July 4, 2024

CMO Search Success Stories

What does it really take to secure a CMO position in today’s competitive landscape? Whether you’re actively job searching or want to be prepared for future opportunities, this episode is packed with actionable insights from two CMOs who recently landed coveted roles and the recruiter who helped place them: 

You’ll learn:

  • How to strategically approach your job search and stand out from the crowd 
  • The importance of personal branding and articulating your unique value 
  • The value of networking with other CMOs  
  • How to quantify your impact during interviews and presentations  
  • Why culture fit matters and how to evaluate it during the interview process

Don’t miss this candid conversation on navigating the CMO job market, leveraging your network, and positioning yourself for success in your next CMO role. Tune in! 

What You’ll Learn 

  • Important steps in the CMO job search 
  • How to build recruiter relationships 
  • How to find a great culture fit 
  • How to stand out as a CMO today

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 404 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [3:06] Kathie Johnson: The steps behind her 4-month job search  
  • [7:28] Landing Sitecore   
  • [10:53] Scott Morris on his strategic 6-month sabbatical    
  • [14:54] Landing Sprout Social   
  • [19:03] Kate Bullis: How she knew Kathie & Scott  
  • [20:48] Great CMOs do THIS  
  • [26:16] Pattern matching & the perfect fit  
  • [27:39] The call for the full-stack CMO  
  • [29:20] How CMO Huddles can help you  
  • [30:25] Personal branding   
  • [32:06] Evaluating your target company  
  • [36:45] Negotiation   
  • [41:04] “Every ask is an opportunity” (and a gift)   
  • [46:52] Staying in touch with recruiters  
  • [48:21] Wisdom for CMOs searching for their next opportunity

Highlighted Quotes

Kathie Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer or Sitecore

“One of the things I tell everyone is: Write down your story. Get it really crisp—what are your key messages, key achievements, key themes? For me, I’m a builder, so I knew I needed to go into a place where I could build.” —Kathie Johnson

“Most of the time when I heard from recruiters, I took their calls. Maybe I could have helped them find someone. I highly recommend that people take the call. Build that relationship.” —Kathie Johnson

“Make sure you know your impact in results, not activities.” —Kathie Johnson  

Scott Morris, Chief Marketing Officer of Sprout Social

“Focus on your internal brand as a CMO, in particular with the rest of the C-Suite and with your board.” —Scott Morris

“I did a 90-minute presentation to the entire C-Suite as the final step. Even if you’re not asked to do that, do an outline of those things and litmus test that against the experience you’re going through.” —Scott Morris

You can’t just talk about all the great things you’ve done. You’ve got to immediately share how you will impact the business—that you’ve done your research and know the market, the customers, their priorities, their challenges—and how you’d tackle them.” —Scott Morris

Kate Bullis, Global Marketing & Growth Practice Leader at ZRG Partners

“Peers are some of your best friends and advocates. It’s the CMOs on your left and right who are very, very powerful in that regard. When one great CMO recommends another, I sit at attention.” —Kate Bullis

“What have you actually achieved? Start with your impact—recognize your biggest, baddest achievements.” —Kate Bullis

It doesn’t matter whether you’re marketing tires or sandwiches or software. What really matters is the moment in time a company finds itself in, and the way it seeks to grow from this moment forward.” —Kate Bullis

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Kathie Johnson, Scott Morris, & Kate Bullis

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers! If this is your first time, welcome. And if you’re a regular listener, welcome back. You’re about to hear a recording from CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the accomplished marketing leaders of CMO Huddles, a community that’s always sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness. This time we have a conversation with two CMOs who recently landed coveted roles: Kathie Johnson of Sitecore and Scott Morris of Sprout Social, and the recruiter who helped place them, Kate Bullis of ZRG Partners. Here’s a sneak peek of the top takeaways: Always answer recruiter calls, have a concise story about your career accomplishments, quantify your impact in results not activities, and peers can be your best advocates so stay active in your network. If you enjoy this show, we’d love it if you could subscribe and leave a review. It helps us in our quest to be the number one B2B Marketing podcast. Alright, let’s dive in.

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: Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio, the live streaming show dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness. I’m your host Drew Neiser, live from the Berkshires, believe it or not, at the Tourists Hotel. I’m here for a conference. Now, just about every CMO I know has been in between opportunities at some point in their journey; it just seems to happen. And regardless of whether it was by choice or by fiat, it comes with trepidation, especially in the current economy. To add some perspective on that, a year ago, our transition team in CMO Huddles had about 30 members; today it’s over 160. That’s a five-fold increase. That’s a lot of CMOs looking for jobs. So securing a CMO role right now has never been harder, which is why I’m so excited about today’s conversation with two CMOs who recently landed, and the executive recruiter who helped place them both. So expect to learn what it takes to land a big role and why you should always accept calls from reputable recruiters. Okay, with that, let’s bring on Kathie Johnson, CMO of Sitecore, and a returning guest who previously appeared on this show to discuss pipeline playbooks and structuring marketing departments. Hello, Kathie, how are you? And where are you this fine day?

Kathie: Drew, it’s so awesome to see you again. Thanks for having me. I am in California.

Drew: I love it. You left Talkdesk in July, and you joined Sitecore in November. So that’s about a four-month spread in between roles. So let’s talk about when you started your journey. You’re exiting Talkdesk, where’d you start?

