But I’ll say it again: Career paths are not linear. That’s true for most. And that’s especially true for CMOs.
That said, there is a similarity that will define your success as a CMO: The people that help you along the way.
The further you get on the path to CMO 3.0, the more important it is to establish a group of external peers – or personal board of directors – to grow in your career.
As a VP of Marketing, you have co-workers with similar experiences you can lean on for guidance. As a CMO, you are often the only one solving your team’s unique business problems.
That’s why it’s crucial to connect with peers outside your work – because no one else in your organization does what you do. Doing this means reaching out, making connections, being vulnerable, and leaving yourself open to the opinions of others.
On my podcast, I’ve been lucky to talk to some incredible marketing leaders. And below, you’ll get to learn from two of them – and how collaboration has played a key role in their success.
Interviewing is a two-way street. You’re assessing the state of a business just as much as they’re assessing whether you’ll be a great fit.
In this two-part episode, Amplitude CMO, Jennifer Johnson, shares the questions – and answers – CMOs should ask and look for when joining a company. She then digs into the career-defining task of creating a new category.
[In] every role, especially this role, you need to have the CEO’s support and backing. So my interview cycle is actually interviewing the CEO.”
– Jennifer Johnson
The alignment between a CEO and CMO is everything. CMOs that lack this alignment rarely last long. So establishing whether this alignment is even possible during your interview is necessary. That’s why Jennifer often asks about the history of marketing at a company, how a CEO measures marketing’s value, and then reaches out to the board to get their perspective as well.
If she hears things like “I measure marketing based on leads,” it’s an instant red flag. However, if the vision is bigger – for example, focusing on revenue and a go-to-market strategy – Jennifer sees the potential. This same tactic of “interviewing your boss” can be applied to almost any position.
What category design actually does is put the company and the leadership team on a set of decisions to [determine] who the company is and what the vision is going forward.”
– Jennifer Johnson
Category design is a hot topic in B2B tech. Personally, I love nerding out about category creation, especially because I’m passionate about product marketing. And in this episode with Jennifer, who is also a former product marketer, I went full nerd.
She shared not only the steps for launching a category, but the legwork for maintaining that category. As part of this process, Jen builds a tribe of people: “I go through each stakeholder, press, analysts, customers, partners, and investors.” Each person, she says, offers a wholly unique perspective.
In other words, category creation isn’t a one-and-done exercise. You need to stay aligned with your experts and company to be successful.
All of us had to adapt, pivot, and drive change quickly to keep our businesses afloat during the height of the pandemic.
So imagine diving headfirst into all that change – willingly. That’s exactly what Kirsten Newbold-Knipp did. Discover what she’s learned in her first eight months as FullStory’s CMO about empathy, alignment, and building a personal board of directors.
I have done everything from prospecting to closing six-figure deals to helping my teams close six-figure deals. That builds a lot of empathy for sellers who are putting their paychecks on the line.”
– Kirsten Newbold-Knipp
The relationship you build with sales leaders can make or break your role. According to Kirsten, this relationship-building starts during the interview process – from asking the right questions to understanding how you can support sales early on.
I couldn’t agree more.
Kirsten reminded me just how important empathy is to this alignment – especially during times of volatility and change.
2020 forced a lot of marketing and sales teams to come together like never before. What did your marketing and sales relationship look like during the pandemic? How did you stay aligned?
The way that you should think about building your board of directors should be based on where you’re at [in your career]. What are your weaknesses? What do you not know? Sometimes it’s finding someone who’s in the role that you aspire to. Sometimes it’s understanding what your two or three biggest weaknesses are.”
– Kirsten Newbold-Knipp
A personal board of directors isn’t about reaching out to people that look just like you. The idea is to identify where you need help. Not just from a hard skills standpoint, but soft skills as well. In fact, Kirsten still considers her dad on her personal board. (I just love that.)
To start building your board, consider where you want to go in your career, what areas of development you need outside the work you’re doing now, and then tap into your network.
Who would you consider part of your personal board? Who’s on your wishlist? I challenge you to reach out to someone on that list this month.
Enjoy the rest of June,
P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and father figures out there!