March 18, 2021

Finding the Perfect CMO Gig in 2021

The executive job search is all about taking a consultative approach. For CMOs, it’s about using interviews to truly understand the pain points of an organization and to measure their values against your own. It’s about setting expectations so that, once hired, the CMO be able to deliver both quick wins and big wins that have a lasting impact. And now, Post-COVID, it’s also about doing all of those things virtually.

This episode comes from a livestream we recorded in January 2021 with three guests who bring different perspectives to the CMO job search. Patti Newcomer-Small had just been hired as CMO at FMG Suite, Sara Larsen was in transition at the time (now she’s CMO of Wolters Kluwer Health), and Brandon Palmer of Discover Podium coaches CMOs looking for their next gig. Tune in to hear how the job hunt has changed post-COVID as well as an abundance of useful tips for the search and that first 90 days as a virtual leader.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How the job hunt has changed for CMOs post-COVID
  • How to make an impact and lead virtually
  • Practical tips for CMOs in transition

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 232 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Thinkers Live
  • [1:18] Case Study: Landing a CMO Job Post-COVID
  • [7:23] CMO Advice for the First 90 Days
  • [10:20] Case Study: Searching for a CMO Job Post-COVID
  • [12:35] Do LinkedIn Recommendations Matter for CMOs?
  • [14:41] How to Make an Impact and Manage Expectations in a New Role
  • [21:07] How to Find a Cultural Fit via Virtual Interview
  • [30:20] How to Lead Virtually
  • [38:55] Prep Tips for Job-Seeking CMOs

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Patti Newcomer-Small, Sara Larsen, and Brandon Palmer

[0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Thinkers Live 

Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew, and today’s podcast episode is from our 5th recording of Renegade Thinkers Live, our livestreaming series. The show was all about the CMO job search, like how hiring has changed post-COVID, how to lead virtually, and what to prepare for in transition.

To speak on the subject, we were joined by an eclectic mix: Patti Newcomer-Small, who had just started as CMO of FMG Suite and she talked about her search experience; Sara Larsen, who was in transition at the time and is now the new VP of Marketing at Wolters Kluwer Health (congrats, Sara!); and Brandon Palmer, a CMO coach and the Head of Client Strategy at Discover Podium.

It was a really insightful episode, so without further ado…Here it is, I hope you enjoy it, and don’t forget to write a review about it afterwards. Thanks!

[1:18] Case Study: Landing a CMO Job Post-COVID

“Even when you're not looking, you should always be A) taking calls and B) know who in your network is looking and what they're looking for.” —@pattijns @FMGSuite Share on X 

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City and as I like to say on my podcast, hello Renegade Thinkers!

Here we are in 2021. Wow! A year of incredible promises, including the expectation that the pandemic will soon—in months—be behind us and that our quote unquote “normal lives” can resume.

But let’s agree on one thing: the pandemic, for better or worse, has changed how we work, where we work, how we hire, and how we get hired, which brings us to the subject of today’s show.

How are CMOs finding jobs in this virtual environment? How have hiring expectations changed if it all? What’s it like looking for a CMO role right now? And what should CMOs with jobs be doing today to prepare themselves for their next opportunity?

We’ve got a lot of questions to cover. To help us answer these questions and more, we have three amazing guests. First up, is Patti Newcomer-Small, the star of episode 18 of Renegade Thinkers Unite—that goes way back—and the recently appointed CMO of FMG Suite, a software company that supports financial advisors. But before we get to that, Patti, you have some other big news, right?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I got married!

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s kind of a big deal. So, you have a new job and you got married. Did you move, too?

Patti Newcomer-Small: That’s coming in the next few months, yes actually.

Drew Neisser: That’s like that’s like the trifecta of transitions. Now, my wife reminded me that I’m not supposed to say congratulations, so wishing you a lifetime of happiness.

Patti Newcomer-Small: Why not congratulations?

Drew Neisser: I don’t know, it’s like not saying break a leg. It’s just one of those things. You say congratulations to the groom and some other wonderful well wishes to the bride. So anyway, you just, besides getting married—yes, woohoo—you just found a job, a new job, during the pandemic. How weird was it? Did you meet anybody face-to-face?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I did not meet anybody face-to-face. And I still haven’t met anybody at my company face-to-face. Everything has been virtual. The interview process was not all that weird other than that it was remote and via video. It happened very fast for me, so I had an offer one day, I accepted it the next day, and I started three days later.

Drew Neisser: Woah, okay, that’s the fastest I’ve ever heard. Oh my gosh, that’s crazy. Obviously, you felt really good about both the offer and the opportunity.

Patti Newcomer-Small: That’s right, yes.