Kathie: I think it’s important to share sort of the mindset I was in, Drew, because I had been at Talkdesk for three and a half years, had helped them grow from, you know, 66 in the Forbes Cloud 100 to 8 in that time period. So I felt like I had done what I was there to do. And I was ready to go take on a new challenge. And so decided to walk away from Talkdesk, which is scary, right? To walk away without a job. And to pursue something else that was going to like bring that fire back in my belly, get me really excited. So where did I start my search? Right? You know, one of the things I did right away was write my spec, you know, what was important in the role that I wanted? What was my story? You know, one of the things I tell everyone is write down your story, like get it really crisp, what are your key messages? What are your key achievements? What are your key themes? Like for me, I’m a builder. So then I know I need to go to a place where I can build. And then also, Drew, spent a lot of time just learning and you know I started writing a book, you and I talked about it. And then a TON, TON of networking, right? Building out those relationships, reconnecting with people. And then lastly, Drew, one of the things which I think we all do in that time period you take off is the basics, like getting feedback. You gave me feedback, Drew, like, change your summary on your LinkedIn. So updating your LinkedIn and, you know, relevant to today’s topic. I went back and reached out to all of the recruiters who had been reaching out to me that I hadn’t paid attention to. So lots of things in that four-month time period.

Drew: Yeah. Now, let me take this one by one. So the first thing that you did that you had the courage to sort of, I’m not gonna call it quit. And I wrote a post a few weeks ago called “Don’t Quit” that went viral on LinkedIn.

Kathie: I read it!

Drew: I think you had a sense of security based on the accomplishments that you had, and you were comfortable. And you’ve done it for three and a half years. And so, yeah, I would still argue for the most part, it’s easier to find a job with a job. And that’s factual. But the important thing that I took away from here, and this is where I think a lot of folks that are looking for jobs right now, who are between opportunities, they get wrong, what you did right away instinctually is, you got your strategy together, you did your listening, you found out and you wrote down your strengths and weaknesses. And I feel like a lot of folks just jump into mode, and they call the recruiters and they update the resume, and they haven’t built their strategy. And so thank you for sharing that and so forth. Okay. So you started to reach out to recruiters. Talk a little bit about those conversations. And were these people that you had relationships with beforehand?

Kathie: Many of them I did, some I did not for sure. But most of the time when I heard from the recruiters before, I took their calls anyway, maybe I could have helped them find someone, I built that relationship a little bit. I mean, I highly recommend to people to take the call, right? Build that relationship, but then really came back and just said, “Hey, I’m ready now. Right? I’ve made a change, I decided I want to do something differently. You know, can we reconnect?” Because I had always taken their calls, and I’d always tried to make connections for many of them when I could, then you have some sort of relationship. So it wasn’t completely cold. 

Drew: Can we just put a full stop that you made deposits in the goodwill bank. You took the time to help them, and by the way, their job is not to find you a job; their job is to fill jobs where they have them. And so you help them. I do hear this a lot from folks in the transition team: “Yeah, I really wish I’d taken this call.” So if you have a job and the recruiter is calling, take the call.

Kathie: They’re trying to do a job too, just like you are, right?

Drew: Talk a little bit about Sitecore, the process, the role that Kate played in that, and talk about what made you believe this was the right opportunity and how you sort of landed it.

Kathie: Kate did make the introduction. So super appreciative of Kate, overall, not only for that but just guidance along the way. Absolutely. You know, one of the things I found is the max companies I could deal with at once was three. So really figuring out where you want to go and then honing it. And specifically for Sitecore, I was really interested in going into a new space, MarTech space, making sure I had the opportunity to do some new learning. Like my experience, I’ve worked in both Prem, I’ve worked in SaaS, but I’ve never helped a company move from Prem to SaaS. And Sitecore had just launched all their SaaS solutions about two years ago and were still in that transition. And so really, what are my superpowers? How can I help? How can I make a difference? What are my values and impact? Where can I make an impact? What can I learn along the way? Because we’re all on our own journeys as well.

Drew: It’s great that you wanted to be in a new category but what I keep hearing is it’s very hard to get out of the category that you’re in because that’s what they’re hiring for. How did you bridge the gap and help them see that your experience was relevant, even though you’ve never been in MarTech?

Kathie: One of the things I really focused on, and I suggest this for everyone, is make sure you know your impact in results, not in activities. And when you think about the results that you’ve achieved, many of them are transferable. How do you strategically look at the problem, or the opportunity that the company has and where they’re trying to go strategically? What are the experiences you’ve had before, and the key results, business results, not activities that you’ve achieved. And I emphasize that only, Drew, because I look at so many resumes from people who just say, “Hey, can you take a look?” and I see activities, I don’t see business impact. And I think what’s so important in the CMO role is that impacting the overall business growth that you’re hoping to drive, so really making sure that’s transferable. And then the second thing, and I’ll be interested in Scott’s commentary on this, is that because I went into a space that’s selling to CMOs, I am the target audience. So taking that expertise and knowledge of how you yourself deal with vendors and making decisions is also really important.

