July 27, 2023

The B2B Board Management Episode

Welcome to THE board management episode for B2B CMOs. 

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to managing the board. It’s up to the CMO to ensure that marketing has a strategic seat at the table, to show the board marketing’s impact on revenue and build a business case for the budget.

That’s why we brought in two veteran CMOs, Bernd Leger of Cornerstone OnDemand and Jamie Gier of DexCare, to share their learnings from managing both public and private boards. Tune in to learn everything you need to know about board management, from how to build great board relationships, to which metrics to bring to the table, to what not to do in the boardroom!

What You’ll Learn 

  • How to build great board relationships 
  • How to ensure marketing has a strategic seat at the table 
  • Which marketing metrics matter to the board

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 355 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [4:11] Bernd Leger’s books for German students
  • [5:41] Public vs. private board dynamics
  • [9:57] Tying marketing (& brand) to revenue
  • [11:21] What’s the goal of the board meeting?
  • [13:55] A board disaster story
  • [14:36] Come to the board with an ask
  • [19:18] Jamie Gier’s red ruby slippers
  • [20:58] What is the purpose of the board?
  • [22:33] Managing PE boards with large portfolios
  • [24:01] Building a business case for more budget
  • [28:22] You need to be prepared!
  • [30:22] Meet monthly 1-to-1
  • [32:21] On CMO Huddles
  • [36:15] Share the strategic nature of marketing
  • [40:25] Board metrics that matter
  • [47:07] When the board calls for budget cuts

Highlighted Quotes  

“If you're able to bring your metrics up to a top-level that relates to the overall growth metrics of an organization, that’s the language that resonates. That is much more easily understood.” —@bernd_leger @CornerstoneInc Share on X

“It's not always about making everything look good. It's about making sure that the issues you identify are being thoughtfully addressed and thoughtfully planned for.” —@bernd_leger @CornerstoneInc Share on X

“What the board care cares most about is predictability.” —@bernd_leger @CornerstoneInc Share on X

“If you come prepared with a pretty sound methodology for how you prepare a business case, it makes it easier to get them to approve the investment that you're trying to make.” —Jamie Gier, DexCare Share on X

“When you're building board relationships, provide leading indicators for future trends. It’ll be easier to make a case as to why you shouldn’t deprioritize marketing or make cuts to the thing that's going to secure growth.” —Jamie Gier, DexCare Share on X

“You need to be transparent. You can't just always paint the rosy picture of what you're doing, you have to bring those thorny issues to the table.” —Jamie Gier, DexCare Share on X

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Bernd Leger & Jamie Gier


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m excited that you’re here to listen to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite. And if this is your first time listening then welcome. This show is brought to you by CMO Huddles, the only marketing community dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness and that has a logo featuring penguins. Wait, what? Yeah, well, a group of these curious, adaptable, and problem solving birds is called the Huddle. And the B2B marketers at CMO Huddles are all that and more. Huddling together to heat up the coldest job in the C-Suite. And now that CMO Huddles has three membership tiers, we’re ready to inspire B2B greatness at all levels. To learn more, check out cmohuddles.com.

Now before we get to the episode, here’s a shout out to the professionals at Share Your Genius. We started working with him over a year ago to make this show even better and have been blown away by their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at shareyourgenius.com and tell her Drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on with today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers. Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community that’s sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time we’ve got a conversation with huddlers Bernd Leger, who was CMO of Mimecast at the time of this recording, and is now at Cornerstone OnDemand and Jamie Gier, currently the CMO of DexCare. This was all about the ultimate guide to board management, I know you’re gonna get a lot out of it. So let’s dive in.

Hi there, I am your host Drew Neisser live from my home studio in New York City. One of the more nuanced challenges of being a CMO is that every quarter or so you can find yourself presenting to a group of individuals known as the board or board of directors. The level of involvement of boards, in-general and individual board members in specific, varies wildly.

As a CMO, these meetings are fraught with danger. Often there is no one on these boards who has any marketing experience—believe it or not less than 20% of boards have representation from marketing. So their actual understanding of how marketing works can be very limited. Or just as challenging, the board could have an experienced CMO on it, who may want to be overly involved in your business.

So either way, for many CMOs, being in front of their board is the most nerve wracking part of their jobs. So on this show, we’re going to speak with two superstars CMOs, Bernd Leger and Jamie Gier, both of whom have presented to multiple boards and live to tell about it. Ironically, we were supposed to have a 3rd guest, Paige O’Neil, but she got called into a board planning meeting with her CEO. And so it goes. With that, let’s bring in Bernd Leger, CMO of Mimecast and star of episode 10 of this show. Wow! So, Bernd, how are you?

Bernd Leger: I’m doing great, Drew. How are you?

Drew Neisser: I’m great. So we did a little digging into your LinkedIn profile and saw that you published two books in 1996 and 1998 to help German students interning or studying in America. Tell us a little bit about that.

Bernd Leger: Yeah, thanks Drew. So I’m originally from Germany. When I was in Germany, I lived in the US as a kid and came back for college. And after having gone through the whole application process, I felt like, “Wow, this is really hard.” And I wanted to make it very easy for other German students not to go through the same pains that I went through. So I wrote about my experience, basically guidebooks, how to go through the application process. And I have to say like, regardless of all the work I’ve done, as a CMO of my type. For me like those emails that came back in from students saying, “Thank you! Your book was a blessing. Because of you, I was able to get into my dream university.” That felt good and it’s always something I can look back on.