Drew Neisser: Talk a little bit about the process… You know, you hear about a job or somebody contacts you about it—what was different for you in this process?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Honestly, for me, I left Intuit this summer and I actually got engaged three days before my last day at Intuit. I was really looking reactively and not proactively, so I was taking headhunter calls, but I wasn’t really being all that proactive.

I honestly got a lot of headhunter calls and one of my big pieces of advice to people is, even when you’re not looking, you should always be A) taking calls and B) know who in your network is looking and what they’re looking for so that you can be helpful to the headhunters because then you’ll be on their list, and when you are ready or in the market looking, you’ll be on their list. I think that was really helpful for me.

I have always had a philosophy of I take headhunter calls to understand what’s out there and what’s available and why my resume is interesting and all of that.

Drew Neisser: You know, it makes so much sense. The time to be preparing yourself to look for a job is not when you’re looking for a job. You build your personal brand and build your profile and build your network so that if in the event you have to tap into it, you can. That makes so much sense.

Patti Newcomer-Small: I always say it’s easiest to be doing networking when you don’t need to ask for anything. It’s easier to network when you can say, “What can I do to help you?” and then it’s a lot easier when you need help because you’ve put so many points in the bank with your network.

If you just go out to your network and you’ve never done anything for them and you’re just asking for stuff, it’s much more awkward.

Drew Neisser: I totally agree. I know you’ve had a chance to experience CMO Huddles, which is something that we started last year, but one of my favorite huddles—and Sara will probably be able to talk about this—is what we call the transition team. This is just a group of CMOs who are in the middle of this pursuit.

I know part of the inspiration for this show was actually that group, and I think that’s probably a good place to bring in Sara Larsen, who until recently was the CMO of Brightcove and I know has been in the process of finding a job. First of all, Sara, welcome.

Sara Larsen: Happy New Year, Drew. Great to be here. Great to see you.

Drew Neisser: Great to see you as well. Sara, for the guests, Sara Larsen was also a guest of Renegade Thinkers Unite episode 154 just in case you’re following along at home.

[7:23] CMO Advice for the First 90 Days

“Especially now, with many people being remote, how do people take information in and how do you build that culture and learn that culture?” —@sararlarsen @Wolters_Kluwer Share on X

Drew Neisser: Sara, you were CMO of Brightcove for quite a while. This is Patti’s first CMO role. What advice do you have for Patti? We’ll just sort of do a little reverse mentoring here.

Sara Larsen: Oh, gosh, hmm…what advice…

Drew Neisser: For the first 90 days!

Sara Larsen: The first 90 days. First, read The First 90 Days. I love that book. I love that framework. Some of the best parts about that for me are finding about how organizations want to communicate, how people want to communicate. Especially now, with many people being remote, how do people take information in and how do you build that culture and learn that culture?

That’s probably the biggest thing, and then listen, a lot of listening. That first 30 days, no one’s expecting you to deliver anything. You can just listen and take in the time, so take advantage of that. I’m kind of one of those people that wants to jump in and do something right away, but I still have to hold myself back and just listen a little bit because that’s the best time.

Drew Neisser: Patti do you have that book, by the way, First 90 Days?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I’ve read it. Yeah.

Drew Neisser: Good.

Patti Newcomer-Small: Can I just add one thing? The interview process for me wasn’t so weird other than it being remote. I have reflected on how the onboarding process being remote has been more difficult than I expected to get integrated into things because you don’t just run into meetings happening or you meet somebody and say, “What meeting are you going to, can I just tag along?”

You have to be very intentional about how you get integrated and how you make sure that you meet people in the organization because you’re not going to just run into people in the hallway and in the lunch line or in the coffee line.

Sara Larsen: One of the things—I just started working on with an organization a few weeks ago in a consulting capacity, and I created an About Me page because here I’m kind of walking in and who is this person, this new person coming in? And that, I think, was really helpful.

It gave the team a little bit about me personally. How do I think? I put my Myers-Briggs on there so they knew how my brain works and a little bit of background about my rules of life and how I approach things. That’s been helpful because it’s a good touchstone for every time I meet somebody.

Drew Neisser: I love that idea. By the way, Sara, I know at least one CMO who not only put their Myers-Briggs—and this came up in a podcast, I can’t remember which one—they not only put their Myers-Briggs, but said, “Because this is my characteristic, this is what I respond to and this is what pisses me off.” They put it right in and just shared it with all their employees, which I think is a brilliant part of this thing.

[10:20] Case Study: Searching for a CMO Job Post-COVID

“There's a lot of optimism and forward motion in the tech space in terms of digital growth, cloud, and really just the digital transformation that's happening across almost every single industry.” —@sararlarsen @Wolters_Kluwer Share on X

Drew Neisser: I want to go back and just say, you’ve got this consulting gig, but how weird has it been for you to have the job search going in this very strange and unprecedented time?

