped to what I see as the fundamental shift in marketing, right.

Mark Donnigan: 100 percent.

John Farkas:And so if I, if I kind of look at your, your timeline trajectory, you, you really moved into a focus on marketing when, and this is consistent with who you are as a person, because you like the analytical side of things and the more geeky side of it. So it’s not, it’s not more, it’s not like marketing as the creative art, it’s marketing as the data science, right. Which it’s, it’s becoming increasingly, uh, related to. So, so talk about how that move has enabled you to, uh, you know, to, to come to a more strategic seat at the table.Mark Donnigan: Yeah. So, yeah, you’re absolutely correct. In fact, it’s, it’s interesting. So, um, I, I came into my last position, uh, my last company, where I was for 7 years as a consultant. So throughout my career, I have, um, um, largely held, uh, full time positions, um, but have dipped in and out of consulting. And, and I had about a three and a half year period of time where I was advising startups, building startups. At that time, actually primarily on business and channel development, uh, and, and, and, and sort of touching marketing, but it was much more of a, of a business development focus. Um, I, I met, uh, the company that, that I was just at, Beamr. Um, they were a consulting client and I was helping them to build the market. It was a business development, market development. They retain me, um, partially largely because of my ecosystem experience in video. Um, but also because I understood how to go to market, how to, how to build that.

Mark Donnigan: And, um, so, um, so what, um, you know, what ended up happening was was that for the first, uh, I guess about three years, uh, I carried the title of vice president of sales and strategy. And, um, we acquired a company in 2016 and when we acquired a company and this was very critical to the development of our, um, uh, really our go to market plans, because it gave us capability to be able to take our technology into market, um, in a way that we, we, it would have taken a lot longer to build it than to just buy a company. So, but we acquired a company more than doubled the size of our company. And at this point now, we had a really full solution, full product set, and it was important to say, we need to really formalize our marketing function like we were doing reasonably well, but it was sort of catches catch can.

Mark Donnigan: Um, I was, uh, largely running it, um, actually at the time our CTO had the shared title of CTO and VP of marketing, but it was really Dror and myself that were running it. We had a handful of consultants that we were using. It was, it was, we’re an engineering company. So at the time, you know, marketing was very much just in support of, um, uh, of sort of education of our technologies. So a lot of heavy like white paper focus. And of course we were doing some trade shows, but, but it was, it was sort of what you would expect from a real heavy IP engineering driven company. Um, so in 2016, uh, our CEO and founder asked, uh, you know, said, Mark, I think it’d be awesome if you would move over, become vice president of marketing, like build the function. Like that’s your full time job. You’re no longer sharing it. You know, you’re, you know, this year, full time job. And at the time I have to tell you, I, I was sort of, um, because even though I had touched marketing heavily and had had marketing resources always sort of reporting to me or available to me, sometimes matrix, but I had up to that point never held the full time, like vice president of marketing. And I thought, this is, this is going to move me outside.

*Mark Donnigan: *

It was less about, uh, it wasn’t because of lack of interest. I was actually super stoked that I would be able to then double down on the effort. And, and, um, and so it wasn’t lack of interest. It wasn’t because, but it was like, this is going to move me. Um, you know, you think of career planning, right. And you think, okay, You know, I’m, I’m a business developer, I am a, you know, I’m, I’m a sales person, I’m a reasonably good sales manager. I know how to build a sales motion. I know how to sell I, and all of a sudden now I’m going to be a marketer like ha you know, could that, could I find myself in a few years sort of off on an Island somewhere, you know, and just being honest that, you know, that that was absolutely going through my mind. Well, thank God that I didn’t, um, turn that opportunity down or, you know, um, and jumped in and you are a hundred percent what happened was, and we can all map this around 2015, 2016 is when all of a sudden, the marketing, uh, role inside a technology organization flipped, really flipped the bit. If we’re really going to get technical, went from zero to one to being a, the creative, the creative group, you know, and, and to being a revenue driver and not only being a revenue driver, but being a strategic function inside the organization.