Drew Neisser: Have you ever been tempted to go update those? Because it’s an amazing story. Talk about an act of generosity!

Bernd Leger: Yeah, actually, my initial idea was actually—I was thinking about making that into a career. I was thinking I could create a whole company with that idea. But that quickly turned into, “Hey, let’s go down the traditional path of creating a career that actually pays a lot more money.” But it was fulfilling, and I really enjoy the helping people out. And I have two kids, one in college right now one in high school as a senior, so at least I can help out a little bit in that regard, and help them get into the dream school of their choosing.

Drew Neisser: There you go. Well, that’s amazing. And to have gotten two books out of the way that early in one’s career.

Okay, well, we’re focused on boards, and let’s set the stage in terms of your interactions with the boards at your current board.

Bernd Leger: Yeah, it’s interesting. So Mimecast, we’re an email security provider. And there’s been a little bit of a transition, like when I came into Mimecast, we were a public traded company. So we were dealing with a board that was very diverse, on different typical board that represents a publicly traded company, we were acquired by a private equity firm called Palmyra in May of this year. So the board configuration has changed significantly. Now, the majority of the board’s the seats are taken by Premier members. So it’s been interesting, like looking at the two different dynamics of the two. But equally, they both been very rewarding. I think the board members, and regardless, it was the previous board, as a publicly traded company, or now the premier board have been very, very supportive and helpful in our journey. And I have to say, it’s been a very pleasant experience overall.

Drew Neisser: Well, let’s talk about the differences for a second, because I think that’s so interesting. So a public board, there’s such a thing as board insurance. See, they have a certain, I don’t know, is it fiduciary responsibility as a board member to make sure that the company operates by certain standards, which I imagine is a little bit different from a PE firm, where it’s just grow, grow, grow, lift, lift, lift, right? The board may be coming at it differently. So I’m just curious if you go back first and was just start with, how did you approach the public board? And what were the kinds of things that you found they were interested in, and they resonated with? Set the stage on the public part of this.

Bernd Leger: Yeah, I think regardless, if it’s like the private or the public setting, I think the key is and interests are very much always the same, which is, what are the business initiatives? What are the key strategic drivers that are relevant for the organization? And so I think the key as a marketeer is like how do you tie yourself to those core initiatives? And how do you talk to that. I think you made a really good observation, which is, a lot of the times the board members do not have a marketing background, I think that was very much the case, in the earlier stage. So I think you have to really be able to connect at the right level with the board, and you have to be able to talk their language, not your language, they’re not in your day to day, they don’t really understand your day to day. So you have to be able to uplevel your conversation to a degree where it resonates and they can relate to that much more easily. And that’s been the case. I think now in the private equity firm, there’s obviously a lot more detailed knowledge of an organization and how an organization runs. So they do care, not that they care more about operational metrics I think they all do, but they’re able to relate much more closely to your world. And they have much more pointed questions maybe than the previous board.

Drew Neisser: And so I’m going to go back to the public board. So I’m imagining a situation where you have former people who ran companies, you had their like legal or accountants or business leaders, right, typically that’s what a board structure is. And they’re interested in revenue growth. And we know as marketers, the holy grail is to be able to tie marketing spend to revenue, but it’s a lot harder. I mean, we’ve been looking at CMO Huddles for predictive engines and that kind of thing. And I gotta say, there’s a handful of Huddlers who have it really true predictive engine, right, where they can spend $1 and get 5x out. So how do you say, well, we’re spending money, what are the euphemisms that you use or the language that you use to get them close to get to—here’s what marketing means in terms of revenue?

Bernd Leger: Yeah, I think kind of what I mentioned earlier, you have to tie back to the company outcomes and the goal. So if there’s a certain expectation around the overall growth projections for the company, ideally, you want to be able to tie your activities to that. So in our case, it might be our pipeline targets we’ve talked about in the past through about brand building, there is an element around brand building as well and how ultimately, that is the umbrella and air cover for what ultimately will turn into revenue downstream. So if you’re able to bring your metrics up to a top level that relates to the overall growth metrics of an organization, now the language that resonates is much more easily understood.

Drew Neisser: Well, I’m gonna call out brand building as an example of one of those where you could get eye rolling. How do you make brand building relevant to a board? I mean, did you have any success where you’re talking about Mimecast as, “We’re here, we need to be here. And we’re measuring brand this way.” Frame it for us so that someone who is about to go to talk to a board, and they know that brand is a problem, how do they express it in a way that the board will understand?

Bernd Leger: Yeah, my cousin Olson Pasco, who’s actually have one board member, that funny enough, I was making a business case for investing more in our brand building efforts with our CFO when it so happened, I was in the board meeting, we were talking about brand building, and one of our board members who was a CEO of a company at the time, basically said, “Well, you really need to invest more in your brand efforts, that might cost a significant amount of money for you to do that.” But it was basically making a business case for me that I could take back to management to say like, “Well, you heard it from the board, they strongly believe that we have to make a stronger investment in brand.” And so that was almost a nice little layup, so to speak, for me to go back to the management team and say like, “Well, you heard from board. So sounds like that’s something we should consider.”