Sara Larsen: Well, it’s been really interesting because I’ve been approaching it—this is the first time I’ve really done a true job search because I’ve been on the treadmill of life, so I’ve been able to step back and really think about what I want to do.

I’ve been approaching it like a big research project, so what that’s meant is figuring out the criteria of types of roles, what types of roles are out there, what types of organizations, public, private, PE, VC, pre-IPO, all of those stages and what type of technology. I’ve kind of been approaching this from really understanding more about the market because I have never really had an opportunity to do that.

Drew Neisser: Right. Have there been any big surprises in terms of your research and what you’re seeing out there in terms of opportunities and process?

Sara Larsen: I think the big surprise is that there’s an incredible—and I’m in the tech space—there’s an incredible amount of optimism. I think we’re in this world where there are so many bad things happening and the pandemic and the uncertainty. There’s a lot of optimism and forward motion in the tech space in terms of digital growth, cloud, and really just the digital transformation that’s happening across almost every single industry. That’s not slowing down one bit.

I still can remember the day in 2008 when the world quit buying. I kept thinking that was going to happen and that has not happened. I mean, it’s actually that people are doubling down.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. I mean, there are two economies. If you’re in the cloud, you’re in a good place. They talked about six years’ worth of digital transformation in just a few months in 2020, and those companies are really bullish. I’m hearing that a lot, that budgets are up and, of course, expectations are up.

[12:35] Do LinkedIn Recommendations Matter for CMOs?

“We should all know by now that our LinkedIn profile is equally as important as our resume.” —Brandon Palmer @DiscoverPodium Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring in Brandon Palmer, who is the Head of Client Strategy with Discover Podium. Brandon spends his time coaching CMOs. Hey, Brandon!

Brandon Palmer: Hi. Hey Drew, thanks for having me, really happy to be here.

Drew Neisser: Hey, and you win for best background, which is real, not fake, a real background. I was looking at your profile on LinkedIn and noticed this recommendation from a mutual friend, JD Dillon. This is a little hype for you, but also there’s a question at the end of this.

“Brandon knows when to listen, when to provide counsel and when to provide explicit directions. I consider him an invaluable asset for anyone approaching a career transition. I highly recommend his service.”

That’s cool. That’s a nice thing that that that JD said about you. My question is, how important are recommendations for CMOs in their LinkedIn profile? I know that’s a micro question and we’ll get back to the big things, but it just struck me as “huh” moment.

Brandon Palmer: That’s a great question. I’m happy to dive into the nitty-gritty a little bit for a second. Ultimately, we should all know by now that our LinkedIn profile is equally as important as our resume.

Recommendations in particular—the important things to know about them is they’re never going to generate any traffic to your page. It’s pretty impossible for anyone to see any recommendations before they’ve already visited your page, but it’s the only opportunity you have to validate any information you’re putting on your LinkedIn profile from a third-party source. You can ultimately say anything you want to on your profile, it’s really important to have concurrent records of other people saying, “Yeah, this person’s great to work with and they have all the experience that they’re speaking to.”

Drew Neisser: So, get those recommendations, but get them while you’re there, not after the fact, which may be a little weird to ask your CEO, “Hey, how about a recommendation on LinkedIn?” But that would be a wonderful validation.

Brandon Palmer: Absolutely.

[14:41] How to Make an Impact and Manage Expectations in a New Role

“You have to be able to walk in and establish that you've got two jobs.” —@sararlarsen @Wolters_Kluwer Share on X

Drew Neisser: Stepping back to the bigger question at hand—you’re on the front line of coaching executives. What changes did you witness in 2020 that you think are lasting and will have lasting impact on the job search process for CMOs at least?

Brandon Palmer: There are the obvious changes, right? The interview process has changed; they moved fully remote. A lot of times, timelines became more extended and sometimes chaotic as companies figured out their fit in this new ecosystem, but those will likely start to subside again as we move back to normalcy.

Ultimately, the biggest thing I saw for CMOs, in particular, is an emphasis on the necessity to convey an immediate impact you’re going to make in the role. There’s the old adage in marketing that it’s last to hire, first to fire, and as companies kind of figured out how they were going to survive, it became really important for CMOs—through the interview process and in talking through these opportunities—to really communicate what they could do in the immediacy to help companies survive. A lot of things like creative aspects, brand development, started to fall by the wayside a little bit as there was more of an emphasis on supporting revenue generation.

Drew Neisser: It pains me terribly to hear you say that, but I want to get validation on that from Patti. When you went in, was there an expectation that you could be a wizard and suddenly change demand generation?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Yeah, not so much a wizard. I think I came into a situation that wasn’t broken, but the expectation and the top priority for marketing is definitely generating leads. There’s a rebrand, there’s what about existing customers, there’s how do we think about product marketing—I mean, there are all kinds of things that I’ve sort of said, “We need to do these things, too,” but certainly generating leads is the top priority.