Drew: It’s got to be fun to be in the target. That’s a fun situation. And I appreciate the focus on business results and business impact. And I’m sure when we talk later about getting a running start that that’s been part of your perspective. And you brought up Scott, so let’s bring on Scott now, and we’ll be back with you. Scott Morris, CMO at Sprout Social, who is joining this show for the first time. Hello, Scott, how are you and where are you this fine day?

Scott: Hey, Drew, nice to be here with you and with Kathie and Kate. I am also joining you from California. In fact, Kathie and I were just chatting before the show that we actually live fairly close to one another in Northern California. That’s where I’m calling you from today. I’m actually in Sonoma County right now.

Drew: I love it. I’m seeing a lunch on the horizon here. You were at Zendesk for five and a half years, you took a six-month health and wellbeing break. Talk a little bit just about that and what gave you the confidence to do that.

Scott: Yeah, so I was at my previous company, Zendesk, for over five years. I started there as a VP, worked my way up to SVP, and then ultimately ran the marketing team for the final year that I was there. It was not easy making that decision to leave. Like, I’m a type A Virgo who has a plan for everything. And this was the first time in my entire career that I was leaving the job with nowhere to go, like literally no plan, which frankly, should have been really, really terrifying for me. But the reality was, I had absolutely zero anxiety about it. And that’s what let me know that I was doing the right thing, the fact that I didn’t have anxiety over this big life and career change where I was, you know, jumping off a cliff into the unknown. That’s really what sort of gave me the confidence that I knew I was doing the right thing and have that conversation with the CEO that I was leaving.

I have to give a little plug for the sabbatical. You know, as you pointed out, I took about six months off, supposed to be six, and ended up being five, because I got the Sprout opportunity. And I can talk about that a little bit in a minute. I came back a little earlier than planned. But you know, during that time, I was able to go to Europe for like two months. I went to Italy, and Greece and Portugal, and France, I tried a bunch of new recipes, some of which were really, really terrible, by the way, learned a little Italian and sort of sharpened up my French and got to spend time with family. But I think most importantly, I was able to slow down. And that is really, really hard for me to do. And it also allowed me to be curious instead of anxious when I had no idea what I would do next.

And so in the same way that you know, I literally bought a flight into Rome, and two months later out of Paris, and I figured it out as I went. And I’d never really done anything like that. I kind of approached the job hunt in the same way. Right? Once I came back from Europe, and really, really got into it, I approached it the same way, which is just to be curious, instead of anxious, and to explore all of the possible opportunities to figure out what that right next thing is. And by the way, I think that you know, through that process, the sabbatical process, one of the things I had a chance to think about, like that time that it gave me to think about was less about exactly what I wanted to do and more about what I didn’t want to do, right? The types of jobs, the roles, the companies that are kind of like not how I wanted to spend my time for the next couple of years. And it was kind of through that process of subtraction that I was able to then get to more clarity around exactly what I did want to do. And I think taking that time off is really what allowed me the space to sort of think deeply about that to really figure out the right thing that would be next for me in terms of my career move.

Drew: I love it. So I want to sort of again, I’m going back to this article “Don’t Quit,” which resonated with a lot of people. And of course, one of the things that I think—both you and Kathie come from is a position of confidence in that you were in your jobs for more than three years. You had a track record of performance that you could look at with a great deal of confidence in terms of the business impact. So I think that if you’re thinking about taking a sabbatical, make sure you’ve got a really strong story. And then the second part of it is what you basically gave yourself was four months, five months to think about “What is it that I want?” and that’s a strategic part of the search that I think is so important and often skipped. And in that strategic plan, you actually listed the things you don’t want, which is as important as the things you do, and so that’s awesome. This is, I think, where the recruiter really became a recruiter because you weren’t looking for a job. How did Sprout Social come along?

Scott: Yeah, so first, almost everything that Kathie said earlier, I just completely agree with, down to like, you know, take the calls, they’re trying to do their job just like you’re trying to do yours, all of the things. But I think, you know, in terms of my own experience, after I left Zendesk in June or July of last year, like everyone else, I talked with a bunch of companies, right? I didn’t want to take another job right away. As I said, I wanted to make sure I took that break for myself. But I also wanted to do a little sort of legwork early to understand what was out there. Kathie mentioned that she reached out to some of the recruiters who she knew from previous conversations; I did exactly the same thing, just to have conversations with the recruiters. I talked with a couple of companies in that timeframe as well, you know, mainly to understand what’s out there and to start that process of zeroing in on what I thought I would want to do, right? I wasn’t sure, frankly, that I wanted to go work for a public company or a private company, private VC funded or private equity funded, how big should the company be, B2B or sort of back to my B2C roots. And so I think having those conversations helped with that process of subtraction that I talked about.

Kate reached out to me because we had a relationship in the past. And I think she said, you know, something like, “I know you’re taking some time off, but I’ve got the perfect opportunity. I have not reached out to you yet because I was waiting for like the perfect thing for you. And I think that I have it.” Kate might remember this better than I do. But I don’t remember whether it was right before I left on my trip to Europe, or right after I had already left. I can’t remember which, but I was like, “Sounds great. But I’m not doing any interviews while I’m trying to like, you know, travel through southern Italy and just have a good time. I want to really be focused on the recharge part of my sabbatical.” And she said, “Hey, I think they might be willing to wait and have that conversation with you.”