Drew Neisser: Yeah, well, that’s an ideal scenario, where the board is saying, “You’re underinvesting.” And I just can’t imagine that happens every time.

So that is an outcome that I would describe as a really good outcome. Are there any other best outcomes where you met with a board, and something really good came out of it?

Bernd Leger: I think, one of the questions as a management team, you should discuss beforehand, what is the goal of the board meeting? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it an update? Is it something that you’re actually looking for feedback on? So part of that is going in with a mindset of like, am I informing? Am I educating? Am I trying to learn? Am I trying to network? Am I trying to obtain connections that I might not be able to obtain myself? And a lot of the board members are very well connected in their organizations and throughout their network. So good outcomes, for me have been being able to ask specific questions around, do you know somebody in this domain? Or what do you think about this? Could you connect me with somebody in your organization around this? Do you know anybody who could help me with this topic? So those have always been really, really good outcomes. I think in general, as a marketeer, if you walk out of a meeting and no harm done, that’s always a good outcome. If you don’t get any massive follow up questions, I think that if you come in, make a good presentation, your connect your goals, what you’re doing to the goals of the company, and you get good feedback on that, I would say that’s always a win.

Drew Neisser: I’m going to share a story that came up in a Huddle with one of our CMOs, and they tell the story, it was the first board meeting that they went to where they presented all these wonderful marketing metrics. And they’re just great. Everything is up versus last year and versus goal. And so one of the board members says, “So you’re hitting all your marketing metrics, but sales isn’t hitting its numbers, so is sales screwing up?”

Bernd Leger: That would be a tough one. That’s actually a really good point, you also want to make sure you’re really, really well aligned with the rest of the team and the entire team that’s presenting that story has to be cohesive, you have to go in as one team with one unified front, you can’t be speaking out of turn, or you can’t be like not complementing each other in regards to the story that you’re trying to convey. And I would also say like, it’s not always about presenting everything in rosy terms. Very often what I think the boards are looking for is reflection, they’re looking for—what’s working well, what’s not working well, and what’s your plan to address the issues that might have surfaced. They’re looking for thoughtfulness, so looking for resolutions and for plans, I think that’s the most important thing that I’ve observed. And I think that goes back also, even engaging internally with your own management team. It’s not always about making everything look good. It’s about making sure that issues you identify are being thoughtfully addressed and thoughtfully planned for that’s been a key lesson in my career.

Drew Neisser: Have you witnessed a board meeting disaster or heard of one that you can share?

Bernd Leger: I can. I wasn’t in the sporting thing myself. It was one of my previous companies. So board meeting, usually the night before the board meeting, the board has dinner with the leadership team. And then that evening, bread was not broken. And the next day when the board meeting happened, the CEO was actually asked to step out for a couple hours. And the board meeting, went on without the CEO in the room and ultimately led to a change in management. So I think that was quite dramatic for board meeting. Again, I wasn’t part of it. And that was pretty dramatic.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s an outcome that certainly for the CEO would not be a good one.

One of the things that came up in in a Huddle the other day, which I thought was so good, was a framework that the board is there, for the most part, to be helpful. And even if they’re not marketers, their goal is to be helpful. So you will always want to go to a board meeting with an ask. And I thought that was really interesting advice. And you mentioned a couple of asks about connections and things. Has there ever been an ask that you’ve done that worked out really well, that you had? And or can you follow up on that.

Bernd Leger: If you have specific areas where you want to learn more about, for example, product lead growth, or it might be a better understanding of like some of the tech stocks. So it could be different topics you have interested in that I’ve asked for support or for help. It might be go to market strategies on expansions into new countries where some of the board members had relationships in the past or in their own companies, they’ve gone through expansion plans like that. So those are areas where I’ve asked and had quite helpful responses in getting support from the board and helping out. What I’ve also done is, I’ve asked for, like specific follow up meetings with individual board members. And what I’ve found in my career is that my CEOs have encouraged that as well. So that’s been quite helpful, just having one on one time, as a follow up to like discussions that happened in the board meeting, where you said, like, “I’d love to explore a little bit further, we might not have time right now on the board meeting. But would you have time to spend like another half hour with me on a certain topic point that I made earlier?” Well, in the brand building, the board member who was a strong advocate around brand building, I asked him, “Would you mind speaking with me for half an hour about what you did in your organization around brand building?” And he said, “I’d be happy to.” And he’s an extremely busy person, he was a CEO of a publicly traded company. And he took the time. And he basically talked to me exactly on who they use, which company they had used, and how they went about it, and how that helped his company to make major advancements on their brand building efforts. And that led to ultimately me engaging with the same organization that he had used. And that was a beginning for a brand journey that we undertook and one of the companies that I had worked for. So that was quite helpful. That was one of the assets that I remember, most dearly, that led to a really positive outcome.

Drew Neisser: That’s a great story. And particularly since the individual brought up brand and so demonstrated an expertise. And I’m thinking as this as a strategy, if there is a CMO on the board, a former CMO on the board. And by the way, for you CMOs listening to this, the biggest complaint about CMOs when they join the board, is they think they’re still the CMO of the company, they’re the board of and so they get into the weeds, they get all up in the business of the CMO. And that’s not what they’re there for. However, I was thinking that based on what you just said, if the CMO says to that board member—they could do it for any of them—but specifically say, “Hey, I’d love to sit down with you and just talk about your approach to marketing.” So that person can lay out the way they think, right? Their framework, their mindset, their success stories, because just as you did in that case of taking that half an hour, you now know, okay, this is what they’re familiar with, this is how they approach this. If I want to solve this problem and get board approval, and I take this path, I’ve got one vote for sure.

