May 13, 2021

Structuring the Ideal B2B Marketing Department

B2B success starts with carefully considered organizational design. Whether strategically allocating budget and staff across multiple marketing functions or managing a growing MarTech stack, organizational design is no easy task. In this episode, CMOs Kathie Johnson of Talkdesk, Anna Griffin of Smartsheet, and Melanie Marcus of Surescripts discuss how they’ve structured their marketing teams for today and tomorrow, aligning to C-Suite expectations and adapting to both predictable and unexpected change.

Be sure to tune in to learn how the right B2B marketing structure can align Sales and Marketing teams, grow revenue, and transform marketing into an integral part of a B2B brand (and why DE&I should be a priority for building marketing teams). Check it out!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How 3 B2B CMOs structure their marketing organizations
  • How to optimize staffing resources to align Sales and Marketing
  • Why DE&I should be a priority for leaders

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 240 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open — This is Renegade Thinkers Live
  • [1:29] Talkdesk’s Organizational Design Structure
  • [8:46] Smartsheet’s Organizational Design Structure
  • [14:15] Surescripts’ Organizational Design Structure
  • [18:36] How COVID Changed Marketing Teams
  • [24:04] Common B2B Marketing Staffing Challenges
  • [31:28] Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Success
  • [34:41] How to Use Ratios to Allocate Resources
  • [43:22] DE&I and Organizational Design
  • [48:58] The Future of Organizational Design in 2021

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Kathie Johnson, Anna Griffin, and Melanie Marcus

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

Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. If this is your first time listening to Renegade Thinkers Unite, welcome! And if you’ve been here before, welcome back! This episode is a little bit different from usual interviews—instead of talking to one B2B CMO about their story, we talk to three B2B CMOs about a hot topic and we do that Live. That live show is then turned into a podcast, like this one today.

This episode is on a hot topic, which is organizational design. In other words, how do you set up your department so it’s future-proof? They’re really looking at how do we drive brand, how do we drive demand, how do we improve revenue opportunities so that marketing is an integral part of the organization. Our three CMO guests are Kathie Johnson of Talkdesk, Anna Griffin of Smartsheet, and Melanie Marcus of Surescripts. They’re amazing. You’re really going to enjoy it—I hope you do at least!

[1:29] Talkdesk’s Organizational Design Structure

“It was really important to me to not only be doing the marketing but helping drive the direction of the company as it pertains to our industry approach.” —@johnsonkathiec @Talkdesk Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my temporary studio in Jupiter, Florida. Today we’re going to be taking a really close look at how CMOs are designing their marketing departments for today and tomorrow. Let’s start by acknowledging that there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer. New AI-driven tools are emerging every day that increase the likelihood that your media expenditures will be more targeted, that your messaging will be more relevant and that you’ll be able to track a lead through to the sale with 99% accuracy.

It’s also a treacherous time to be a marketer. Pundits like Gartner’s Brent Adamson are questioning Sales and Marketing saying, “Do we really need that division? Maybe we should just have one ‘smarketing’ department.”

C-suite and investor expectations of CMO performance are rising, increasing pressure on the achievement of really short-term revenue-driving results. On top of this, “brand” has become a dirty word and CMOs will go to great lengths to disguise brand-building activities with euphemisms like “corporate marketing.” One CMO has cleverly called all of his budget “revenue marketing” to send the signal that not a dollar is wasted on fluffy things like brand.

So given these opportunities and these challenges, we thought we should focus this show on how CMOs are organizing their departments today and how they see these structures evolving in the next few years.

Our first guest is Kathie Johnson, CMO of Talkdesk, the cloud contact center company that raised $143 million in Series C funding last year. Kathie was also the star of Episode 182 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hi Kathie, how are you?

Kathie Johnson: It’s great to be here, Drew. How are you?

Drew Neisser:  I’m good. Now $143 million, that’s big money. Has any of that trickled down to marketing?

Kathie Johnson: Yeah, it’s such a great question, Drew. Absolutely, what we put in our release is that the funding would be used to help grow Sales, Marketing, R&D, and the partner ecosystem so, sure thing.

Drew Neisser: I am imagining that more money means more staff. I’m just wondering how you’re thinking about your organization as you grow it.

Kathie Johnson: Yes, it’s a great question, Drew. I’ve been at Talkdesk for five quarters, so not that long. The organization has grown threefold since I’ve been there. Yeah, I see your mouth. Crazy, huh? Crazy fun for sure.

One of the things I really did intentionally is thought about what my organization should look like, not just this year thinking about what I did last year, but for the future, and really structured it that way. I wanted last year to really be about “build” and this year to really be about “run.”

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about build and run. Help me understand the distinction.