Now, it was a unique situation. They had a sitting CMO. Some of you might know Jamie Gilpin; she’s amazing. And she had already announced that she was going to be leaving at the end of the year. So they had a CMO in seat. And so I think they had a little bit more latitude in terms of being willing to extend the process a little bit more because they had an awesome CMO who was going to be there for the end of the year. And they respected my desire to take that time to really recharge. And so, wait they did, and I had my first call the day I got back from Europe. And in fact, it was supposed to be like a 45-minute call, and I think we talked for an hour and a half, maybe even two hours. And that’s kind of when I knew for sure that there was something special there.

Drew: Yeah, several thoughts. One, yes, Jamie Gilpin was on the show several times and a longtime Huddler. So another person who was coming from a position of strength in terms of where she was in the role. And you just by the fact that she gave so much notice. You taking your sabbatical kind of just reminds me of why more companies don’t offer that at the executive level. You might keep some great people if you did. And so now you just need a scenario where you have a rent-a-CMO. But anyway, that’s a different conversation.

Scott: I always… now that I’ve done the sabbatical, self-imposed sabbatical, I always talk about how great it is, except when I’m talking about it with my own team.

Drew: Well, there you go. That’s hilarious. Alright. Well, we’re gonna come back to a bunch of things. But we’re gonna bring Kate in now. Kate Bullis is the Managing Director and Marketing Growth Practice Leader at ZRG Partners, who is also joining the show for the first time. Hello, Kate, and welcome.

Kate: Hello. Nice to be here. Thank you.

Drew: Oh, my gosh. And so now, where are you this fine day?

Kate: I’m going to stay with the trend here. Very boring. I’m also in California, also in Northern California. And I make my home in the East Bay. Usually, I’m in San Francisco. So I’m a hop, skip, and a jump from both Kathie and Scott.

Drew: Awesome. Okay. So talk a little bit about, you know, how did you know Kathie and Scott and what can CMOs learn from this in terms of how they built their relationship with you? I’m imagining long before these two opportunities sort of came onto your desk.

Kate: Yeah, so I’ll start with Kathie. Kathie was actually introduced to me by another Chief Marketing Officer that I had placed the year before. And that is a classic way by which I meet great talented people, peers are some of your best friends and advocates. So it’s not just the Chief Revenue Officers or the CEOs that you’re working with that you need to be considering as far as your network and the strength of who can make introductions. It’s the CMOs on your left and right, your peer group that are very, very powerful in that regard. So I met Kathie through another great CMO. And when one great CMO recommends another, I sit at attention. They had worked together in a prior life at Salesforce.

With Scott, he had mentioned, we had worked together prior. I was familiar with him and his work at Zendesk already. And so actually, not only did I get a chance to see his work in action, I already knew of his outstanding reputation inside of Zendesk, what his peer group thought of him, what his subordinates thought of him, and what the leadership of the company thought of him. And so when he left Zendesk, it was definitely a sad day for them. But a great day for me and my clients, because that opened things up.

Drew: You mentioned a couple of things. One, obviously, the CMOs networking with other CMOs. Gee, there’s this organization called CMO Huddles, come on down, folks, just come on in. But more importantly, you use the term “great CMO.” I’m curious, when you say that, what’s your criteria?

Kate: I’ll start where Kathie started, which is impact. A great CMO will speak, of course, to the how and be able to do so articulately, and be able to speak to the how across all the functions of marketing, not just product marketing, not just demand generation, not just brand, but be able to speak to how did we arrive where we are today through all of these channels and methods? But most importantly, before the how is the what. What have you actually achieved? Start with your impact. Recognize the biggest—I like to say that there’s a difference between the boulders and the pebbles. The boulders are your biggest, baddest achievements, the way the needle moved greatly based on the work that you did. That’s where you need to start.

So when I look at a great CMO, there are lots of different kinds of achievement. And every company needs a different kind of achievement. What I mean by that is some companies are in high-octane growth mode. And I’ll be happy to talk about those moments in time that Sprout Social and Sitecore found themselves in and the reason why Kathie and Scott were the right call for both. But that moment in time and what the company is going through right then and there is largely going to tell you the right profile of CMO you need and that has almost nothing to do with product and domain. It has much more to do with moment and similar achievements in a similar moment on behalf of that CMO.

Drew: It’s a very sophisticated analysis. And one that’s so interesting, too, because when you and I talked, in one of the trends that we’re seeing on a broad basis, not on these two individuals, because in this case, you placed two individuals who did not have MarTech experience at MarTech companies, which is a counter-trend to the vertical, the industry, the target, the size, the growth that we’re seeing where there’s just this perfect match. So at this point in time, you have to be able to—you the recruiter have to be playing the role, I’m guessing, as the enlightener that’s saying, it’s not about the industry, it’s about the situation. And I’m curious how you did that because it’s not the case in most placements right now.

Kate: You know, it’s interesting that you say that because I’m actually not sure that I personally have the same experience. I would say that domain, if we can use the word domain as the same thing as product, right? I say to Chief Marketing Officers and I say to CEOs who hire me to help find their CMOs, it really shouldn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter. Whether you’re marketing tires, or sandwiches, or software. What really matters is the moment in time a company finds itself in and the way it seeks to grow from this moment forward. And who the audience is, who is that company’s market.