Mark Donnigan:Well, interestingly enough, I already, because I am all my experience had been on the strategy and I’ve invested heavily in the ecosystem. I, I make it my business to be a master of the ecosystem. And I’ve done this from the very beginning. Um, again, you know, you, you don’t start out knowing what you’re doing, but you later say, wow, that, you know, that, that worked out pretty well because in time when you stay in kind of the same, the same swim lanes, um, you, you, you become a master of ecosystem, you know who the players are, you know what the systemic risks are, you know, what the trends are. And so therefore, whether you’re selling or whether you’re marketing, when you’re in front of the customer, when you’re in front of the market, you are in a much better position to really, um, influence them, you know, to purchase your solution or to use you over the next person.Mark Donnigan: So, um, so that was my, uh, you know, sort of the transition. And, you know, you asked the question or you made the observation about this, this, um, strategic, uh, realignment, or this, this adjustment that’s happened in marketing where marketing has moved from being this, um, sort of the creative, the, you know, the creative team, um, and, and, and a lot of focus sort of on brand and brands, not bad by the way. So branding is very important, but in the context of, yeah, in the context of like, Hey, you know, we have a new cool pen that we’re going to give out at all of our trade shows, like, like, you know, and, um, and, and this is just in perfect alignment for, uh, you know, from my background and I guess, you know, kind of what I’m personally interested in. So yeah, that’s, that’s the journey.

John Farkas:So let’s, let’s talk about that as you look at moving marketing into, I mean, into its rightful position in the C-suite, right. Yeah. Where, where it becomes an essential part of the revenue picture, it becomes essential part of the planning and, and trajectory of the development of the company. How does a CMO, how does a marketing leader assume that role? What does, what does that look like? What are the parts and the perspectives and the points of view that you’re bringing to the table that are unique and produce value in the organization?

Mark Donnigan:Yeah, I think the biggest challenge, um, for, and I really had, I view it now as an advantage, um, that I have not been classically trained, um, in marketing now don’t get me wrong there’s days when I’m really playing catch up, you know, and, and I’m, uh, you know, just needing to learn some of the fundamentals that my peers, you know, they got 15 years ago, you know, in B school. Um, but the advantage is, is that I, um, I’m not sort of saddled with this legacy understanding and framework of, of what the marketing function is and how it’s executed. And that is just really, really critical because the conversation with the CEO about campaigns is going to basically make the CEO, you know, think to themselves, okay, I can give them 10 more minutes, and then we’re going to see, you know, because, because campaigns do not grow markets, you know, um, uh, discussions about, um, you know, about branding and that kind of stuff that does not grow markets. And especially in today’s, we’re talking largely to SaaS founders, we’re talking to B2B technology. Um, it is much closer to direct response. Marketing is sales. Marketing is a sales channel. And of course it depends on your business model. If you know, you’re a $99 a month SaaS product that you can enter a credit card on the website, then this is a hundred percent correct.

Mark Donnigan:Probably most of the listeners are more in serving enterprise or SMB kind of environment. So it’s, so it’s not quite so direct response. Um, but the advantage is that, um, that if, if a CMO can step away from the, um, sort of the traditional playbook and come with real, um, actionable and, and ideas that, um, that can move the business and move the business with, with a clear revenue target, move the business forward with a clear revenue target. And then that is where they are going to be really embraced, um, by, um, by the CEO and certainly by the CRO. Uh, and it takes, uh, you know, there’s not a shortcut to this, so you have to know your industry, you have to know your ecosystem, you, you, and, and still, this is going to take maybe some going to school. Uh, and, and I don’t mean literally going to school. I mean, going to school and spending nights and weekends, reading blogs, reading, studying, reading, um, you know, really understanding what are the trends in our industry, how are we talking to the market? And are we talking to the market in a way that’s consistent to where the market’s actually going? And shockingly, um, there’s way too many companies in my observation that are not talking to the market in the direction of where the market’s actually going. And, um, you know, that’s not a good place to be.

John Farkas: That was going to be my next question. So, great, great segue. So talk about your, the ideal focus in and on the business versus out, outside the world, in the world, and what’s going on, you know, what, what is the marketing leader’s role in understanding what’s going on outside the walls of the, what is not currently the virtual office?

