CMO is known as one of the most difficult job positions. It is typically associated with low levels of trust and short tenures. On this episode, we brought in Sara Varni (LinkedIn | Twitter), CMO of Twilio, to open up her CMO playbook.
Sarah shares how she has been able to have so much success in the CMO position. She also discusses what to do in your first 90 days as CMO to set yourself up for success, best practices for streamlining budgeting and approvals, how to deal with imposter syndrome, and more.
Sara's Game Plan for First 90 Days as CMO - (02:40) - "The first part of my game plan was sitting down with the team. It was a time commitment, but I set up 30-minute 1-on-1s with 100 people in marketing. It was super helpful. It took time, but it was also a shortcut to really understanding the ins and outs of the organization. And so it's something I had to prioritize, but it's definitely paid off in the long run, and I think helped me ultimately move faster." - Sara Varni - Recommendation from Lauren: Read The First 90 Days - "Build relationships and make connections. I come up with a list of questions that I do in every one of these 1-on-1s that I use to get to know people while also trying to keep it casual. They are usually along the lines of, 'What do you hope I do? What do you hope I don't do?'" - Lauren Vaccarello - You want to quickly identify the people and the levers that can help you get things done faster. - These people are not always who you would expect, and they don't line up neatly with positions of authority. Lauren calls them "magicians" because of their ability to help you magically get things done quickly.
Building Relationships Outside of Marketing - (06:35) - "It's important to be thinking about the relationships outside of marketing as much as the ones within." - Sara Varni - CMOs should lead with humility, not assume they know everything, and listen. - "I think communication is just so key right now and if we're not all in the same room, hashing out how to prioritize, you can't assume that everyone is reading your blanket update emails. You really need to be face to face, at this phase." - Sara Varni - You don't have to know everything, and acting like you do makes you seem insecure as a CMO. - You need to watch out for sacred cows, or projects and initiatives that people have a surprising protectiveness of. You never know what they might be. It could be something as trivial as swag design.
Delegation and Prioritization - (14:45) - What do CMOs need to approve and what can they delegate? Sara says to "Prioritize for visibility and traffic." - "Get your team to the level or standard that you're used to and constantly raise the bar. Eventually, you get to a point where someone two levels down has internalized how to write an email that you used to have to approve." - Lauren Vaccarello - The same general principle applies to budgeting as well. - Incoming CMOs should be respectful and listen, but they also shouldn't be afraid to ask why things have been done the way they've been done.
Imposter Syndrome and Full-Stack Marketers (28:45) - Imposter syndrome is something that most senior-level marketers deal with at one time or another. - "You just have to build your own brand and keep on moving. You to have to remember someone decided that you were a fit for this role and qualified for this role and you build the foundation on that." - Sara Varni - When dealing with C-level management, advisors, and investors, it's important to give context. Benchmark yourself against competitors or the market when possible. - There is no such thing as a marketer who is equally adept at every facet of marketing. You need to find what your organization truly values and hire someone with a matching skillset. - "At a CMO level, you shouldn't have to be the smartest person in the room who's the best at everything. Our job is to set goals, set strategy, and then also hire the people who are the best at individual functions." - Sara Varni - One of the best ways to build a team around you is to get recommendations from peers. They know marketers who have worked for them and are aware of their actual skillsets. - "As a CMO when you're going into a new job, sometimes your biggest obstacle is not enough bodies." - Lauren Vaccarello - You should think about building a team like a sales funnel. It won't all happen right away.
Pardot Lightning Round - (49:10) - Three things a new CMO should do in their first month: Get to know your team, set metrics, and plot out your first two quarters. - What does Sara do for fun? She's a huge country music fan. - What is Sara most excited for about tech marketing? Tools that automate sales and marketing connectivity.
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