Kathie Johnson: Last year organizationally what I did is I really focused on who the talent that I need in my organization are and what the organization should look like, not just for last year, but for this year and the year ahead. I really structured it that way. If you were to look at my organization last year, you might have said, “Wow, it’s kind of big for the company size you are right now,” but I wanted to go through all of that storming last year during build so this year we could just really focus on grow, grow, grow.

Drew Neisser: Okay, I get it. You were building a bigger net to catch the fish so to speak. You were building up this department—give us a sense of how you structured this relative to your remit to the organization.

Kathie Johnson: I am structured with nine directs working for me. They’re SVPs or VPs running some of the traditional organizations that you’d be used to like demand gen. But if we lean into the intro you gave, I have a leader who runs brand, creative, events, and actually something called Talkdesk Research.

Also, within my organization, I wanted to have some of what I would call secret sauces. I built a research organization on my team within one of those organizations. I have made sure that I had support internally, creatively, and I have a really large video team. That’s something we can lean into. I also have industry strategy on my team, Drew. It was really important to me to not only be doing the marketing but helping drive the direction of the company as it pertains to our industry approach. I also took on internal comms.

Those are some of the things that are different but if you look at it structurally, it’s a brand piece, it’s a demand piece. I’ve got the geo-piece coverage. I have a partner in customer marketing, really everything across the board to be able to do full-funnel marketing—product marketing, sales enablement, competitive intelligence, the whole piece.

Drew Neisser: There are so many things that I would love to go into detail on, but we’ve got other guests that we need to talk to. But first of all, having a research group is such an insight and so smart. I remember years ago DoubleClick was a client of ours and they had this research and it was a department and they were able to crank out reports. This was so important to their leadership of the category that they essentially created. I think it’s amazing. Had you had one of those in a previous organization?

Kathie Johnson: I did, Drew, and I felt it really important. Really it’s research, it’s customer market insights, it helps drive our messaging, but it also helps influence the product, right? And then, absolutely, all of those thought leadership reports. My feeling was, if I wanted Talkdesk to be a leader in the market, we needed to make sure we have that leadership content that we can put in the market.

Drew Neisser: One question that comes up a lot, and we’ve talked about this in huddles, is this artificial distinction between brand building and demand gen work. You mentioned that you divide those up, though. You do have people who are doing brand and, quote, “demand.” But isn’t everybody in some way helping to drive the business forward?

Kathie Johnson: Absolutely. One of the things we have at Talkdesk is the V2M2, which is our vision, values, methods, and metrics. We have it for the organization Talkdesk at large. We have it have for marketing. We have it for each department in marketing and each person.

Why this is important is, when you look at answering the question of does everyone help drive those? Absolutely. Brand is actually one of the top methods company-wide. Every single individual can touch the brand pipe. Building the demand gen also is a method across the entire company because everyone can touch that. It’s not just a marketing play. It’s not just a sales play.

[8:46] Smartsheet’s Organizational Design Structure

“Many of the things that you want to drive and get done when you are chasing fast, high growth requires foundational technologies, foundational processes, and integrated org designs.” —@AnnaGriffinNow @Smartsheet Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Anna Griffin, CMO of Smartsheet. Smartsheet is a public company that reported 50 percent growth and fiscal year ’20 and projects 33 percent growth for their fiscal year 2021 which ends this month. Anna was also featured on Renegade Thinkers Unite Episode 194. Anna, welcome, how are you?

Anna Griffin: I am great, Drew, and thank you for having me back again. I always love talking shop with you.

Drew Neisser: There you go. You heard what Kathie had to say about her structure. Let’s talk about your team and what’s similar and what’s different to what you heard from Kathie.

Anna Griffin: First of all, you started the segment with growth. This is a company that is in massive, fast, fast growth. When we think about our org structure, we’ve tried to go really growth in totality.

We have some similarities for sure with Kathie, but some areas different. Similar in that I think we approach the post-pandemic, or the pandemic year and not post-pandemic year, the same. Last year, if she had a build-run model, similar in construct where last year was what I called our foundational model—so many of the things that you want to drive and get done when you are chasing fast, high growth requires foundational technologies, foundational processes, and really, I have found, integrated org designs.

Our last year was, get the foundation in place. This year is about scale. You’ve got the systems, you’ve got the processes, you’ve got more integrated teams that can be on the same page so you can scale with speed. Similar in how we thought about the years; different, though, in the org design.

Again, I think our org design—and the way I’ve had to challenge myself to think about it was growth, growth, growth. The first thing was, how can we align marketing—really know where the growth is coming from and what kind of growth that we want—and how are you going to get there the fastest? And could we align teams primarily integrated in what I call campaign pods that are directly aligned to the growth trajectories of the company? How can we build integrated pods that run integrated plays across demand gen, sales motions, product, announces, features, launches, and then ultimately a brand?