Mark Donnigan: Well, um, you know, episode 18, uh, to, to plug the Studio CMO podcast, you had Brad Feld on, and, um, Brad said something, you asked him a very pointed question, you know, how should a CMO spend be spending their time? And Brad answered it, you know, he knew right away what the answer is. And Brad said outside in the field, not inside with the marketing team. And, and I got to tell you when he said that, I was just like, yeah, like, yes. You know, because, um, and this isn’t a natural thing to do, you know, especially when the reality is that you might have 10 or 15 or 20, um, uh, direct reports working on marketing. You naturally, there is a management component, not, you know, people are at different places. They may need some coach. They may need some mentoring. And so the natural default is, Hey, I’ve got it. I I’ve got to lead my team. That’s my job. Well, you need to have somebody in the marketing group who can, who can manage. So, you know, so you better have somebody there cause you can’t have 20 people just kind of running around in, in, in, in, uh, you know, random directions or whatever.

Mark Donnigan: However, the CMO is a strategic role. And if you’re really going to be filling the CMO chair versus the director of marketing, director of marketing is probably more tactical and management and more, but the CMO you’ve got to be out in the field. It’s the only way you can know. And so one of the things that, again, just a natural advantage, you know, you like to say, Hey, I designed my, uh, you know, where I’m at. Perfect. I had it all laid out. You know, of course, I just told you the story. You know, I came up through sales, I came up through the field. So all of this I already had, I had already made it my business to know what the ecosystem is. If you look at my LinkedIn profile and, and, and this is, this is, this is a little bit of a problem as I’m, as I’m building, you know, building my sort of, you know, um, personal brand and influence as a marketer. But if you look at my LinkedIn profile, probably seven out of 10 posts are not marketing. They’re about the video business. They’re about new standards. They’re being adopted. They’re about my views of, of new technologies. You would think if you strip my title away, you’d probably think, wow, this guy is a, is a, is a product marketing leader. This guy is a technologist. This guy is a, you would, you, you would not necessarily know that I am actually a marketer, but that’s because I make it my business to, to, to be, to own, uh, own the industry and master the industry and then make connections. And then guess what it happens to really serve you well, when now you put your marketing hat on and you’re like, all right, now, you know, we need to design content or we need to design a plan or, Hey, you know, how do we take this product to market? How do we take this company to market?

John Farkas: Yeah. If you’re, if you’re a marketing leader and you are not aggressively working to maintain objectivity, yeah. You can’t, you are vulnerable. I mean, you’re, you’re vulnerable to be quick, you’re vulnerable to quickly becoming irrelevant to your organization because one of the most important things you can bring is a clear sense of what’s really happening because, and then technology organization, especially, you’re dealing with such fast change, so much movement, so much transition, so much evolution. And most of the people in the organization are working really hard just to keep that, just to keep that going. Um, and, uh, and so it’s really important for the marketing leader to be the person, the, the force that’s keeping that perspective. So that’s an essential element. And Mark, what you’re pointing to of speaking about the industry and about the changes in the industry and what you’re seeing, that’s kind of that secret sauce about being a thought leader that some people don’t get, they don’t get that it’s the subject matter expertise that you have about it. It’s not content for content’s sake, it’s creating that material so that your market can benefit from what you have to say.

Mark Donnigan: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I, um, you know, this extends all the way to how the marketing group is built in terms of the functions who you hire, um, what the roles are. And you know, what I have found is, is that I think again, um, the modern marketing team really, uh, falls into basically five key roles. Um, now obviously as a company grows and as, um, there’s more investment behind marketing then of course you’ll have multiple people at each one of these roles, but the roles are, are pretty clear and here’s how I break them out. And here’s actually what we did at BEMER, it’s exactly the playbook that I used. So I, as the marketing head, as the marketing leader, that person is responsible for the vision of the market. You know, the, the, the, the strategy, the view of the market, that is the person that I’m in again, in my experience that the other executive teams really should be going, should be able to go to the CMO and say, what is happening here?