Bernd Leger: I think in general, the mindset you should have going into board meetings, the board members are there to help to support you, they’re not there to grill you, they’re really there to help you and to support you. So they love to share their experience, they love to help and provide feedback and input. And if you are willing to open yourself up and be a little bit vulnerable and tap into that. I think that rewards can be quite substantive. So I would encourage you certainly again, within reason, like you also want to make sure like whatever you’re doing, as you’re discussing with the board, you’ve kind of vetted with your CEO, and that you’re aligned with the overall story. But if you have a CEO was open to that and was supportive, and you have certain topics that you want to go deeper. Again, that can be a double edged sword, you certainly don’t want to open up Pandora’s box, and you don’t want to like air all the dirty laundry. But if there’s certain areas you look for feedback on and for help on, and you’re willing to tap into that I’ve seen throughout my career, the board members have always been more than willing to help out and lend a hand and make those connections or provide the input or the feedback.

Drew Neisser: So interesting. And I agree wholeheartedly that as a board member, I’ve been on board of nonprofits for a long, long time, and the board is there to be helpful. They really want to but I hadn’t thought about getting the CEOs approval before you reached out. And and so that’s important because I can imagine in some cases, the CEO may not want you to have those relationships, for whatever reason. It could just be their own paranoia about the board.

All right, we’re gonna bring on Jamie Gier, who was the star of episode 22 and 40 of this show. One of my favorite posts of yours on LinkedIn is a reflection on running track with a photo of you as a child wearing red running shoes, which you compared to red ruby slippers. Talk a little bit about the lessons you thought about for our listeners and viewers.

Jamie Gier: Sure. So first, I grew up with a father who was a coach. He was a football coach. He was a track coach. We were running track since the age of five. Last spring, my son took up track as well as part of conditioning for football. And as I was in the stands, watching the runners, it occurred to me that even those who were coming in fifth or sixth place, their teammates were cheering them on, they were at the finish line, and they were high fiving each other, there’s just this high degree of encouragement. And it wasn’t so much about which place they would come into. It really was around, were they setting new personal records. And so placement was irrelevant. They were trying to be their own personal records for track. But it was very touching to see not just their teammates, but their competitors, cheering them on for that reason. And I remember when I was running track at 5,6,7, I wasn’t the fastest runner at all, but I felt that I was setting records for myself, but it contributed to them the team.

Drew Neisser: Love it. Okay, well speaking of contributing to the team, I know that you have both from Dream Box and SAROS, dealt with boards interacted with boards, talk about your sort of basic approach or how it evolved as you got more and more experience with managing boards.

Jamie Gier: So I always started with, what is the purpose of the board? And how can they serve me, but how can I serve them as well. And you touched on this a little bit earlier, which is, they’re there to help govern, but also to help approve bigger decisions that you’re making on behalf of the company, bigger strategic decisions, and you want to make sure that you’re giving them the insights and information that they need, not just about the performance of marketing, but some of the signals that you’re picking up in the marketplace, that can just help with those two functions that they serve. So anytime that I’ve worked with a board I’ve led with, what is their purpose? How can I serve them? How can they serve me? And I want to be very respectful of the limited time that they have, because they have other portfolio companies that they’re working with. And so it really becomes, how do I become a strategic adviser to them, and make sure that I’m using them in the appropriate way.

Drew Neisser: In both Dreambox and SAROS those were PE or VC funded boards?

Jamie Gier: Sometimes they’re a combination, but the majority owner was a private equity.

Drew Neisser: Okay. I’m curious, I want to dive into that. Because PE firms, again, depending on the PE firm, have a lot of portfolio companies. And when they do have a lot of portfolio companies, they have sort of normative ideas that well, this is how much you should spend, this is how you should spend it. And I’m curious if in your interactions, how you navigated through the generalized—well, these are the things that have worked for other companies versus the specifics that you had to deal with at those two companies?

Jamie Gier: I’ve been pretty fortunate drew that the private equity firms I’ve worked with provide a really good balance between guiding versus instructing. And they’re very good about understanding the uniqueness of each of their companies that they oversee, and that they govern. Now, when that has come up, I’m receptive to the information. But I’m very well prepared to talk about my own company, about our own marketing function, our buyers, and in some cases, I leverage that input as a great follow up, because they might get me connected to another portfolio company where I can learn and understand. In other cases, I can guide them as to why we’re doing things the way that we are.

Drew Neisser: So talk about Bernd shared a story while you were off camera, about how he did a one on one with one of the board members and that helped really shape how they did a big brand initiative that worked well. What’s the best outcome you’ve had in a board meeting, or at least a story where there was a challenge and you were able to work with the board to make something happen.