A lot of our alignment is—yes, my function has the classic comms and brand and events and digital marketing and campaign marketing at large. But in these pods, we really try to align all functions of the company so we can be really consistent and clear. If we know that that’s where we’re going to grow and that’s the kind of growth targets and audiences that we want, how do we all go after it together?

It’s so things aren’t happening in dribs and drabs or “We’re going to see this play and you guys are going to run this play.” When everything’s running in silos like that across the entire organization, you lose the ability to hit that growth with the speed, message, and clarity, and oomph. A lot of our focus this year is just, again, complete, tight integration so we can all go after the same thing together with more vigor.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay, I think I understand. Is there a point where marketing stops and Sales takes over? As you’re talking about these pods, I’m thinking about a scrum, where we’re all getting together, and basically there’s this moment where they hand off this brilliant lead. Or am I completely misreading this?

Anna Griffin: No, you are. But here’s the beauty of pods and that kind of integration: I would love for Sales and Marketing to never disconnect. I think everyone does baton pass-offs. You get this leg of the race and you hand it here, and then this lead, and then we take over or you warmed this lead or we nurtured and now it’s in our camp.

I think Sales and Marketing have to be interlocked from the discovery into clearly the renewal, and that interlock can only happen if you’re working in this integrated fashion. If you ran your leg of the race and you passed your baton and you walk off the track, now other people are running their leg, you don’t know how to optimize. That’s where Sales and Marketing, that optimization, there should be optimization that’s constantly happening maybe in SDR scripts or in nurture streams.

It’s like, “We’re doing this, it’s not working. Well, here are new ways that we can work together to optimize your part of the sales process.” By virtue, they can go like, “You know what? Customers are falling out here. What can you do in the front part of marketing to better address this barrier, this pain point?”

I love a world where Sales and Marketing are always integrated and not doing baton pass-offs. That’s how I think you get a really, really good customer experience.

[14:15] Surescripts’ Organizational Design Structure

“Keeping up the capacity of marketing to constantly match and potentially stay a little bit ahead is really important. It's part of the growth engine.” —Melanie Marcus @Smartsheet Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Melanie Marcus, CMO of Surescripts, a health care platform that connects patients and customers with medical professionals and products. Speaking of patients, Melanie, thank you for your patience.

Melanie Marcus: No worries, this is great. Thanks for having me, Drew.

Drew Neisser: It’s nice to see you. You now heard Kathie and Anna’s org structure. I’m curious how yours matches up or doesn’t?

Melanie Marcus: Sure, I love the theme of growth. That’s why we exist, right? Surescripts is a business-to-business organization, so we’re selling business-to-business. I’ve been here for about four years and I spent the first two years building the marketing organization. The last two years has been all about running fast to grow the new portfolio. It’s quite a ride.

Keeping up the capacity of marketing to constantly match and potentially stay a little bit ahead, as Kathie talked about, I think, is really important. It’s part of the growth engine.

The way I’ve structured it is, it starts with the traditional upstream/downstream, but really with strategic marketing at the front made up of product marketing—the product marketers are really focused on collaborating closely with our product innovation team and then segment marketers who are embedded basically in the sales team. They work together in the same department under the same vice president setting the strategy that’s going to grow a product in a market.

I have a brand and content team that includes my own internal creative agency, which has been really great, and editorial writers who do similar things to what Kathie was talking about around thought leadership. Our site is called, Intelligence in Action. Similar idea really important to our strategy. Whole events team, interactive marketing, and then I do have customer experience. That part has come more recently into the marketing team. It is a really great combination. It brings us closer to the customer, closer to the sales team, and it’s been a great experience.

Drew Neisser: What I love about when the CMO gets to own the customer experience is that you also have that direct line. You feel the pain. When they’re unhappy, you know about it, and often you know about it first, which I think is so important. It’s always been the CMO’s responsibility to be the voice of the customer and I think it’s really hard to do if you don’t own CX. Is there any area in the last year that has been easier to get headcount than others? Just curious.

Melanie Marcus: In the last year, I’ve been more status quo. What I will say, probably a better answer to this question, a more helpful answer, has been, in the early stages—I’ve doubled the size of the marketing team since I’ve been here. In the early stages, it was a different story. The marketing team was not sized appropriately for the growth that we are projecting. That was one story.

Now, the story is really about, there are situations where we find ourselves using agencies or contractors for extended amounts of time to supplement our capacity to help grow. When that happens for an extended amount of time that actually looks more like staff, that’s when I say, “All right, it’s time to do an insourced-outsourced analysis and use that analysis to look for if this needs to be a headcount.” That’s just been a strategy that we’ve used pretty effectively.

[18:36] How COVID Changed Marketing Teams

“When COVID hit we did reposition people in the events organizations, looking at where their strengths were.” —@johnsonkathiec @Talkdesk Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring Kathie and Anna back. But first, I need to do what I always do on this show, which is, “Alexa, what is organizational design?”