Mark Donnigan: Hey, what are you hearing? What are you seeing? Here’s what I’m seeing, what are you seeing? And having those kinds of conversations, and that then sets the strategy and sets the, um, the framework, if you will, for the tactics that are then implemented by the storytellers. And so you have obviously a, um, uh, you know, someone who’s good with words, so you need a writer, okay. That’s kind of a, a no brainer, but you need a writer, but they, they tell the story with words, you need someone. Now that tells a story with video. And so they’re a video editor and, and they really understand storytelling with video. You need someone who can tell the story with audio. You need someone to, can tell the story with graphics now, sometimes. And especially in the early days, when, you know, budgets are sort of tight, you might get really lucky and you might intentionally say, Hey, you know, I I’d really like to find a graphics person who also knows video, you know, and yeah, maybe they’re not, you know, totally at the level we would like as a, as a, as a separate standalone video editor, but they can, but they can produce video.

Mark Donnigan: But the point is, is that then with the head of marketing, able to, uh, set the, the, the strategy, the framework, the message, they understand the customer, they understand the buyer’s journey. They’ve made it their business to be in the field. As we just talked about. Now, they come back and feed back to the team specific, um, uh, insights and directives into what content needs to be produced, but not what content, because again, you know, Oh, we w you know, we need to write a blog post. You know, everybody says that, Oh, you know, Hey, we haven’t put a blog post up. Let’s, let’s go write a blog post. I don’t know what what’s rewrite about, you know, and somebody throw, okay, that sounds good. Let’s do it. That’s just a haphazard, you know, and you got, you might get lucky and yes, you know, you’ll get a little bit of engagement, right?

Mark Donnigan: So it’s not that, you know, I guess you can say it’s better than nothing, but that is not a way to build a revenue engine, um, that you know, that marketing really should be. And so then, um, it’s the leaders, it’s the leader’s job to come back and say, Hey, you know, there is this tremendous trend or this underground, current that I’m sensing where technology in our space is moving this direction. Now, that’s not good for us. If, if this is actually where it goes, that’s not going to be good for our business. So we need to begin providing alternate views. We need to begin writing about this. We need to create, let’s create videos. Let’s, you know, whatever the proper medium is, or the most engaging medium. And, uh, and then finally, the, the other role that you need is you need to have an analyst, you need a data person on your team.

Mark Donnigan: You need someone who they just love living in HubSpot, you know? And, and, and I don’t mean like, like, you know, kind of a data entry. I mean, I mean, dairy, and they’re finding all the newest reports that can run and, you know, they can run and, you know, they’re in Google analytics and they’re in, you know, and they just love it. They love it. They love it. They love it. They’re happy as can be to just sit there. They’re like, they’re like a marketing look what I found here. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then that person then is able to surface now, in my experience, often those people are great at surfacing the data. They don’t know what to do with it. And so, um, and, and, and I made the mistake where I expected, you know, well, well, well, don’t just bring me the numbers, like tell me what it means, you know?

Mark Donnigan: And then I realized like, well, you know, that actually, that’s actually my job to then learn how to interpret this data, interpret it. And then to convey this throughout the organization, starting with the CEO, because these are business insights, not only into our business, but into perhaps even sometimes they’re pretty good breadcrumbs into what’s happening even in the industry. But if you don’t know the industry, if you don’t know the ecosystem, you just have data. And you’re just reporting on MQL and SQLs and CAC and all this stuff, which on the surface sounds like, well, yeah, that’s all really important stuff, right? It’s like, it can lead you astray so fast where you’re making decisions and, and, and they’re wrong.

And what’s super cool about this framework that I just laid out in terms of what a team looks like is that you can execute this on even a very modest budget, but it requires that you have, it requires it you’ve gotten the marketing head higher. Right. You know, because, because unfortunately you could have a super experienced marketer. Who’s, you know, again, by all rights, I mean, they really know the marketing discipline, but if they don’t have those insights into the market, then they are going to effectively have to fall back on sort of just brand and, and, and just kind of the old playbook. But if you get that right marketing head along with one, hopefully two full time people around them, and then another two or three freelancers, you can, you can be way outsized. You can punch way above your weight.