Drew Neisser: I’m wondering, Sara, from your standpoint, when you’re having these interviews, is that what you’re hearing as well? That they’re saying, “Hey, how quickly could you have an impact on the business?”

Sara Larsen: You know, Drew, I asked every CEO, “What’s the biggest problem you’re trying to solve right now?” and that is sort of a guide to what are they going to expect from marketing.

In some cases, they’re trying to figure out where they fit in a category, so that’s going to be different than just demand gen. Sometimes they are talking about building the pipeline, but they actually don’t have a product, so you need product marketing and you need to figure out some new product things. Sometimes they’re talking about go-to-market because they’re figuring out new targeting.

I think it’s kind of zeroing in on what’s the biggest problem they’re trying to solve and why, and then really actually helping the leadership team see where marketing is going to play a role to help them solve the problem. Sometimes, some CEOs think they know what the answer is in marketing, and it’s really our role to help them articulate how to get to that success.

I completely agree with Brandon that you have to be able to walk in the door and have an immediate impact and do that in a way that’s very tied to what that organization is trying to accomplish.

Drew Neisser: You know, I want to push back a little bit because we just talked about the importance of listening and the first 90 days and how you have to get the lay of the land and lay the groundwork. You often know that, if there’s usually something broken in the demand generation pipeline, you might be able to find a quick fix, but a lot of times there is a major positioning problem, and it takes time to fix that.

You could put a Band-Aid and do a little bit more search or something, but aren’t we sort of making a false promise from the beginning and setting up the reason why we’re going to be out the door in a year and a half? You know…that marketing in six months can give you a 200 percent return? Who wants to take that easy question?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I’ll take it, and then Sara, you take it as well. I actually think—and this is a little bit of my experience this time as well as in previous roles. I actually have been a CMO before. This isn’t my first CMO role.

Drew Neisser: Oh, sorry.

Patti Newcomer-Small: That’s okay! I actually think you can make an impact in a number of different ways. Even just changing the conversation with the kinds of questions that you’re asking in the C-Team conversations, establishing that you have a different kind of experience and credibility with the team so that they see that they’re going to learn from you in a way that they might not have expected, and changing the partnership with sales in a B2B environment in a way that they haven’t really experienced before…

All of those things are ways that you can make an impact fairly early without changing the weeds of exactly how does the engine work or do leads go from 214 to 278, you know what I mean? That’s part of my experience with what it means to have an early impact. It’s not just the in the weeds of the projects.

Sara Larsen: I totally agree, Patti, with what you’re saying. You have to be able to walk in and establish that you’ve got two jobs. You’ve got your leadership team job, which is where you’re going to help solve some of the big hairy problems of the company. And you have your functional job within marketing, which you’re going to optimize and build for success for marketing delivery.

I think about—and The First 90 Days talks about some of this as well—but how do you delineate between some quick wins and some big wins? The big wins are, Drew, what you talked about is how do you get to that 200 percent? A quick win might mean that immediate impact so that you can see that your activity is having an impact right away. So if you can align with your leadership team those quick wins and big wins, you’re set up and you give yourself a little bit of time to tweak much more of those underlying problems that might need to get solved.

[21:07] How to Find a Cultural Fit via Virtual Interview

“If they don't align with your values, they're not going to move forward. And that's actually a win for you because you're not going to waste time with opportunities that aren't a good fit.” —Brandon Palmer @DiscoverPodium Share on X

Drew Neisser: Here’s the question that I have. One of the big challenges that CMOs face is there’s this CEO/CMO mismatch in terms of expectations. Sometimes you can flesh that out through conversations and sitting with a CEO and so forth.

Then the next part of the issue is the culture and are you a fit for that culture? I’m just curious—how can you assess culture when you can’t physically participate and be around those folks? Is that harder in this period?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Sara, you want to do this one first and then I’ll go?

Sara Larsen: Sure. I mean, I think a couple of things. That calibration piece to CMO, to the CEO—as CMO in marketing, you’ve got an incredibly broad skillset that’s involved in marketing and you have to know where you fit on that spectrum and you’ve got to line that with the CEO and have that very explicit conversation.

Like for me, I’m demand gen, go-to-market, and that’s where my experience really spikes. And I tell them, “If you want a big brand marketer, that’s not going to be me. I know people.” But be really clear about where you fit on that spectrum. If you can figure that piece out together, that’s great alignment, then that kind of leads to the cultural piece. What are the cultural drivers that are important to you?

For me, I look at things like how are decisions made in the organization? How many people are involved? How fast are decisions made? What types of information go into decisions? How are they supported in the organization? How are they communicated? How do you look at whether or not it was a good decision or a bad decision? How do you have introspection?