Alexa: I have one definition for organizational design in the context of economics: A formal methodology that identifies dysfunctional aspects of workflow, procedures, structures, and systems, and then realigns them to fit current business goals and develops plans to implement change.

Drew Neisser: There you go. Identify dysfunction. We haven’t really talked about identifying dysfunction. I would imagine that does come up a fair amount as we’re doing this, right? When you took the reins, there was probably dysfunction. Let’s talk about that in the context of COVID right now and the pandemic. What were some of the things that you had to change in this last year as a result of the pandemic? Anybody want to grab that one?

Melanie Marcus: I’m happy to start. It wasn’t an org design change so much as an org communication change. The marketing organization, we work together. For us, team collaboration is—one part of the team can’t do the whole job of going to market for an entire product, so it has to be across the whole team.

We’re an agile team. We use a lot of stand-up meetings and so forth, and we actually take time out to talk about what’s working and not working. The one thing that has been useful is one thing I did today. With my vice presidents, we’ve installed a walking no agenda meeting where we literally just put our headphones in and go outside if it’s warm enough and walk around and just talk like we would do in the office. Of course, this time it has to be scheduled, but that’s the only thing that’s different and that’s been helpful.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Anna or Kathie, I’m curious, a lot of you had big events teams, I’m imagining. Now you had to put them somewhere. Just curious, how did that impact [you] as you think about your plan for 2021 and beyond? Where are we right now and thinking about event staffing?

Kathie Johnson: I can jump in on that. Yeah, it’s true, Drew. When COVID hit we did reposition people in the events organizations, looking at where their strengths were. One person became an ABM person, for example. But then, we also started doing two different things. One, we started investing in geo-specific folks who were doing what I would call pipe acceleration activities. So, once you generated the pipe, how do you help accelerate it through virtual events?

Then really, our Live events come back the end of June. Big question mark, will it really happen? I’ve been rebuilding the events team specifically for both virtual events but also live events. Right now, we’re targeted the last week of June for our first live event in Vegas.

Drew Neisser: Wow, I don’t know if I would be ready to send my team to…

Kathie Johnson: I’m with you. I’m not sure either.

Drew Neisser: That’s going to be interesting. It’s just a little too close, particularly if it’s international. Fascinating.

By the way, Julie Kaplan, thanks for your shout-out, saying that CX is a great way to align all the teams. I completely agree. Two of you mentioned CX as being under your responsibility. Again, I’m just going to highlight that is so interesting and such an area that you don’t always get. Is there something that you had to do to earn the right to get CX? As in customer experience, folks, if you’re listening.

Melanie Marcus: I think deliver. Deliver, first of all, and be aligned with the customer group or our sales teams. Be really aligned. My colleagues in product and in the customer group, great relationships with them. I think that that’s the key.

Drew Neisser: All right. I’m going to actually take a second here if you don’t mind. I’m going to plug CMO Huddles just for a second. I like to talk about it particularly on this show. CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. One CMO described a huddle as a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. Kathie, Anna, Melanie, does that sound about right?

Kathie Johnson: I’d say that’s pretty close.

Drew Neisser: If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit

[24:04] Common B2B Marketing Staffing Challenges

“You have to span cross-functionally.” —@AnnaGriffinNow @Smartsheet Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re in growth mode, we’re hiring, we’ve built up this big staff. Was there an area that was particularly difficult to staff for versus others?

Anna Griffin: You know, I think marketing ops is interesting and expanding because so much of growth and integration requires the operations to be able to run smoothly. You think about marketing operations and what it takes to really run things smoothly—it’s all about data strategies. It’s the data and the insight that has to be actioned, it has to be surfaced and then actioned to get you to the next step.

I think finding marketing operations people—that’s where we’re putting our data science function, our analytics function—I feel like there’s lots of headcount in the world that everybody has a data science name in their CD if you will. The ability to really know how to connect that into marketing flows and actions is a bit of an art. I think those are harder to find people who really know how to do that.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s interesting. One of our huddlers, Rebecca Stone from [Cisco Meraki] has worked with the same head of marketing ops in three of her positions. Just brings that person along with her, which seems to me quite genius. I’ve also heard—and this has come up in Huddles a lot—it’s very difficult to find product marketing people. Wondering if any of you have shared that challenge?

Kathie Johnson: I’ve seen that a little bit Drew but for me, the hardest has been the industry side. I have both industry strategy and industry marketing in my organization. Hiring both of those roles really requires that perfect sweet spot. If you’re hiring someone for industry marketing in retail, you want them to have worked at Gap, you want them to have worked at a SaaS company and product marketing before. You want them to have a cultural fit. There are so many pieces that although the PMM role can be tough, and I agree with you on it, ops can be tough, it’s the industry roles that I find really hard because there are fewer people to select from.