Mark Donnigan: And you know, where people are like, wow, I thought you had 15 people working in marketing, because again, the traditional organizations, they have 15 people. And, and, and, and they’re from the outside, it looks like they’re not doing as much. Why, because they’re not talking to the market in the way that the market is receiving. So even though they’re producing a lot of content, I mean, these people are really working, but the market’s perception is like, I don’t see them. Why? Because they’re not paying attention because they don’t care because what the company is saying, doesn’t, you know, doesn’t,

John Farkas: Isn’t useful the listening channels and the ability we have to listen and understand what’s going on. If you, if you know how to, if you know how to get that, if you know how to watch it moderate and respond, it you’re right. I mean, you can be a lot more effective. And, and I think that, and we’ve, and we’ve seen that, uh, over and over again, because if you’re talking, you don’t have to talk to everybody. You have to talk to a surgical determine, especially in the kind of markets we’re looking at in this context where you have a relatively limited addressable market. You’re not talking, you’re not boiling the ocean. You are going after targeted individuals. He needs, needs specific situations, solutions, the ability to dial those things in and aim really well can make you really effective. And so that, that’s an important understanding.

John Farkas: And if you have people on your team to understand that and know how to get it, that’s, that’s a critical moment. You know, it’s a critical movement. Um, let me, let me take our, uh, our focus to the boardroom table for a minute and, and look at the relationship like, so here’s what I know. I know that there’s a lot of different ways and combinations this can work out, but if we, if we look at the revenue leader, the marketing leader and the organizational leader, and, and if you could wave your magic wand and, and, uh, and say, here’s how that triad is best situated, you know, for, uh, for a growing organization that, uh, you know, a growing B2B technology organization, how would you lay that out? And again, with blanket acknowledgement that it never works out this way. Sure. It’s often like Isaiah is doing his own thing. Never works. See, I was waiting for Angus to sing. I was afraid that Angus might sing,

Mark Donnigan: Oh, I would have really felt cheated if we went through this

John Farkas: Whole interview and Angus didn’t saying so, but it’s true. It’s like there has to be a symbiotic relationship of some sort like, can you unpack what that looks like? Yeah, I can. So, um, you know, first of all, a lot of this starts with, I think, um, it’s almost as fundamental as if you’re measuring the marketing team step differently. Um, in terms of KPIs from the sales team, then right there, you see that there’s a problem, right. Because, and, and, and I’ll just, you know, get the simplest explanation that we can all understand if marketing basically is being measured by [inaudible] and SQLs. Okay. So how many leads are coming in? You know, um, and then,

Mark Donnigan: But sales is measured on closed one revenue. Well, right there, you’ve got to disconnect because, because in, unless you have a very strong, uh, and actually let me rephrase this because it’s not that a sales leader. Um, but unless you have a sales leader who is very, very analytical and who is right on top of those MQs and SQLs, and is calling you out as the, as the marketing head, like, Hey, you’re producing SQLs, or you’re sending my team needs, but these are junk. And here’s why they’re junk, you know, but, but the revenue head is so busy and so preoccupied, they don’t have the time to do that. So, so what ends up happening is marketing is reporting on MQL is SQLs. They’re crushing it, you know, they’re killing it, they’re producing these for, you know, lower CAC and, you know, and, and, and whatever, you know, their, their, their cost of acquisition is low and they’re just crushing it. And then poor sales is over here, you know, struggling and, and, and, you know, it’s the old actions speak louder than words. So I don’t think you’d find a marketing head anywhere that say, Hey, that’s your problem, buddy. Like, like, you know, sorry, you can’t close my deals, but you know, I’m doing my part. They’re not going to say that, but yet that’s kind of how marketing acts, you know, like, like, Hey, well, um, contrast that scenario with if marketing and sales, I just hit the mic. I’ll, I’ll say it. I’ll say it again.

Mark Donnigan: Okay. Okay. All right. Um, so contrast with, uh, if marketing and sales are effectively measured on the same KPIs, now they both win together and they also both have to link arms together when, when it’s not working. And now you get a symbiotic supportive relationship, just starting with aligning metrics. And I have some suggestions on metrics that, you know, that I think that I’ve found to be very useful to report on, especially kind of at the board level. Um, I’m a huge fan of keep it simple. And I don’t think that, um, it’s that useful to really like say, okay, well then we’re just gonna dive in. We’re going to really, you know, we’re going to slice and dice this six ways to Sunday, and we’re going to, you know, that, that also becomes, um, a little bit of a fruitless exercise because, you know, it’s sort of like the sales rep that spends all day in Salesforce, but doesn’t make a sales call, you know, but, but, but they’re, but their Salesforce records are pristine, you know, like, well, at the end of the day, like, I’d rather, I’d rather you, you know, your Salesforce records not be, but you know, you’re making calls.