I would argue that market knowledge, the domain of the market itself, who the customer is, and the motions that go with that kind of customer, those are the two most important things a CMO brings to the table for a company—more than what they’re marketing. And I would also say the moment in time, there’s a huge difference between a $50 million company and a $500 million company, two very different CMOs. So those are the things I tend to go to market for when I’m looking for a CMO. I worry far less about what the marketer is marketing.

Drew: And again, I think this is—if I were to say what the difference is between an average recruiter and a great recruiter like yourself is, you not only can articulate that, but you can sell that.

Kate: I do have to say that I’m not often selling it as much as I am sharing with a client. And maybe I am a little bit—I’m so sure that I’m right about this, that it doesn’t feel like I’m selling. It’s just a fact. And the Kathies and the Scotts of the world are proof. It really doesn’t matter if you know marketing technology, what matters is you understand the go-to-market mind that’s going to buy that marketing technology. You know where that go-to-market leader is showing up, you know how they’re listening, you know what their pain points are. And in both cases, by the way, the other big similarity between Sprout Social and even Sitecore is that both of these companies are going through this upmarket swing. They’re not just sticking to their knitting and staying with the same customer that they have been historically, they’re moving into new customer segments. That alone is a major must-have for a CMO in a company of that moment.

Drew: I’m just thinking about—Scott’s over in Europe, he’s doing his thing but you had tremendous confidence that he was the right person for Sprout. What gave you that confidence?

Kate: Definitely the classic pattern matching that I think is my responsibility, which of course includes everything I just mentioned, the upward swing to include more and more enterprise motion away from, say, mid-market or smaller business, the scale that Scott had seen in the story that was then Zendesk, for example. His knowledge of the go-to-market customer, as we’ve already discussed, both with Zendesk and Adobe before that, Scott had a wonderful pattern match there. And then I cannot underestimate the power of the culture fit. Scott is a phenomenal culture fit for Sprout Social, and that takes work on my part, both of knowing Scott and knowing the company. What does that mean, when I say a great culture fit? It’s my job to get that right because CMOs are way beyond craft and activity, and even impact. CMOs are C-suite leaders and need to be culture carriers and culture adders because they are going to be leaders. I consider the qualitative as important as the quantitative. Scott had it all.

Drew: We have some audience questions, and maybe we can get through a couple of these really quickly. Are there any types of marketers in particular that are in high demand right now?

Kate: Well, I have to say that we expected 2023 to be the year of demand gen, frankly. That was going to be the superpower that we predicted that CMOs were going to need particularly on the B2B side. And we predicted that because we felt that 2023 was a softer market, of course, than, say, the end of 2020 through 2022. And of course, that’s correct. However, we didn’t actually wind up seeing that. What we wound up seeing is the call for a full-stack CMO who truly was a strategic add to the business.

Companies in transition, whether that transition be moving into new segments, or doubling down on the customers you have been expanding—whatever your moment, whatever your need, that truly strategic difference maker wound up being the call of the day. So in fact, what is the pattern right now to answer your question? Greatness, full-stackness, strategic capability, and to go back to Kathie’s original, demonstrate impact. Let’s not talk about activity. Let’s talk about what you actually accomplished.

Drew: I’m going to summarize with “strategic difference maker.” And I love that as a description for, you know, the Chief Marketing Officer – a strategic difference maker. What you’re basically saying is if you have a track record as a strategic difference maker, there’s an opportunity out there for you. We’re gonna take a quick break because I need to take a minute to talk about CMO Huddles, and then we’ll come back. So founded in 2020, CMO Huddles helps over 400 B2B marketing leaders gain the confidence, connections, and coverage they need to succeed now and throughout their careers. In addition to our Leader program that Kathie and Scott are in, we help over 160 marketers on our transition team prepare for and land their next opportunities. Usually, at this point, I say hey, Scott’s brand new to CMO Huddles. I don’t know, Kathie, anything you want to say about CMO Huddles from your experience?

Kathie: Happy to hop in. I’ve been a member of CMO Huddles since the beginning, right? I was one of the founding members. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know other CMOs to get feedback. Drew does a great job when you have a question, he’ll connect you with other CMOs who he knows could be a great partner for you in learning more about it. So that would be my big tip there.

Drew: I love it. Well, thank you. If you’re a B2B CMO who can share, care, and dare with the best of them, do yourself a favor and check out CMOhuddles.com. 

Alright, back to this conversation because it is so great and so critical right now. For Kathie and Scott, you started talking about your strengths, your weaknesses, things you don’t want. Talk a little bit about, in your last job, was personal brand part of anything that you thought about during your time as a CMO?

Scott: Absolutely. I think for me, one of the most important things to actually focus on is your internal brand as a CMO, in particular, with the rest of the C-suite and with your board. You know, as marketing leaders, I know we don’t like to hear this all the time. But sometimes a CMO role is not always seen as strategic. It’s just like leading another function. But I think what really makes the difference is how the CMO contributes to the company strategy, which is that we bring the outside view in. We really are the voice of the customer at scale, right? And so because of the function we happen to run, we have, you know, incredible access to voice of the customer data and insights. And we have the opportunity to leverage those in the form of valuable business insights that give the CMO a seat at the table with the C-suite and with the board. So yes, of course, how marketing is performing is important. And I love the conversation earlier about, you know, impact. It’s not about a checklist, like I did all the things, it’s about what were the results of that. But I also think that those market and customer insights that we have as CMOs in addition to the signals that we can pick up through marketing that talk about how the business is performing, that’s really, really critical. And that’s an important part, I think of developing your own personal brand is that sort of internal brand for the company.