Drew Neisser: Just so I understand the industry role, this is a person who’s an expert on a vertical market?

Kathie Johnson: Yeah. I have strategists who are really driving the strategy for the company by industry. Then I have marketers who are really building that business, the awareness, the pipe gen, everything around it—the thought leadership—tied to each of those interests.

Drew Neisser: They’re kind of like categories… I mean they function as, they have a specific target, which happens to be an industry, and they’re responsible for the plays that go out to those. Interesting.

Kathie Johnson: Yeah. Defining the space and building the space.

Drew Neisser: Building the space. And of course, hopefully, the research is informing the work that they’re doing there. Got it. Okay, that’s so interesting. What about Anna—any areas that have been challenging as well that you’re going, “Oh man, we’ve just got to train.” Sometimes it’s easier to train someone than it is to hire someone with the experience.

Anna Griffin: Yeah, I think, everyone talks about it and I love it, by the way, T-shape organizations. I think that is so true and necessary in marketing. The way marketing has been organized for a very long time is you’ve got functional specialists, and this is the team that does this, and this is the team that does this.

You can get really good functional experts, but I’m finding that ability to have experience, to go across the entire organization, which is what marketing does these days—the second that everybody in the company became a content creator and then everybody in the company in a way became a marketer, which meant marketing and the role of marketing has somewhat changed, somewhat forevermore.

You have to span cross-functionally. I think sometimes it’s difficult in a world that’s orientated as “functional specialists” to find the people whose mind and skillset and application of their skillset can scale horizontally across influencing the rest of the company.

I find that to be a challenge. To your point, that’s kind of where you have to go in and then do more training or teaching versus just people who know how to think that way already.

Drew Neisser: Right, and that’s really interesting. That speaks to the need for rotations, the need to sort of move around. I wonder, as you’re building these functions, if you think about that—Melanie, I think you said you’ve had four years there. In theory, you could have had rotations of people moving around?

Melanie Marcus: Yes. We haven’t had that as much as we would like but we are actively talking about it right now. And we’re doing a lot of work across the team around career paths, career journey sharing, to make sure that our earlier stage team members all understand that the path isn’t straight. The path has to be moving around because you have to have all those new and different skills.

It may be that you’re moving around not just in marketing. That you’re moving around to other parts of the organization. I mean, sales, right, or strategy, right? Kathie, I’m sure you’ve had that kind of experience before taking it on. You have to have those other varied experiences. We’re talking about that a lot and my team is identifying new people who could be put up for another position in another part of the team. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s always a goal.

[31:28] Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Success

“Whatever you put in your SLA, it's a two-way agreement. It is not a one-way agreement.” —@johnsonkathiec @Talkdesk Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s get back to organizational design and get in the spirit of organizational design. One of the things that comes up in Huddles a lot is this whole BDRs and SDRs—the brand development reps—and where they sit and where should they sit. There’s an argument that I have heard some CMOs talking about: “We need to own this because we’re the ones who got the lead in the door. We need to develop and nurture it, so we know that when we really do hand it off, it’s a real deal.”

Where are you all in terms of BDRs and SDRs and if any of them report to you? Raise your hand if—BDRs—you have them and they report to you. Not happening, so none one of you. No? Fascinating, okay. Have you in your past careers had them report? What are the advantages of having them report to you? Kathie?

Kathie Johnson: Yeah, from my perspective, part of it is speed, right, and being able to really build it as part of your overall campaign activity and ensuring that you’re doing it all the way from the initial touch all the way through the qualification process. It can be an advantage.

Drew Neisser: Given that you could have this argument, where does your job end? At some point, you just have to let go of some things?

Kathie Johnson: I think that’s a really good point, Drew. You’re right. At some point, it does end. It can either end before the SDRs or after the SDRs. At Talkdesk today, the SDRs do report into Sales, but we have SLAs across Sales and Marketing and SDRs. We have aligned on definitions, we’ve aligned on process, we’ve aligned on what we pass over when. It works fine. I think if we didn’t have the relationship, the definitions, the SLAs, there probably could be challenges, but it can work.

Drew Neisser: Just in case there are some folks that aren’t in marketing listening to the show, what’s an SLA?

Kathie Johnson: Thank you, sorry. Service Level Agreement.

Drew Neisser: Service Level Agreement. What we’re really talking about is, you as the marketer are making a commitment to the sales organization that you will deliver a quantity of leads that will turn into revenue.

Kathie Johnson: And their commitment back to you on what is—like for SDRs, we have a commitment to what has to be responded to within 30 minutes or a day. Whatever you put in your SLA, it’s a two-way agreement. It is not a one-way agreement.