John Farkas: So, so Mark, we’ve talked a lot about that triad relationship, the person driving revenue, the person that’s leading the organization, the person that’s leading marketing.

Mark Donnigan: Yes. Yes.

John Farkas: Each of those functions of, of the ones out there in the organization and leadership of the organization, each of those have outward focus, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re trying to focus outside the walls, making sure that they’re making things happen in a relevant way in the industry, in the market to build the business. What is the unique perspective that marketing needs to bring to the table? You know, what is that a unique thing that they’re out there looking at, making sure they’re understanding and bringing into that conversation, that’s going to help move things forward.

Mark Donnigan: It’s a very good question because you’re absolutely right. The CROs out there talking, um, every day, uh, and certainly their team is, um, to the field, to customers. The CEO is out talking regularly with their peers, with the industry leaders. And so what is it that the CMO can bring or should be bringing back that is not just sort of a duplication? Um, and I think that there is certainly some value, uh, a lot of markets are moving so fast that, um, triangulating feedback between those three, three functions is, is useful and valuable. So being able to validate that, yes, what you’re seeing at an executive level, what you’re hearing, mates up with, what the field is telling us, uh, the sellers are telling us, and then marketing is saying, yes, and this is in alignment. But I think that the CMO is in a very unique position. And what I have found is to bring back the, um, um, the definition of, to bring back the definition of what the buyer’s journey looks like and how the buyer is arriving at their buying decision, what steps they’re going through.

Mark Donnigan: Um, some of this is very, very tactical. Uh, I used to spend a fair amount of time just understanding like what events are in the market, what events are people attending, getting feedback from events, understanding, actually talking to, in some cases, my contacts and even our customers or people who weren’t our customers, just people I knew in the industry to have a very good understanding of what was trending, what was not trending, where people were finding value, where they weren’t finding value. And, and if I cannot tell you a very, very short story that just puts an exclamation point on this. So about five years ago, uh, in the video industry, there was this trend, uh, that, that was just starting to emerge where primarily engineers were forming meetups, you know, the meetup groups. And, um, it was usually small numbers, 10 or 12 people, they would come together.

Mark Donnigan: Basically it was 50% just to drink beer and talk shop. You know, it was really what it was. Well, this is, what’s super interesting about what happened was that this was around 2015, that this one particular group in Silicon Valley came together. Uh, it was called the San Francisco or, um, San Francisco Video Meet-up. And, uh, they came together and a small group of people. Next thing you know, is there’s more people each month, more people, more people pretty soon. They’re kind of like, Hey, this is really cool. Let’s have speakers. Guess where this went. They now have an annual two day conference, more than a thousand people fly from all over the world, and this organization, which is now called Demuxed, which is, you know, it would make no, no sense unless you’re in the video business, but yeah, it’s video geek stuff, but yeah,

Mark Donnigan: But, um, now Demuxed has, has, has supplanted commercial conferences and completely made them irrelevant. Now the moral of the story and the point is, is that this was buyers self-organizing, but they were not identifying as buyers and they weren’t coming together. Hey, we’re, we’re, you know, let’s come together and let’s talk shop and let’s, let’s learn about new technologies and vendors, but what happened over time was as the leading experts in the industry came together, they’re coming together on regular basis. Naturally, they’re talking shop, naturally, they’re starting to talk about, Hey, we really like this company. Hey, we really think this technology is cool. Hey, and all of a sudden, now you have a channel that just emerged out of nowhere. That was not driven by, by some corporate entity, you know, by some, by some blogs, some magazines, some, you know, some media outlet, which is usually how these conferences emerge.