Jamie Gier: The one that comes to mind is when I needed to come in mid year. So budgets already been set. We know what our spend levels are supposed to be. But I was joining the company mid year, I did an assessment of some additional investments we needed to make if we were going to hit our targets and grow and put together an ROI on those investments, working very closely with our CFO. This happened to be investments in product marketing, so people, in addition to some additional technologies that we needed to better understand our customers and to be able to target them. And I came prepared with the business case. And what board of directors care about in PE firms is what is the cost and what is the yield. And if you come prepared with a pretty sound methodology for how you prepare a business case, it makes it easier to get them to improve the investments that you’re trying to make. So in this case, I was able to link product marketing, with an increase in win rates, when that return would show, and what it would even have in terms of impact on renewal rates, or retention rates. And in doing that, and by the way, I timestamp that in terms of we should be able to see a return on that investment within one year. But look what we’re going to get in years two years three. Because I understood the data, and the fact that they run by cost and return, it made it easier for me to secure those investments. And fortunately, they were the right ones in terms of headcount, and in technology.

Drew Neisser: And I’m curious, because I’ve mentioned this, to Bernd, the holy grail of this whole universe of marketing is being able to go to a board and say, “We’re going to spend X on marketing all in, and we’re going to get 5x in revenue all out.” And that’s sort of this magic number if you could talk in those terms. But something like a product marketing, which is the technology and people, how were you able to craft that like actually showed data? If there wasn’t a product marketing function, what formulas ,where did these formulas come from?

Jamie Gier: You know what, I worked with the CFO to come up with one, because one did not exist. I reached out to my peers, my communities, and everyone just kind of scratched their head and said, “I don’t even have that.” So this is where I partnered with my CFO to say, this investment, let’s just say it yields a 1% increase in win rate, that’s substantial. In the first year, it covered the cost of salary, but then you got to look at the lifetime value of that customer, right? If you were to get that win, and then it makes it an easier conversation.

Drew Neisser: And want to see that formula again. Now that I hear it, I mean, we’re only talking about an incremental improvement that could have a really significant return. So it wasn’t a big investment. And the return was based on a rational percentage increase, which is a lot different than saying all this money for marketing and this 5x return in revenue. That’s a much harder series of events to link.

Jamie Gier: Much more difficult. But I started conservative.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I love it. Okay, that makes total sense. So that was the best case.

Have you witnessed or heard of a really bad, awkward board conversation?

Jamie Gier: Oh, yes. And this gets back to how you prepare for the board meeting in the first place. So what I do, Drew, is I make sure that ahead of the board meeting, I understand what the company narrative is. And that is largely led by the CFO or the COO and I plug into it. But it also makes sure, as I’m pulling data from my own function, I’m working with every client facing team, from the CRO, to the client success officer, maybe it’s owned by the same person. And I make sure that our data, and our story is aligned, because these board of directors are very well equipped to look at data on page five, and understand the data on page 62. So if they’re not aligned, right, if they’re not synced, and you have discrepancies, it’s a very awkward, embarrassing conversation to have. So it’s all about preparation, and making sure that you have a good alignment with all of the executives and the data that they’re pulling.

Drew Neisser: So what I’m inferring here reading into this is there was a moment that you heard of or witnessed where the data didn’t align.

Jamie Gier: Exactly.

Drew Neisser: And in some sense, that’s a gotcha moment. And there are are some people who are there to get you. And that’s unfortunate thing that that individual or person was looking for that discrepancy. “See, I pay attention.” That’s probably someone with a very detailed finance background who found that. And it’s unfortunate because I hate stories like that, because they may have missed the big picture, right. And they’re just focused on the weeds there for a second, or it could be in a big picture outcome.

Okay. And so I guess lastly, on this subject for you, at least in the short term, before we get back, has there been a circumstance where a board member was really helpful to you?

Jamie Gier: Many examples of that, and it starts with your relationship with the board is not just the quarterly meeting. So I make sure that I have a monthly meeting set up mostly with the operational leader. And that way, there’s no surprises when the quarterly meeting actually happens. But they become a trust partner to me, where I can take some of the thorny issues, bring it to them and say, “Look, I don’t have this figured out. So can we ID together? Or can you put me in touch with another portfolio company?” And I think that they appreciate that very much, because then you’re at least honest about what you don’t know, or something you might be struggling with. And it’s not a hit to your reputation or anything like that, you simply haven’t figured something out. And that’s what they’re there to help. So there was a case where I was really struggling with this specific vertical, and trying to understand how to think about the nuances of that business. And that board member was able to sync me with another portfolio company that was in that space. And so I connected and I was able to get some of the knowledge that I was lacking to really think through. But that gets back to, especially if you are owned by a PE firm, that they have other portfolio companies that you should be tapping into, to seek input and learn and bring back to your own company.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s perfect.

Okay, what a great moment for us to transition for me to talk about CMO Huddles because the story that Jaime just shared is all about finding peers who can help you solve problems that you’re facing, and so CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs, who share, care, and daring each other to greatness. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping you to make faster,better, and more informed decisions, where one inspiring hour a month delivers 10 hours of perspiration saved or maybe get you a better experience with your board. Now since no CMO cannot outwork their job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it. So Bernd, Jamie, I’m wondering if there’s a specific example because I love the example that Jamie you just shared about how this board member connected you with another CMO who had solved a problem. But I’m wondering if you can, on the top of your head remember a circumstance within Huddles where you were able to solve a problem in a special way, Jamie?