Drew Neisser: That’s really important. So, Melanie, Anna, do you have SLAs with your sales teams?

Anna Griffin: We do. If you’re producing and investing energy against demand and lead flow, you want to make sure the lead is going to be followed up on. You do want really tight SLAs that guarantee priority and urgency across urgent and prioritized leads. So, yes.

[34:41] How to Use Ratios to Allocate Resources

“Spend on staff versus the spend on programs. You can't have them out of balance.” —Melanie Marcus @Surescripts Share on X

Drew Neisser: One of the things that didn’t exist 10 years ago, 20 years ago, was marketing ops. First of all, just how many technologies do you currently have in your marketing stack? Let’s just start there. Over 25? Let’s start there, who has over 25? Kathie is nodding her head, Anna, all three of you, okay.

Now the rule of thumb used to be that with every technology that arrived, there was a certain amount of headcount that would go with that. If you have 25 technologies, you have at least 25 people on your marketing ops team. Is that anywhere true?

Anna Griffin: No. Nor is it necessary. You also have to think about it—when you’re investing in MarTech technologies, you’re expanding it across not only marketing but across Sales, across BI, Analytics. There’s other distribution. I think you want to synergize a MarTech strategy under marketing ops, but then you need to make sure the strategy is being operationalized and connected into Salesforce and blah, blah, blah, which connects you into other ops functions across the company.

Kathie Johnson: I agree with you.

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk about this in a slightly different way. One of the things that I notice is that there are some technologies that you have that are underutilized, that may be understaffed to take advantage of them. One of you mentioned having a content culture where everybody is a writer. Well, that has to feed the marketing machine.

You get a marketing automation software, you’ve got to fill it up with stuff. That’s staffing that I’m thinking about. I guess the question is, how do you have a sense that you’re properly staffed for marketing? When do you know? How do you know that?

Anna Griffin: You know, I think the way we’ve approached it is, we try to identify—we look at all marketing and sales moments in the company. We have a council we call The Global Marketing Council. We come together because marketing can sit in lots of pieces and parts and it just depends on how organizations define and align things. The goal of a Global Marketing Council is to put anybody who’s touching a customer, prospecting into a customer relationship, into one organization.

We sit there together and we kind of start identifying where are the pain points that we’re having. Marketing automation usually comes up because everybody uses it slightly different. It can be utilized in Sales, it can be utilized in product, it’s being utilized in demand gen, it’s being utilized in a variety of things.

The way that we look at what should marketing ops have is by virtue of looking at the joint problems that we think we have to jointly solve to be better together. Then you start tackling those problems and I find that those usually sit at the heart of marketing ops. They become that forcing function of either integration or solution building or solution connecting to solve those problems. The more problems you decide to solve, the bigger the marketing function gets. That’s our approach.

Drew Neisser: As you were talking, Anna, it made me think, and I want to open this up—what does a leader do? A leader sets up where we’re going and then allocates resources, right? As I’m thinking about it, Kathie you mentioned you had nine direct reports. Each of those folks could be in your office every day virtually or otherwise and saying, “I need more staff.” And in fact, they all should be because they should all be saying, “Our department could drive the business forward. Therefore, we need more resources,” whether it’s more technology or more staff or both, or more budget.

You want that somehow. I guess that question, as a leader, in getting this back to organizational design, are you constantly looking at where you’re investing your dollars and resources from a headcount standpoint and saying, “These are the ones that align with my remit to the organization”? Help me out here. I feel like I’m on to something but I need your validation.

Kathie Johnson: I’ll jump in on that. As I mentioned, Drew, we have what’s called the V2M2—vision, values, methods, and metrics for the company. Then we do it for the organization. We do it for the company and then I do it for marketing. My organization then is built in alignment with what those agreed-upon methods are because they’re all done in priority order and they each have five to ten metrics underneath them which have commitments of delivery and dates. Everything is very measurable.

I ensure that everyone across the leadership team and all of our key stakeholders, like, every one of my leaders knows who their key stakeholders are. We create those formal relationships. All of those people review it as well.

Once we’ve done that, then we know what our organizational needs are. Then I use certain ratios that I feel are important in terms of program spend to headcount spend, or marketing and field relationships to the number of bag carrying AEs. It’s: Start from the strategy piece—what am I trying to develop?—then at the ground level, what are those ratios that I know need to be there for us to achieve what we need to achieve?

Drew Neisser: That helps me a lot. I’m thinking about these ratios. Melanie, do you have ratios? Because you were talking about this balance of having in-house people versus outsourcing and so forth. What are these rules of thumb that you’re thinking about for organizational design?

Melanie Marcus: I think about ratios, too. One that isn’t so scientific but it is definitely practiced. It proves to be true I think in practice—the spend on staff versus the spend on programs. You can’t have them out of balance. If you get to be under 40/60 either way, you’re not going to be able to spend all the money and you’re not going to be able to keep your team busy enough doing what they need to do.