Drew: So I want to go back to this fit. So we’ll go to you first Kathie on this, which is, it’s a two-way street here because you were at Talkdesk, you were successful there, you had an impact. And now Kate’s saying, “Hey, you should talk to Sitecore?” And how did you go about evaluating them figuring out that it was actually a great fit and what role did Kate play?

Kathie: Yeah, Kate was huge. You just heard her talk, I’ll go there first. Your recruiter is not just putting you in a place, your recruiter can also really be a good coach along the way, asking for feedback, honing your story with your recruiter. You know, Kate is a marketer at heart. So then back to the Sitecore piece. I think before I would speak with any company, really there’s, you know, the typical things I would consider around does it fit with the values that are important to me, right? Will I learn something? When it comes to Sitecore specifically, you know, I talked to customers. I’d never used the Sitecore product. So I talk to customers to understand, what is their perspective of the product? I of course met across the leadership team, met with, you know, a couple of the board members and the chair of the board, like understanding the market, you know, what is the opportunity in that market? What is the perception of the products with the current customers? And in market? Will it fit? They talked culture, Kate mentioned culture is so important, like, do I fit in this organization? Will I thrive? Will I be a good leader? And then ultimately, can I make a difference? Can I make an impact? Am I bringing something to the table that is a value add to the organization at large? I think all of that really comes into play. And Scott mentioned a little bit, I don’t know if you use the word gut. But just that feeling in his first conversation, he understood that there was a good fit. There’s something really important about that because tying it to the last comment around personal brands, we as marketers, as CMOs, our personal brand is everything. It’s so important. So ensuring that we can make that impact, continue growing and, you know, being or offering that brand that’s important to us as individuals in our roles.

Drew: Scott, were there questions that you asked that helped you have that gut feeling and during the process, what made you think that, the question specifically because I know folks are interviewing right now and saying, “I think it’s a good culture fit but I’m not sure what question to ask or how do I figure that out?” How did you know that you could be successful there?

Scott: Part of it was gut I think that Kathie is right in that for sure. But I think you know, I really spent a lot of time trying to understand not just that first conversation, but the follow-on conversations I had with all of the C-suite because I had I think interviews with almost every C-suite member like Kathie, I met with some folks on the board, I also talked to some of the customers of Sprout to get their perspective on it. And I think I was really looking for a company, where the way I would sort of describe the profile of the leadership team in particular like the attributes that were really, really important to me, in addition to like the firmographic details about the company, in terms of the role that I was looking for, but really, for me is about the people. What I found is that in all of those conversations, that company I happened to land at, Sprout Social, is a company full of people who are really, really smart, they’re very, very driven. They’re also really authentic and this is really important for me, they are low ego that is very—even the founder CEO, right, and you don’t always find that and on top of that, by the way, great products, compelling vision, you know, ambitious plan for growth, really strong values. A passionate customer community, that’s something I really look for as well, when customers are so into the product and so passionate about it and want to talk about it all the time. And like build their careers on it. That’s like a marketer’s dream, right to fall into a situation like that. So for me, it was those things that I just mentioned. But most importantly, it really was about the people.

Drew: Yeah, it sounds like these are people that you could work with, that you wanted to work with and you’d like to work with.

Scott: Do I want to go out and basically have dinner and drinks with these people and spend my free time with them, because you’re going to be spending all of your work time with them? So these need to be people like when you’re choosing friends, right? And that’s really important to think about.

Drew: Amazing. Okay, so Kate we get them all the way up to the offer stage? How’s the negotiation work right now? What’s on the list of things that—and I’m assuming that you help as part of this, what’s negotiation look like? What are we talking about?

Kate: How much more time do we have? Negotiation is a two-way street, right? I mean, that’s the name of the game. But if I’m doing my job well, I’m acting as the value-added broker to make sure that the most important things are being addressed even before negotiations start. First of all, before we talk about whether or not this offer is going to work, do we want the job? Do you want the job? If you don’t have enough information to know whether or not this is the one, if you can’t make that call, we’re not done yet. The process isn’t over yet and if the company says this is the one, but the candidate says I don’t know, and sometimes that “I don’t know” is because the individual who is being made the offer had several things to consider. And that happens all the time. But in my mind, it doesn’t matter if you have 12 things or one thing to consider, you should know whether or not this is the one. And if you don’t, you’re not done with the process yet.

Drew: Okay, so we’ve got to be in this situation where you’ve got a company, and you’ve got a CMO and they want each other. Okay, now what’s on the table? I mean, and I’m gonna, let’s say comp is obviously one thing, but what else when you’re negotiating, are we talking about, as I see it, things like resources and budgeting? I’ve seen this happen, where the CMO gets a new job, and then suddenly, “oh, by the way, your budget just got cut 50%.” So how do you, in the negotiation process to ensure that your placements can be successful? What else are you looking for?

Kate: On behalf of the individual or on behalf of the client?

Drew: Individual. You’re at this moment in time negotiating for Kathie and Scott.