So those are some of the questions that I ask, and then around communication, what’s the culture of communication? Is it formal? Is it informal? How hierarchical is it? How often are you meeting multiple layers within the organization?

Those are kind of the two things I zero in on around culture. And then just the third, which is what I think we all should be looking for. Is there a values connect with the organization that you’re going into? And that can range. Whatever your values are, you see them reflected. It could be from a diversity and inclusion perspective. It could be from global team’s perspective. It could be from just how they’re operating in the market, so make sure that your values connect to the organization you’re going into.

Drew Neisser: And Brandon, I’m wondering from your standpoint how folks should be going about this match of culture. I mean, we talked about immediate impact, and obviously, if you’re a mismatch with the culture, it’s going to be very hard. But how do you right now figure that out in a virtual world?

Brandon Palmer: It can be really quite tricky. A lot of the questions you ask might not get the definitive answer you’re looking for. One strategy I really encourage is to be really genuine to yourself and hold fast to what your values are and be very transparent through the interview process. What that’s going to do is it’s going to naturally qualify the opportunities.

If they don’t align with your values, they’re not going to move forward. And that’s actually a win for you because you’re not going to waste time with opportunities that aren’t a good fit.

And similarly, when it does resonate, you’re going to find that natural match and be moved forward. It’s going to come as a matter of circumstance just by being really transparent and demonstrating who you are throughout the process.

Drew Neisser: I love that thought. I’m thinking back to my podcast interview with Latané Conant of 6sense. She was the only person in any podcast who ever said that when she applied for a job, she told the CEO that he needed to talk to her last two CEOs so that he knew what he was getting. There was a complete match. She’s a bit of a whirlwind and you can hear it in the podcast. She is just a ball of energy and has very strong views on things and I love that.

It takes a real sense of confidence to be able to put that out there, though, right? I mean, I know that this is not unusual—a lot of CMOs that I talked to will quietly say, “I’m worried about being an imposter.” I wonder, is that as easy and as simple as it sounds? I’m curious, Patti, did you put your values out there when you were looking?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I do. I live in two cities. I have custody of my kids with my ex-husband 50 percent of the time, so I need to go back and forth. I need some life flexibility and they always say, like, don’t share any of that stuff until the very end. I have found that I share it right up front and it’s like, if you need somebody that’s going to be in the office from 7:00 a.m. Monday until 6:00 p.m. Friday, I am not your girl.

Sticking to my commitment with my ex and my kids is the most important thing and I will work my butt off, absolutely, but I need a little bit of flexibility. There have been a number of things that haven’t gone beyond that conversation, but to Brandon’s point, then you don’t waste your time or their time.

Drew Neisser: I love that point. I suspect, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but the pandemic really changed a lot of businesses’ perspectives on that.

Patti Newcomer-Small: I would say it took some time. Over the summer, people were still saying, “You’re going to need to move, “We’re going to need you in this particular city,” blah, blah, blah. By the time the fall came around, it was much more like, “Yeah, we’re going to be remote for at least another year and we’re fine.” I actually had a couple of opportunities that had reached out earlier in the year and when I said I can’t move to San Francisco, it was done. Then they reached out to me later and said, “Could you be in San Francisco once a month?” I was like, “Well, that I could do.”

My experience was it definitely took some time for a number of companies to get there. I think that there’s still a range. There are still companies that are saying, “As soon as this is over, we’re back in the office. We need you in our city. We’re going to be back in the office.” But I do think it’s going to be a lot fewer. I think corporate real estate is never going to be the same.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I’m afraid you’re right. I’m curious, Sara, how many of the jobs that you’re considering or talking to are saying you’ve got to be in the same city?

Sara Larsen: There have been a couple and they’ve mainly been more Midwest-oriented roles. The coasts seem to be much more flexible is what I’m finding.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. And what about you, Brandon? What are you seeing out there? The great thing as an employer is that now you have this sort of infinite employee pool potential because we’ve all figured out how to work together efficiently, virtually, so why does anybody need to be local?

Brandon Palmer: You know, it seems like it’s just common sense. It seems like it should just be easier to work completely remotely, but it takes time to change things. A lot of companies are still a little slow to move on this. They have a more traditional perspective on it. I ultimately think that this is going to be something that goes with time, but as Sara highlighted, the coasts are the first to move and then it starts to move in over the next couple of years. I would say over the next three to five years, it’s going to be really commonplace for most companies to, when possible, have fully remote workforces. I’m really excited for it, personally. I think it’s a great direction to be moving in.

Drew Neisser: I’ve got my home office studio and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know if Renegade will ever have a physical office again, but we’ll see. You know, we’ve got to be like Sean Connery, you know, never say never again.