Jamie Gier: I don’t know if there was a specific problem as much as it helped me think about something differently. And there’s been a number of people within CMO Huddles that I’ve been able to just dial up and say, “Hey, it sounds like you’re really good in this one area. Or you are looking at a particular technology that I’m interested in, or maybe you went through a recent implementation. Can you share with me in a private setting, the good, the bad, the ugly on that?”And a lot of people within CMO Huddles are on my speed dial. And that’s a very nice thing to have. And everyone is really responsive. They want to help. And we know that we haven’t figured everything out as CMOs. And so when you are surrounded by a group of people that maybe have and you can call them up, even on a short notice. They’re there to help and assist.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Well, thank you for that. Yeah. And one of the things that we do in Huddles is we do connect one on ones based on a problem that you might have that we know CMO in the community itself. Bernd I wonder if you have anything you want to share?

Bernd Leger: Happy to share. I think kind of to Jamie’s point the board is one asset that you could tap into for like networking and can put you in touch with the portfolio. For me CMO Huddles has been vastly helpful in regards to we all share the same challenges, the environment economy. We all talk about COVID, and how we’re dealing with that as leaders in our teams. So I have a specific example. I think we as marketeers, we often struggle with attribution. And so the opportunity in both like these forums that we have, where we get together, we pick a specific topic that we can talk through. But to Jamie’s point, also having the opportunity to talk one on one with peers who are experts in those areas. And I’ve had multiple calls with other CMOs around attribution and how they do it and how they measure and talked about lead scoring as another key topic that I was very interested in. And there’s just so much expertise in this group that you can tap into, and vice versa. I think it’s also about giving back and then like sharing your experience when other people have questions that you might have expertise in. And so it’s a give and take, it’s a really good collaborative group that allows us really, to Jamie’s point, be smarter, to share best practices, and to come up better in a safe environment where you can ask these questions here. And this environment versus sometimes you don’t want to go to your CEO, you don’t want to go to people within your own company. Yes, we’re all vulnerable. And we can accept that we don’t know everything. But you also want to pick an environment where it’s a little bit safer to ask these questions.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that circle of trust is just so important. Well, thank you both for that. If you’re a B2B CMO who can share, care, and dare with the best of them, be sure to check out CMOhuddles.com.

Okay, so let’s get back to the topic at hand. We talked around this, but talk about how you craft the narrative to show the strategic nature of marketing because so much, and this is their perception of marketing among non marketers, is often very fluffy. Oh, you’re the young, the brand thing and the logo and the colors and the fluffy thing? I know we should be well beyond that and maybe we are, but how do you craft a narrative show the strategic nature of marketing before each board meeting, and let’s go with Bernd.

Bernd Leger: Sure, well, and my domain, so as part of the portfolio that I own a group that is called Market strategy. So we’re very much involved in looking at new market openings, segmentation. So for me, it’s very much what we’re talking about earlier, tying it back to the company goals, and not making it just about one topic that might be pertinent to me, but like tying it back to the organization, so might be we’re looking at new markets, we’re looking to segments, we’re looking at certain strategic initiatives, we’re looking for help and feedback on. So being part of that conversation and making sure that I’m very much involved in that process internally, but then also making sure that I contribute to that conversation at the board level kind of changes the dynamic and not being seen as the local person or the brand person, making sure that we were actually being seen for that real contribution that you can make to the organization.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, you’re the business person who happens to do marketing, not the marketing person who is accidentally on the board. Got it. Okay. And, Jamie, any thoughts on that?

Jamie Gier: I have lots of thoughts on that, in particular, but this is why it’s really important, board meeting aside, is that CMOs connect marketing to the business, they also train their teams to think about being a business owner. So it’s having the business and financial acumen. So you understand what matters most, and how marketing supports the bigger business initiatives. The other thing is, we amass a lot of information from the work that we do. There’s a lot of intense signals out there that are actually leading indicators about what’s going on in the marketplace. And so not only do we need to infuse that in the narrative, but we need to be prepared to talk about what are the future trends that we’re seeing, because a lot of the times the meetings just focus on the lagging indicators, we’re looking at performance based on a moment in time. But because of the information that we’re collecting on our buyers, and the signals that we’re seeing, there’s a goldmine of information in that, that we can extract the intelligence, show leading indicators, so that we can have a future perspective and avoid having to course correct too much. And that way we’re becoming a strategic input mechanism into the conversation instead of just reporting out the metrics for marketing. But it really does begin with connecting what we do to the business, training your teams to think that way too. Because by the way, they’re very good at extracting intelligence. And so we need to be able to take that and pull it into the narrative as well.

Drew Neisser: What I love about the combination of what the two of you said as you’re really positioning the CMO, and I know I’ve heard Linda Boss and from GE talk about this, you are potentially the strategic forward thinking aspect of the business. And I really want to emphasize that the board has that opportunity to show that. If they’re there to govern and shepherd the business forward, and you’re the one bringing that it really changes the way they think about marketing as this transactional thing that drives leads to a business driver that can drive strategy and future results.

But I want to get specific, though, on that, when we talk about intent signals and metrics that get you on this future forward looking thing. What are we talking about? What data points are we actually looking at Jamie? I mean, I understand intense, such as it is, based on someone going to a pricing page versus someone asking for a demo, I understand intense signals from that. But that’s really detailed. I’m just wondering what you would share that would be able to talk about intent signals, but I guess not like we had this many clicks on demos.