Mark Donnigan: And this has become a very, very interesting trend. Now it’s the CMO who would have probably, you know, sort of surface this and who in a lot of organizations. And, and like for us, you know, we found out, wow, this is really a thing. And it turned out that one of our, our primary account executives was, um, active in participating. And so they were bringing back information and he would call me up and he’d say, you know, Mark, this is really pretty amazing. Here’s what I learned. Here’s who was there, here’s, you know, and we started tracking this. And so that’s just one example of where, um, there’s trends and there’s things happening that sometimes when they start, they can be completely unnoticed. You’re like, Oh yeah, okay. There’s some meetups, you know, it’s geeks talking shop. Well, five years later now, you know, it, believe me, if you’re one of the, you know, running a conference, you wish that you would have paid more attention five years ago because you know, your attendance has gone to a couple hundred people when you used to get a thousand and now these guys are getting a thousand and they’re sold out, you know?

Mark Donnigan: So, um, that is where I think that, uh, you know, a CMO is in a, is in a special position to be able to bring back information about, um, about the buyer’s journey, about where the buyers are hanging out, what they’re thinking about, what they’re talking about. And of course this is immediately actionable by the marketing team. Uh, but it does, it can have, and, and it likely does have some ramifications throughout the organization. Uh, you know, in terms of strategy and, and, and other things.

John Farkas: Yeah. So being able to kind of look at some, look at some of the, uh, the channel activity and mix that in with some predictive, you know, here, here’s what we’re kind of seeing her from a horizon perspective on where things are moving and going ends up being really critical.

Mark Donnigan: Yes. Yes. Agreed. Great.

John Farkas: I’m going to put your editor hat on now and, uh, we’ll, we’ll finish up, we’ll wrap up the rest of it, uh, at another time, but, uh, we’ll just, we’ll just get Mark’s reaction, um, as we head to the barn and I’ll put the barn on later, if that makes any sense to anybody. Yeah. Okay.

Mark Whitlock: So, and if you’re interested in finding out more about this meetup turned conference, we’ll link out to some information about it at, just come on over to our, our websites., click on the Mark Donnigan interview and you’ll have a chance to do that. And not only to look at that information, but to take a look at Mark’s own podcast and we’ll link to his podcast as well. Mark, thank you so much for being a part of Studio CMO today.

Mark Donnigan: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s really great guys. Thank you.

John Farkas: And this is not going to be the last you hear from Mark Donnigan. We, uh, in the context of this interview,

Mark Donnigan: Look out!

John Farkas: Warning, warning, warning. Uh, we have had some great conversations about what it means to look at reporting and, and what it means to bring important. Uh, well, let me figure out how to do that.

John Farkas: In the context of this conversation, we’ve come across several really good focus points around reporting. And Mark’s done a lot of thinking about this and a lot of discovery through his experience on very effective ways on reporting up marketing activities. And so we’re going to dedicate an episode coming very soon around that topic that I think is going to be really useful for our listeners. It is one of the most critical translation aspects right now of helping people understand what the effectiveness of marketing is, what the potential is for marketing. As we look at, uh, pushing our organizations forward. So we’re going to be looking at that in an episode coming soon to, to a podcast near you.

Mark Whitlock: We’ve made it easy for you. Come to studio that’s studio, You’ll find all the show notes, the transcript, and other information about our interview here with Mark again, and you’ll also be able to scroll down to the bottom and click on subscribe. At that point, you’ll be taken to a place where you could find your favorite podcast app and subscribe right there. So you’ll be one of the first to know the next episode coming up. Thank you so much for listening to today’s interview and remember to always understand your buyer’s problems, lead with an empathetic understanding, and make your buyer the hero. We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.

It's time for legendary marketing.

I knew that Mark could help us based on his background and high standing in the video streaming ecosystem, but I was not prepared for the depth of his contribution. Working closely with our marketing and sales leadership, Mark expertly guided us in creating a new category called ‘Video Experience Automation Platform.’ This was a missing component to our previous efforts where we strived to clearly define how what we did was different and, better. As a scientist and technologist, it is rare to find a business and marketing leader with the command of a market and technology, which is why I can recommend Mark highly.

Abdul Rehman image
Abdul Rehman
CEO & Co-Founder, SSIMWAVE

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