There’s a spend to staff ratio and then there’s definitely—keeping the staff load-balanced across the functions is tricky. We’re an agile marketing team I think I said, and we’re working right now to look at our capacity and actually look at where we get tripped up on capacity.

Before we say that that means we need new staff, to look at what actually is in the pipeline and make sure it’s making a difference. That is also an issue. Once we’ve got that figured out, then I can go, “Okay, we can’t add more strategic marketing until we have more content” or “We can’t add more content until we have more interactive.” It’s all a load balance issue.

Drew Neisser: Fascinating. I imagine there’s also some notion of how much you spend, a ratio in terms of out-of-pocket expense for technology, too. You don’t want that number to go crazy.

That’s really helpful to me to get a sense of this. One of the things that I’m going to glean—and we talk about this in Huddles—if you’re not delivering on your pipeline commitment, none of these conversations are fun. But if you are delivering on your pipeline commitment, then we can have this conversation, which I think is such an important part of being a CMO. We could spend a lot of time talking about brand but if you’re not there yet with pipeline, you’re not going to get that conversation.

[43:22] DE&I and Organizational Design

“You can only make diverse work or work that is representative of who you are as a company by having diverse people work on what you make.” —@AnnaGriffinNow @Smartsheet Share on X

Drew Neisser: This is the moment in the show where I get to ask, what would Ben Franklin say? I know that sounds silly, but he is a mentor of mine. I think he would have something to say when it came to creating an enduring organization. He might say, “Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”

If you think about this conversation that we’ve been having, it’s very much about planning for the future so that you are not falling behind.

Well, speaking of this, it’s hard to have a conversation about organizational design today without talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’m wondering if this has been on your mind and part of—as you think about going into the future and looking before—thank you, Dr. Franklin… DE&I, or as the folks and at Duke call it, it’s JED&I or JEDI—J for justice. Who wants to dive into that one?

Anna Griffin: I’ll jump in. When you think about DEI, I think about it in two ways. Number one, as a marketeer, you want to make sure that the work that you make is diverse. It’s diverse in its thinking, it’s diverse in how it shows up in the world. It’s a reflection of your brand’s diversity by virtue of what you make and put out into the world.

It’s interesting because we actually use our own product to do this. You can only make, usually, I find, diverse work or work that is representative of who you are as a company by having diverse people work on what you make. The two are linked.

It’s that ability to look at resource pools and assignment of teams and have you assign the right kind of diversity and experience mix in assignments and team mix. Of course, we use software to do that. You could actually use software to then go, how do those teams perform? How does the work that they make actually reflect the diversity of the company? And how does that work actually perform in market?

The ability to do all of that on a platform—that’s what we do, but there are lots of ways to approach this—is huge because you are immediately aware of how diverse you are. If you know that you can’t have a diverse end product unless you have a diverse team, then you’re already naturally aware of the type of diversity that you have to bring into the organization.

I just think that connecting it to what you do, to what you make—and that those things are linked—is critical. By virtue of that, it makes you very aware of if you have the right mix of team, talent, age, ethnicity, the whole thing, experience set, in creating ultimately what you make. That forces you, of course, down the hiring path if you find that you’re not able to put together diverse teams.

Drew Neisser: I’m curious, Kathie, Melanie, what kinds of things are you doing to make sure that your teams don’t look like the four of us?

Melanie Marcus: I’ll weigh in. The number one thing we’re doing right now is talking about it and making sure that we raise awareness within our own team from the data around our hiring, around our qualified candidates, and then working with HR to figure out how to make the job descriptions expanded enough so that we get the right qualified candidates in and that kind of thing. Honestly, participating in roundtables like this gives me more ideas. The conversation is really the important part right now so that ideas flow.

Drew Neisser: Kathie, anything you want to weigh in here?

Kathie Johnson: Yeah, I’d love to jump in. This is such an important topic for me personally and I have a long way to go for sure. I’m really proud of some of the work we’ve been doing that we really rolled out just last month company-wide.

Talking about conversations, Melanie, I held a conversation at our company sales kick-off with a woman, Molly Ford, who’s done a great TED Talk. She’s a black woman and she did a great TED talk on if you don’t have a chair at the table, using Shirley [Chisholm]’s quote, bring a plastic chair, a folding chair with you. I held that conversation, I rolled up new values company-wide in which DE&I is one of our core values. We added a whole piece within our V2M2 around DE&I, and we launched ERGs with diversity, equity, and inclusion as one of them.

We are starting our first equity DE&I talks next month. We actually have a focused effort where we are bringing in diverse people for conversation to really just bubble up that awareness, not even just within our company, but outside of our company as well. We have a long way to go, but we’ve put some good stakes in the ground just last month.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, that’s so important. By the way, what’s an ERG?