Jamie Gier: Right. And by the way, they don’t really care about that. They do care about your contributing to pipeline, that marketing is having an impact on actually closed won, that we’re learning why there’s closed loss, but they don’t care about necessarily how many clicks you’re getting, they do care about the channels that are working well. But this is where we can up level the conversation. So what I mean by leading indicators is, when you look at the pipeline, you’re building, are you seeing shifts in the types of companies that are engaging most with you? Are you seeing some new buyers, for example? Do you know what their interest was coming in? So are there certain trends that they’re looking at, that they’re attaching to your brand problems you’re trying to solve? So there’s things that we can look at that got them to want to engage with us in the first place? Are you getting more business from enterprise than SMB? Is the average deal size increasing? If so why? There’s a lot of different things that we can evaluate and slice and dice the information to see if that provides any insights on what future buyer might be, how long they’re going to stay with us? Are there certain markets that we’re testing that could prove to be very valuable in terms of market share. So there’s a lot of things that we can bring based on what we know about the buyer, because the technology is there, and it’s giving us the insights, it’s just being very intentional about looking at that, and extracting out that kind of intelligence that we can bring back.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, so two thoughts come to mind. One is, boy, you better have a great data person, which we always know you’ll always need anyway, but two part of the art of this is only sharing enough metrics, because one of the complaints of CMOs is that they share too much, which is an interesting one. So you do have to sort of do that. But I know Bernd, I saw you making notes and so forth. And you want to weigh in here. So go for it.

Bernd Leger: I couldn’t agree more with Jamie, I think the key is what the board cares most about is predictability. Right. And so I think the opportunity that we have is, we have those early insights. And those intense signals that we can deliver to provide that predictability. Might be that you’ve built out an entire model around how much pipeline you have to deliver in the next year or two. And those are early indicators that will provide signals on the success of the company moving forward. I think the other thing that we can provide as marketeers is, we can represent the voice of the customer, like very often I’ve done like primary research or in my team, we own the customer advisory board. So we have an opportunity to engage with our customers in a way not just to learn about what our customers care about. But in a way I use the CAB to learn more about what are their peers care about as well. So those are like ways that we can tap into research and knowledge of our buyers, as Jamie said, that nobody else has to the degree that we have. And so that’s something that we can bring to the table that provides additional insight and additional information that either the sales team doesn’t have or the board certainly doesn’t happen. I would also caution, and you mentioned this Drew as well, don’t come to the board meeting with vanity metrics, like they don’t care about a lot of the things that you use on a daily basis in your domain. And they’re important for your team. And they’re important for your organization and for the team members within marketing, but they’re not critical to the board and they’re not critical to reflecting on the overall success of the organization. So you have to make sure that we were able to connect the relevant metrics, and Jamie mentioned a few of those, like your pipeline targets your win loss analysis, your segmentation analysis, those other things things that are more meaningful for the predictability of the success of where the company is setting.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, so I’m imagining a couple of things, I’m going to be repetitive here. But first, your sort of big picture strategy, you’re on it, you’re owning it, you’re seeing it, you’re giving them forward looking data. Then sort of next level down as being the voice of the customer. I mean, I always joke about this, but it is so true. Any sentence that starts with, “I was talking to a customer the other day,” is a winning sentence for a CMO, particularly in front of a board. And then I’m also thinking that you have to bring them along. And in order to not overwhelm them, you don’t want to start with 20 metrics, because they just can’t grasp those. So it might be that you start with a smaller number, and then you grow and educate them over time, so that they know how to deal with that. And I think we’ve gotten some really good ones here in terms of pipeline and win rates, and so forth.

Jamie Gier: Can I say one thing along those lines Drew that the two of you have actually touched on related to the customer, I’ve gotten into the habit of before going into a board meeting, there are three things I do, besides collecting all the data. I talked to a handful of customers, to see if they have any feedback on the data I’m collecting and if they have any additional insights. I try to go into the communities where they are and then along the lines of the value of CMO Huddles, a lot of the times I’ll go to our own community, if I know I’m gonna get asked a question about what I’m seeing in terms of the latest in digital marketing or what’s the perspective on in person or virtual events and the impact, I try to think ahead of questions you’re going to ask, and I will go to the communities that can help address that so that I’d have like fresh, relevant information.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, there’s a lot of preparation is what I’m hearing if you really want to do well on this.

So we’re recording this at a moment where more than half the Huddlers are looking at budget cuts in 2023, probably more than half now. And yet, the business goals haven’t necessarily changed. And I’m wondering how these conversations are going to go with the board under those circumstances. And what’s the CMO going to say, when you want to talk about pipeline and coverage and you’re looking at a 25% reduction in spending but a 25% growth and cover. How are these conversations going to work? Maybe you’re not facing them, but Jamie, what advice do you have for CMOs under these circumstances, right now, particularly facing budget cuts, and then go into a board meeting?

Jamie Gier: My advice is to work with your board so that they understand that even if buyers are not purchasing today, they’re gonna get back to purchasing. So you need to be top of mind. You cannot take the gas, pedal off your own visibility, and making sure that when they are ready to get back to buying, which is probably what’s driving the reduction in budgets right now, because there’s a lot of market uncertainty and what’s going to happen. But marketing is also the long view, we’re not just living in the quarter, we are the ones securing future business. And so you need to be prepared to have the conversation. This is why it’s important that when you’re building the relationship with the board, you’re providing the leading indicators for what the future trends are, because it’s going to make it easier for you to make a business case as to why you should not deprioritize marketing and make the cuts to the very thing that’s going to secure your future growth.