Kate: Well, I will tell you, again, if I’m doing my job well, there’s very little to negotiate, hopefully, because I have already had multiple conversations with Kathie and Scott about what’s important to them. And if we’re down the aisle and at the altar, and this number, or these general parameters aren’t going to work, and I didn’t know that, I didn’t do my job working with the individual. And I didn’t have enough information working with the client. So we should be pretty darn close when we get to the aisle right out of the gates. And then it’s wiggle room. It’s, well, what’s the most important thing to you? What is it? Here’s what we’re thinking about in general, here’s the total value of the offer. Here’s how that would be broken down. Here’s where I know the company might have some wiggle room. I’m not adding any value if all I’m doing is being a message carrier. So I need to know what’s important to Kathie and Scott, I need to know what’s important and what is not capable, as far as the client is concerned, so that every time we have a conversation, we’re going like that. And so I would say the important things are typically what everybody knows: base, bonus, equity, sometimes there’s a signing bonus that has to address something. But all of this should be discussed in the lead-up, right? And not waiting until the ninth hour to do so. And I also think it’s important that you should have a great enough relationship with the executive that you’re dealing with, the Kathie or the Scott, in my case, to be able to say, this is not just what this company is capable of. Let me give you a snapshot of what is true in the market as well so that you don’t feel like you’re getting this information in a black box.

Drew: Got it. So, Kathie, I’m curious for you, when you were thinking about it. So there’s the comp and so forth. Have you looked at all that budget or resources or anything else like that, to sort of give you a sense that you were going to be successful and have what you needed to succeed even with your comp all great and where you want it?

Kathie: Two things. One, I was smiling while Kate was talking, because she absolutely asked you “Do you want this job?” I think I saw Scott smiling too. So she truly does that. There was actually one thing that I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable about at the end, as Kate knows. And so I asked for one final call, again with the CEO specifically to address some questions that I had outstanding, right? I was looking for how—I wasn’t absolutely looking for the answer, I was actually looking for how he answered it, meaning I was being very, very direct, and wanted to see if he’d be comfortable. I was concerned: am I too direct and am I too direct for this group? If I’m really direct and ask very specific, direct questions, I want to see how he would answer it. We go back to cultural fit. That is, as Kate knows, was really important to me, and how he would answer those questions.

Drew: Now, if it was a Zoom call, I’m imagining that you have a copy of “Radical Candor” sort of right there in the image. So what about you, Scott, in terms of beyond comp in terms of things that you thought you might need to be successful?

Scott: Yeah, well, I did have the benefit of, as I mentioned, the sitting CMO still being there and she and I had a couple of conversations. So that really allowed me to dig into like, what is the real lay of the land here? That included things like budget and headcount and other things, but even like strength of the current team, where are the gaps that she feels they have either organizationally, etc. How does the C-suite really work together, you know, is what I’m seeing on the surface really the way that it works. And so I had a chance to kind of really dig into those things. I know you don’t always maybe have that resource available to you. But I did. And the other thing that they asked me to do, which I actually found just as helpful for me as it probably was for the leadership team, is I did do a 90-minute presentation to the entire C-suite as the final step, but it wasn’t, you know, it was personal background, professional background, what are my superpowers, it’s really important to know that and to be able to articulate them and why. How do I lead? How do I build teams? What are some of my own gaps? We talked a lot about the importance of business impact, really framing up some big things I had done in my career that I thought were relevant for this situation that were all around business impact. And then what would my big bets be when I came to this company, what would my strategies be? And what do I think might get in my way from achieving those goals? Sure, that helped them in their evaluation of me, but really crystallized for me, hey, this is the right opportunity for me, I really get this company, I really get these people, there’s no smoke and mirrors in terms of like trying to make my background match what they’re looking for. Like, I sold myself on the deal that this was the right opportunity for me. And that was very helpful. So even if you’re not asked to do that, you don’t have to build a deck but I would say do an outline of those things and litmus test that against the experience you’re going through. And for me, that’s super, super helpful.

Drew: I’m so glad you mentioned that because there’s some resistance sometimes when they want me to do a 30-60-90. They want me to do a presentation. And I feel like it’s such an opportunity to really help you evaluate them because as you’re presenting, you’re thinking even as hypotheses, you know, not, “This is what we’re going to do,” but “These are the things that I’m thinking about based on my past experience.” You get a chance to see how they interact, right? Are they going to listen? Are they going to be dictatorial? What kind of questions do they ask? You’re going to see if it’s a team that you can work with. So I love that. And Kate, I’m curious, is it often that your CMOs end up doing presentations like what Scott did?

Kate: It actually is quite typical. And you’re absolutely right, Drew, that oftentimes it’s met with a “meh.” You know, and I don’t blame anybody, it’s homework, it kind of feels like, “Really?” And I get it, I totally get it. But I love that Kathie and Scott—because Kathie went through something similar, both of them saw it for what it was as well, which is, as Scott said, an opportunity for them. This is a two-way street all the way. Nobody forget that. Okay, so remember that every ask is also an opportunity and a potential gift for you. So Kathie had a fantastic share there about how she used a ninth-hour question to pressure test culture. Culture is nothing but how we do things around here, right? And another thing that they both had in common was that they both did their homework in the market, they reached out to customers. You show me a customer, and I’ll show you your company culture, whether you like it or not, that’s true. And that is why CMOs have so much to do with a company’s culture. So it’s really important that you recognize all of the gifts that the process are to you, and not just to the client, to the company.