Kathie Johnson: Employee Resource Group, and thank you for catching me on all of my acronyms!

Drew Neisser: I know. I usually know, but I don’t want to assume that the others do.

[48:58] The Future of Organizational Design in 2021

“What is something that you can create in your organization that will differentiate you in market?” —@johnsonkathiec @Talkdesk Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re starting to get to the close of the hour and I want to make sure that we’re looking ahead. Let’s be optimistic and say the entire United States is in fact vaccinated by the end of May, which is now what they’re talking about. Kathie, you mentioned that you are thinking about events in June or July. Let’s talk about how the organization may change as you go forward. How many of you expect to bring your whole marketing teams back to the office?

Anna Griffin: We’re planning for 50/50. We’ve already given the option. You’re going to delegate. Are you going to be a 100 percent in-the-office worker, are you going to be a hybrid worker, or are you going to be a remote worker? The preference has largely come in as hybrid.

There are some functions who want to be in the office and they thrive on that because they need that human connection to better execute their jobs. In marketing, I think, we’re definitely going—50 percent of the team is going to be hybrid.

Then we have to concentrate on how do you build new workspace environments where if you know that you’re always going to be partially live and partially on a Zoom, what does that look like? You don’t need closed, necessarily private offices anymore. You can’t really have open offices anymore because at some point you’re going to be Zooming in others. It’s been a great discussion on workflow and workspace design.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny because I was talking to one CMO the other day and he has a young staff. It’s a startup. He was just saying, “I want all my team back in.” I was actually surprised and this is really quite a visionary CMO. When he said that, I went, “Oh!” Because we’re all virtual and we’re going to be that way. We have no plans to do that. Melanie, I’m curious, where are you at that?

Melanie Marcus: Yeah, we are really struggling with this right now. Being in person, in an office, and we’ve got multiple office locations, is part of our culture. It’s part of how we think, we create together not just in marketing, but across the company. Our policy before COVID had been to work with your manager but you can work from home up to two days a week and that kind of thing. As an organization, we’re going through a process right now to figure out what does that mean, knowing that it’s a part of our culture. We’ll see where this lands us.

Drew Neisser: I think there are a lot of—and look, as a creative organization, the one thing that I really, really miss is just being together, having this spontaneous brainstorm, and just kicking ideas around. Everything is so formal. Whether you’re doing it on chat or doing it on Zoom, the opportunity for spontaneity is really, really hard.

That’ll be interesting. It sounds like nobody is going to say all of the employees need to be back the day everybody’s vaccinated. Nobody has that policy because there are too many people. By the way, I’m imagining that you’ve also broadened your horizon in terms of your employee base because you have people who moved out and said, “Hey, I’m moving to Utah or wherever or moving somewhere else.”

Let’s talk about this from an advice standpoint. We have CMOs who are walking into a new job and they’re thinking about their organization. What advice would you have? One piece of advice for them to really future proof their marketing organization. Melanie, why don’t you start?

Melanie Marcus: Start with the business needs of the organization. Look ahead and start with the business needs of the organization and the growth needs.

Drew Neisser: Okay, we’re going to start with the business needs and growth. If we have a high-growth company that needs a lot of leads in the pipeline then we need to staff accordingly. Kathie, what’s your advice in that area?

Kathie Johnson: I’ll agree with Melanie, but one of the things I like to add is, what is something that you can create in your organization that will differentiate you in market? I think about the Talkdesk Research that we added. How can you bring something new that others aren’t doing or might not want to do or can’t do?

Drew Neisser: Yes, we just had an entire marketing conversation for 58 minutes and we finally got to the word “differentiate.” Thank you for that because, oh my gosh, if we’re not as marketers differentiating our organizations in general, then I believe we’re failing. Anna, one piece of advice.

Anna Griffin: Accountability. I would want someone to be super clear on what are they going to hold you accountable for. Again, every CMO, every organization, has different views of how they think about a CMO and the function, but you need to be crystal clear on what are you going to be accountable for because you need to make sure that organizational construct aligns to your accountability. It’s going to be really hard to be accountable, but then not have really the remit to get the job done in the other areas that don’t sit in your org design. Clarity and accountability and then design your org structure for that accountability.

Drew Neisser: I love it and it’s perfect. If we’re not managing CEO expectations and C-Suite expectations, we’re not going to have a successful venture. Thank you, Kathie, Anna, Melanie, you’re all good sports. Thank you Spring44 Distilling for that fantastic Old Tom Gin. And thank you audience for staying with us. Let’s cue the music.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Live is produced by Melissa Caffrey. Our intern is Charlotte McEvoy. Our botanical expert is Nicole Hernandez. 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.