Drew Neisser: So I’m going to throw this, I hear you, but I’m also imagining that the CFO and the CEO have agreed that they have to cut the budget because they’re seeing softening and deal flow, right. And so they’re not going to want you to go to the board and undermine them because we’ve already talked about alignment. The scenario that I’m imagining and I’m playing in and some of the CMOs on Huddles are going “Help.  I’m now in, in this , I’ve got to be Svengali. I’m gonna have to do some  magical thinking.” And I don’t know if a board would say, “Hey, the budget has been cut. How are you going to hit your numbers?” And you’re gonna say, “I don’t know, either.” Jamie? Go ahead.

Jamie Gier: Yeah, well, okay. Just like I said earlier, when you go to to secure investments and you do the cost and the yield, then you need to be prepared to do the opposite. If you cut, what is the impact going to be? And as CMOs we should be ready to talk about that. Because we know we have the data that tells us because it’s that prescriptive, that if we cut in this area, this is what it’s going to do to pipeline, this is what it might do to customer service, it might have an impact on innovation. And everyone needs to agree that that’s okay that the business can actually absorb some of those losses, because we’re going to cut, you just have to be prepared.

Bernd Leger: Yeah, Drew, I would add, I think these times, there’s certainly a shift in many organizations that is happening, where the emphasis isn’t as much on the growth, it’s much more on the profitability. So I think it’s on us as marketers as well to do our part. And I think part of that is to demonstrate that we have a good understanding of the operational efficiency of our own organizations as well as everybody else’s. And so what that means is that we have to be at the top of our game with our telemetry to say, “Here are the things that are working really well, I want to double down on these areas. And here are some areas that are not working as well that I might cut back on.” And most likely, you’re not going to go to a board meeting not being aligned with your CFO, your CEO, those conversations already happened beforehand. So the business case you have to make is within your own team, before you go to the board meeting to say, “Look, here’s what I’m seeing, here’s what I’m seeing in my environment, we’re being asked to contribute X amount of pipeline, here’s what’s working well, here’s what’s not working well.” And then that is a trade off conversation with other sources of pipeline or other sources of growth or other sources of success. And I think that’s the conversation you have to be ready to have with all the telemetry at your own disposal. So to your point, I think it’s really critical that we were at the top of your game and understanding how is your business doing? How much you’re contributing to the business? Where is that coming from? And where is it working well and where is it not working well?

Drew Neisser: And what we’re seeing in this unfolding economic challenge, or the horizon is, that the long term spending the things that you were talking about Jamie, where we’re going to be talking about top of mind awareness and lead flow and top of the funnel are going to be sacrificed for short term maintaining target numbers. And so I just wonder, as we sort of wrap things up, your hand is going to be forced, right? You’re gonna have to make some compromises. And the question is, how honest can you be with the board in that? Because in theory, you know, what pipeline you can contribute based on what you’ve been doing. So how honest are you saying, “Well, it’s probably won’t hurt for six months or 12 months, but I’ll probably impact it in 18.”

Jamie Gier: I think you need to be transparent. You can’t just always paint the rosy picture of what you’re doing, you have to bring those thorny issues to the table. But this is a moment where CMOs can really demonstrate that they’re not only looking at their functional area, they have to be a business owner, that’s got to be their mindset. And they have to be prepared to make some of the tradeoffs. And to Bernd’s point, this means having an understanding of the operations of the business. And being forthcoming that, yeah, we could cut here. This is the impact. So let’s readjust if everyone’s comfortable and being very transparent about that. But I encourage our CMO community to take their marketing hat off, put on their business hat, and you’re going to have to make some painful decisions. It’s the hard thing about hard things.

Bernd Leger: Exactly. Exactly. Well, one additional common there real quick is like I think as we’re recalibrating around the success metrics is also recalibrating what is good and what a success look like so that we’re tied again, like if we need to recalibrate, and we need to adjust our budgets, or investments work great, like what are we adjusting to? And what are the outcomes we’re trying to drive? So if there’s an adjustment overall, all those metrics, as long as we’re still aligned as an organization, and as long as we’re tied to, that could be fine. We just need to make sure that if the goals are the same, but the investments are different, and the expectation set is just do more with less than that, that needs to be a conversation as well. So I think it’s just about realigning expectations and outcomes.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and I think that’s the important thing is and there is going to be some where you can do some squeezing where you probably can take 20% and maybe still hit your numbers, but if the cuts more than that. So we have to find out amd I love this. Okay, so here’s my wrap up really quick, which we never do on this show. But we’re gonna do it because this was so insightful and thank you Jamie and Bernd for this. You are a strategic leader of the organization when you go to the board, you are not just the marketing person so you’re framing everything in terms of that. You’re giving them information that helps them understand and predict the way the business is going. We get to this term predictive a lot more now it’s talking about board conversations, but we’re also talking just about marketing in general. You are the voice of the customer. That’s always been a thing and then you have the data to back you up. I love how Jamie’s preparation process of customers and community and asking peers and also just Bernd’s, if the cuts get too deep and we’re resetting expectations and if the goal is good, then we just got to recognize that this is what good looks like moving forward. Anyway. Thank you Bernd, Jamie. You’re both good sports.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out renegade.com. I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!