[30:20] How to Lead Virtually

“If people break, they're not going to be productive. In some cases, you've got to take your foot off the gas.” —@pattijns @FMGSuite Share on X

Drew Neisser: So, Brandon, we touched on this earlier, but I’m really wondering if there is a new skillset, and we’re going to call it the virtual leader. I bring that up because I’m in the back of this book—there are actually two copies of Lincoln on Leadership, which I love to pull out. It’s just a brilliant little synopsis of the things that this president way back when did. He was famous for walking around to the battlefield as opposed to just taking the word from his generals. So, whenever you hear about management by walking around, he’s was one of the early guys of that. You can’t walk around the office anymore. What are you coaching leaders to do in this new virtual era?

Brandon Palmer: As would make sense with not being able to be in physical contact, the real challenge is having your presence be felt, having your team feel your support. Really what it takes is a more proactive approach. As with always, you have to work to identify the communication styles and the best ways to interact with your individual employees to make them feel most comfortable and best supported.

I don’t want to encourage being annoying, but maybe a little bit more persistent and proactive in directly addressing individuals to make sure that you still have an open dialogue and lines of communication.

Drew Neisser: It’s interesting, I’ve heard a number of CMOs talk about setting up these 10-minute virtual office hours, for example, where they’re just open.

I’ve also heard ones that are using all sorts; because Zoom fatigue is such a real thing, they just pick up the phone. Remember that? And they just call their folks to try to create some serendipitous moments.

Patti, you’re new on this job. How are you building the relationships with your team?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Yeah, I think what Brandon says is right, and I also just have a couple of observations. I did work the first six months of the pandemic at another job, so I think the other thing that happens when you’re not in the office is you don’t have any of the non-work talk.

I have found that it’s really helpful to set aside time intentionally, whether it’s at the beginning of the meeting or the end of the meeting, to sort of check-in with people about how they’re doing and what’s interesting and what’s going on so that people don’t feel like the only thing they’re ever talking about is work and work projects, because that can just get exhausting.

Then the other one is just how do you have connection in a way, to Brandon’s point, that doesn’t just add more meetings? We’ve done some Slack conversations and questions that don’t have anything to do with work like a Question of the Day or Question of the Week or activities.

Again, you have to be sensitive to more meetings because everything became a meeting. All of the informal ways that you got stuff done went away, so everything became a meeting. People were like, not only am I teaching my kids at home and taking care of my parents and all that, but I’ve also got double the number of meetings. So how do you add things that allow you to connect with people in a way that doesn’t overburden the meeting schedule?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I think I had a record of Zoom meetings yesterday. I think it was like nine. It was just chaos. Sara, when you were at Brightcove—and I know we had many conversations during the early days of the pandemic—how did you find the pandemic challenge your leadership skills?

Sara Larsen: Well, I think a couple of things. Brandon, I love how you talk about “make your presence be felt.” That’s different than “make your presence be known.”

Brandon Palmer: Absolutely.

Sara Larsen: Part of being felt is, are people being seen and what’s the recognition culture? You may have to change the recognition culture in a virtual environment. It might not be as formal. It might be, “Hey, you know what? I heard you did this thing the other day and, wow, it had a really big impact” or “Someone told me that you did this and…”

It’s just so people know that their impact is being felt and to meet people where they are as well. The whole notion of empathy and understanding that everyone might be in a little bit different place. And it’s evolving. In the past, I guess…what, almost 10, 11 months have been a roller coaster for people, and they may be at a different spot than they were even three months ago. And so continuously check-in and listen and be flexible.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I love that term recognition culture. It assumes that exists, which is a positive thing. And of course, empathy. besides the word “pivot” in 2020, I think the word “empathy” and this notion—I use the term that’s this is the end of the businessperson as all business.

I found myself looking at my emails and saying, “Gee, Drew, are you just being transactional with everything?” You’re going for meeting the meeting and you’re just saying, “Yes, no,” and you’re not stopping and using every communication with your employees or customers or whomever to at least express some empathy. It takes a little more time.

I’m curious how—maybe, Patti, you could talk about this a little bit—how do you balance the need to get so much done and to keep things moving and at the same time bring this empathy that we so know we need as leaders to bring to the table?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Yeah, I’ve used the Myers-Briggs and other kinds of tools like that for a long time. I’m an engineer by schooling and I’m very much a T and I have no J, so I always joked that I was heartless. I felt like the only thing that I did in the first six months of the pandemic was do empathy with my team.

I was saying, “If people break, they’re not going to be productive.” In some cases, you’ve got to take your foot off the gas. I think we used to do like, yes, you can work from home if you’ve already proven that you’re great and you’ve had to earn some level of trust and we don’t trust you unless you absolutely prove that you can be productive.