Drew: I love that. Man, there’s so many quotable things in there, I can just see the show cards coming out of what you just said. Like “culture is nothing but how we do business.” Wonderful thoughts. I have some quick questions before we get some final words of wisdom from all of you. So how does this relationship continue, Kate? And I’m going to ask you this specifically, what’s your expectation from the CMO checking in, the company checking in? How does that work?

Kate: During the process?

Drew: After the placement, because they’ve been in their jobs now, three months?

Kate: Oh, gosh, well, I think that’s quite individual frankly. I wish I could say there was a standard there. I can’t speak for other executive search firms. But I will say that I check in pretty regularly. And I don’t just check in with the CMO, although I’ve got a real big soft spot for the CMOs that I place and so I do stay in touch with them even probably more. But I check in not only with the CEO but with the people that were involved in the process. Part of my process is always to really interview and know all of the stakeholders that the CMO works with every day. So that’s not just the CEO, but it’s the Chief Product Officer, the Head of Revenue, the Head of HR, maybe even finance, the board member that might have been involved in the process. All of these people are stakeholders, I do check-ins with them. And it’s really just, it’s three seconds, sometimes it’s a text message. “How’s he doing? How’s she doing?” I want to know that they are successful and not just happy because their success is mine.

Drew: Exactly. So alright, well, we’re at the time where it’s time for final words of wisdom for CMOs when it comes to searching for their next opportunity. And Kathie, let’s start with you.

Kathie: Know what’s important to you. Absolutely know what’s important to you, right? And, you know, as Scott said, what’s also what you don’t want, number one. Two, make the time. Drew, you even talk about this with people. Like schedule, I literally had a schedule on my wall that showed networking time, learning time. Like I spent a lot of time freshening up things that I felt I might be stale at and I literally have a day by day schedule. So being intentional about what you’re trying to do. Absolutely networking. You heard, you know, the CMOs are a great reference point for Kate. One of my other opportunities I explored came through CMO. You need to spend time networking.

Drew: Excellent. Okay, Scott, final words of wisdom.

Scott: In addition to that, I would just say this is not as simple as “do your homework,” right? But even in the very first interview that you have with the company, no longer can you just basically go in prepared to talk about yourself. You have to do enough research around the company that you’d be prepared for the questions. “What would you come in and change? Where do you see our biggest opportunities?” Like you have to know enough about their business, having not talked to anyone at that company, to be able to have a strategic answer to those types of questions. You can’t just come in being prepared to talk about all the great things that you’ve done. You’ve got to be able to come in and say immediately how you will impact the business and that you’ve done your research enough that you know the market, you know the customers, you’ve read what their priorities are, you understand their challenges, and you basically have recommendations for how you would tackle those things first.

Drew: I just want to emphasize doing the homework, because there’s no excuse today, it’s so easy to do homework. So thank you for that.

Scott: But it takes some deep thinking, though, to be able to think through like all of those things, and to really be prepared to answer those questions. So you really have to invest that time. And the final thing I would just say is have the courage to always know your worth, so that you don’t settle.

Drew: There you go. Okay. So Kate, bring us home. Final words of wisdom for CMOs when searching for their next opportunity.

Kate: Yeah, ditto to everything both Kathie and Scott said. I’ll leave with two things. One of them is quantitative advice, and the other is qualitative. And both of them have to do with how you show up. And that is, on the quantitative side, really look at your background, take a step back, zoom up and away from your experience, and look down on it the way you would the market itself as a marketer, and ask yourself, what are the patterns here? Where do I differentiate? Where am I dangerous in the room? Why was I right for all of these opportunities? What’s the pattern there? Is it the segment that I was in? Is it the moment in time from 50 to 100? Is it transformation? Seek that out and know what that is. That’s your quantitative brand. And then on the qualitative side, I urge anyone who’s actively looking to reach out to a handful of people that know you best, people that have been your peers, your subordinates, as well as your managers, people that you trust, and ask them: “If a stranger called you and asked you, what do you think of when you think of me? Some words that come to mind? A story that you would tell? How would you serve as a reference for me?” You will be surprised what people say about you, you will be surprised what’s memorable about you. Those things are your qualitative brand, the things you bring to the room every single time, no matter what seat you’re in, or what situation. That’s your qualitative brand. And both of those things, if you know those things well, not only do you show up with confidence, you’ll zero in on the right opportunities for you.

Drew: I love it. Thank you for summarizing it in such a precise way because what we’re really talking about here, we’re marketers, we do strategy first, you did a listening tour and you did an assessment of the situation and what your strengths and weaknesses are. So I love that. Perfect way for us to wrap up this show. I do want to add one little other thing: when you’re reaching out and doing your listening tour, don’t forget that these are people who will probably be your references. And so you’re doing double duty at that point. You find out what they will say and you want them to be honest when they talk to the other folks. Okay. Well, thank you, Kathie, Scott, Kate, you’re all wonderful sports and amazing people. It’s a love fest here. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your 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 Ishar Cuevas. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro VoiceOver is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests and learn more about CMO Huddles or my CMO coaching service, please visit renegademarketing.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser. Until next time, keep those renegade marketing caps on and strong!