How do you turn that on its head and say, “We’ve hired adults”? They’ve been through an interview process. They’ve got all this work experience. They’re going to get their stuff done, and if they have to check out to do something, they’ll come back. If they miss a couple hours in the middle of the afternoon, I trust that they’ll come back on at night or early in the morning to get it done. That just has gone such a long way for me to be able to say to people like, “I’m going to give you some grace.”

I said that my two words were “empathy” and “grace.” How do I give people grace in an environment where it’s a business? Everybody knows it’s a business, everybody aspires to be top performers but, you know, people have lives and I think Sara said it—it’s a rollercoaster. Sometimes people are like, “I’m all in and I’ve got this,” and other times they’re like, “I’m barely hanging on by a string, can you please help me hang on?”

Drew Neisser: One of the interesting things that I found as a result of the pandemic is, and I love this, I got to know the names of the kids of our clients. I got to know extended family members because everybody was showing up on Zoom, and my dog—in fact, my dog sort of came in in the middle of this show and there was a moment where my wife’s arm showed up.

Our work lives and our home lives have just converged like never before. I think a leader who doesn’t recognize those things is obviously tone deaf right now.

[38:55] Prep Tips for Job-Seeking CMOs

“Talk beyond marketing. Make sure that you're able to describe where you've been, not just in terms of your role within marketing, but what was happening in the business?” —@sararlarsen @Wolters_Kluwer Share on X

Drew Neisser: I am curious if you have some tips. Two tips for CMOs either in transition already or who are considering moving—what things should they be thinking about doing to prepare for this new journey that they might consider going on?

Brandon Palmer: I absolutely do. These aren’t necessarily tied into the current circumstances, these are a little bit more far-reaching, hopefully.

The first and most important tip is, if you haven’t started yet, start now. Even if you’re only considering a transition, just get started. It takes longer than you might think, and particularly if you’re being selective, as I would encourage people to do, it’s going to take more time. Ideally, you’re going to turn down some opportunities that come your way as well as being turned down by many as well. There’s always a lot of reasons to wait. Just ignore them all; get started today. Really the best place is to just start reaching out to your network. Start some conversations and start talking to people about what’s even possible.

My second tip kind of ties into that a little bit. When you’re first getting your search started, when you really decide to flip that switch and dedicate yourself to finding a new role, say yes to everything. Every single conversation is meaningful. You have no idea where your next role is going to come from, so just say yes. It doesn’t cost you anything besides a little bit of time and focus.

Then, down the road, once you get a little farther along the process, be incredibly selective with who you accept an offer with. You should have a really strong, warm, fuzzy feeling about the job you’re taking before you take it. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up in a spot in 18 months or so where you’re questioning your choices and in another job search. Those are the three things I would advise people to do.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. And Patti, how do those align with your two things that you learned from your job search?

Patti Newcomer-Small: Yeah, I totally agree. The only thing I would add to Brandon’s first one is, change your LinkedIn profile and make sure that it says open. There’s that open-to-work thing that’s on your picture; I don’t know that I am a huge fan of that, but there’s a setting in there that basically says, “Yes, headhunters, you can reach out to me.” And I would spend some time on your LinkedIn profile and on your resume. That would be the only thing I would add to Brandon’s.

My two are more specific. I said earlier that I got a lot of the same questions, so the two things that I would advise people to do is, one, any company that you’re going to have a conversation with, look at their website and be able to have some commentary on the website. Everybody thinks that’s the test of a marketer—that you can criticize the website. Almost everyone that I talk to, that’s a question that I got and some of them, I had done a more thorough job of looking and assessing than others.

The second one is, know and practice your own story. I think we talked about it earlier about having confidence. Everybody asks, like, “Tell me about your career journey. Tell me where you went, what you accomplished, why you went from one job to another, and figure out how you’re going to articulate your story and your accomplishments and your whys for leaving and going to something else and get really confident being able to tell it. Have it be interesting and have some stories in there because you’re going to say that over and over and over and over and over again.

Drew Neisser: Yes. You know, it’s interesting, as you were talking about those two things, it really made me ponder how you get your insights on websites. One of the things I would say as part of this is, make sure you’ve made really good friends with somebody at an SEO agency because they can do a quick run and look at the website and give you a little bit of data that probably the CEO you’re talking to has not seen. Just as a little helpful thing so you’re not only just looking at the website from a standpoint of judging it based on visuals, but you actually have some data that says, you know, they’re not showing up on any of the search terms that they should.

Anyway, Sara—you were hiring before, you’re looking now, what are your thoughts right now for other folks? Things that you’ve learned along the way right now?

Sara Larsen: I think a couple of things. One is, be able to talk about what you’ve done, but also talk about how you think. How do you process information? How do you make decisions? What information do you need and who do you involve in decision making? Because really, at the sea level, they assume that you know how to do some of the basics, so when you talk about your accomplishments, talk about how you got to those decisions. That becomes part of the value alignment with, are you going to be going into an organization where you’ll be able to use your decision-making process and approach? Or are you going to have to adjust it significantly? At least so you’ll be able to calibrate a little bit.

I think the second piece is, talk beyond marketing. Make sure that you’re able to describe where you’ve been, not just in terms of your role within marketing, but what was happening in the business? What was the revenue? How did the deals progress? What did the customer segments look like? What was the product strategy? And how did marketing play a role in helping to define that? Be able to talk to some degree about the financials of the organization. You went from here to there, profitable, not profitable, took on funding, what did it mean? Not that you have to be a CFO, but if you’re talking to CEO, have some of those so that you’re continuing to position yourself not just as a marketing execution role, but as a business leader in the leadership team that you’ll be joining.

Drew Neisser: I love that. It reminds me that, today, I did an interview recently with Norman Guadagno, who is a new CMO at Acoustic, which is a new company, and he was fortunate enough that the first day that he arrived was the same day that the head of HR, the CHRO, started. Because they arrived at the same time, they were unified from the beginning in terms of building an employee brand, which is so important, right? Because we’ve got to get employees to talk about the brand and they need to understand the brand and we need it for recruiting.

Thinking beyond marketing is such great advice. What I’m thinking about—if you’re currently in a job and you don’t have a great relationship with your HR person, now would be a good time because they’re going to ask that question.

I’ve heard that a lot. They’re asking, you know, how do you work with your HR manager? Which is not a question they might have asked ten years ago.

The other thought—when you said, Sara, you don’t have to be a CFO, but you need to be able to talk like one—one of the other things that I’ve heard a lot of CMOs that have been successful talk about is how they did a little exchange with their CFO and said, “Hey, teach me about finance, I’ll teach you about marketing,” and then used that relationship to help develop a model where they would agree this is how marketing works and these are the things that we’re going to measure.

When you have that kind of CFO relationship and they believe that marketing will work, they’re the ones who will approve it and so forth. Your stories are better, right?

So, you have a great relationship with HR, a great one with a CFO. And then, of course, how do you partner with sales? Such a big question on this thing.

So, Brandon, as you’re hearing all of this and this will probably become a podcast and we have a few more minutes just to make sure we’ve imparted all the wisdom that we can in this one hour. Was there anything else on your list that you feel we should really make sure that currency CMOss or CMOs in transition should be thinking about in preparation for their search?

Brandon Palmer: There actually was one last thing. I really wanted to applaud Sara on her approach in her job search right now. If I had to boil it down to one word that it sounds like you’re using, it sounds like you’re using a consultative approach through your interviews to really understand the pain points of the organizations.

That is paramount. You will find so much more success in being heard and being understood and being respected as a candidate if you can take that approach. I wanted to put that on a pedestal for a moment and highlight it because I think it’s fantastic that you’re doing that.

Drew Neisser: And Patti, I want to come back to you. Your observation that we went through really quickly is that people were asking the same questions over and over again. That’s a really bad process. That’s a problem that organizations need to fix, and that’s one of those things that a CMO could do, in fact, working with their HR person and saying, “You know what? Maybe our hiring process is broken.” I’m just curious, what questions should they’ve been asking?

Patti Newcomer-Small: I don’t know. I mean, it’s all good questions to get to know you. The other option, right, is everybody sits in a room together, which would be a little intimidating. It’s hard to tell the chemistry if you’re one-on-five or one-on-six or one-on-fourteen or however many people you talk to. I don’t necessarily think it’s broken, I think they’re natural questions that people ask to get to know a candidate.

It’s less intentional than “You ask questions two, four, six and eight, and I’ll ask one, three, five and seven and then we’ll get together.” We just all ask the same one through eight.

It’s fine, and they are reasonable questions. It’s just, some of the interview advice says, “Go prepared to be asked 100 questions” and I would say, “Go prepared to be asked 10 or 12 questions” because if you spend too much time on questions 30 through 100, you’re very rarely going to get to asked them.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I agree. And if you’ve ever done any kind of media prep, you can control your answers. If you have the right answers, whether they ask the right questions or not doesn’t matter as much.

I am thinking that there need to be some improvements. I did an interview with Caroline Tien-Spalding from Aptology. There’s some technology that you can use. If everybody’s asking the same questions you can get those answers and then circulate those so that people can then build on the conversation as opposed to starting from scratch. It’s efficient.

So anyway, we’ve come to that point where I want to thank Brandon, Patti and Sara. You’re all great sports. Thank you, Two James, for that fantastic gin, and thank you audience for staying with us. Please join us in two weeks when we are talking about the wonderful challenge of marketing to marketers.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey and Maya Todd. For show notes and past episodes, please visit, home of quite possibly the savviest B2B marketing agency in New York City. I’m your host Drew Neisser, and until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.