October 14, 2021

The B2B CMO of the Future?

It’s time to restructure your B2B organization. To trim down your MarTech stack. To reconsider which metrics matter. These are things that this episode’s guests are all in agreement on, and taking it one step further, they also believe that the CMO is the one for the job.

Tune in to hear from two of the three CMO to CRO authors, Brandi Starr and Rolly Keenan (COO and CRO of Tegrita, respectively), as we compare the future-thinking recommendations put forth in their book with those in Drew’s new book, Renegade Marketing. To keep everyone honest, CMO Peter Finter of CyberGRX brings a bevy of real-world experience and insights to the table. Don’t miss it!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • Why B2B marketers need to cut their tech stack
  • Why B2B organizations should restructure
  • How the CMO can drive revenue operations in the C-Suite

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 262 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!
  • [1:32] Brandi Starr on Managing Your MarTech Stack
  • [10:13] Rolly Keenan on Restructuring B2B Organizations
  • [15:43] Peter Finter on Measuring What Matters (Hint: It’s not MQLs)
  • [26:29] CMO to CRO Authors Weigh in on Marketing Metrics that Matter
  • [30:28] On CMO Huddles
  • [32:51] Why CMOs are Perfectly Positioned to Drive Revenue
  • [43:55] How to Become a More Customer-Centric B2B Brand
  • [49:26] Defining the CMO to CRO Structure
  • [53:38] How Marketers Can Drive Revenue at their B2B Organizations

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Brandi Starr, Rolly Keenan, and Peter Finter

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! I’m super excited to tell you about the episode you’re about to listen to. It’s a recording from a recent episode of Renegade Marketers Live, where we discuss the unique position that courageous CMOs hold in their B2B organizations to align teams, build brand, and drive revenue exponentially.

We used two B2B marketing books to cover the topic: My own which is Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, and CMO to CRO, written by Brandi Starr and Rolly Keenan, two of the three authors.

It was only fitting to invite a CMO to join us, and lucky for us, we had Peter Finter of CyberGRX, and he really was up to the task. This is an illuminating episode full of innovative ways CMOs can lead their organizations to greatness. I hope you enjoy it. Give it a listen, and let me know what you think.

[1:32] Brandi Starr on Managing Your MarTech Stack

“MarTech doesn't solve business problems on its own. MarTech is going to enable the strategy that is going to solve the business problems.” —@ModernMktgStarr @revenuetakeover Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. A few months back, CMO Eric Eden suggested that I take a look at a book. Let’s see… what book is it? Oh! CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive. And I was intrigued by the title… I mean, it’s just a great title and I wondered how its theories compared if at all to those offered in my new book, Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands.

So I read the book, I read CMO to CRO right away, and I’m really glad I did. And even more so since it led me to two of the three authors, Rolly Keenan and Brandi Starr, who will be joining us today, along with CMO Peter Finter of CyberGRX.

While I have no doubt that both books will be discussed, the primary goal of this episode is not to provide book reviews, but instead to foster a discussion of the future of B2B marketing and marketing leadership, and how different it might look for the Renegades out there. All right. Well, with that, let’s bring on Brandi Starr, who’s the co-author of CMO to CRO and COO of Tegrita, a modern marketing technology and strategy consulting firm. Hi, Brandi.

Brandi Starr: Hello!

Drew Neisser: How are you doing?

Brandi Starr: I am wonderful. How are you?

Drew Neisser: I am great. And I’m still wrapping my mind around this notion of three authors coming to agreement on anything, especially with you three having such deep, different backgrounds. Can you talk a bit about your background? And how that led you to Tegrita and this book?

Brandi Starr: Yes. So I have been in digital marketing for 20 years. When I started my career, I was doing graphic design, designing marketing collateral for fax machines. And now I don’t know that my kids have even ever used a fax machine. Through that progression, I did a lot of marketing strategies, some data and analytics.

As a part of my former role, I was very, very involved with the marketing automation platform and leveraging technology. I recognized that I wanted to do a whole lot more of that, so I jumped the fence six years ago from the client-side to the consulting side and join Tegrita, and then moved into a leadership role from there.

Drew Neisser: First of all, thank you, and I apologize—Tegrita. I wanted to go margarita. I’m sorry.

Brandi Starr: Most people do.

Drew Neisser: I gotta tell ya, as a brand guy, I’m a big fan of margaritas. I know this is a gin show, but… All right, Tegrita as in “integrity.” Got it. yeah. So you’re the marketer from the three authors of the book from what I can gather. It’s a tough time out there right now, I’m just curious what challenges you see marketers facing?

Brandi Starr: There’s a lot that happens in the industry, there’s a lot of different technologies, there are all the different buzzwords, and a lot of marketers are really trying to figure out what actually works. I think we’ve gotten through the period of “We’re just going to try all these different things because it’s the latest thing that everyone’s talking about. And now everyone is kind of trying to take a step back, figure out what is actually having impact for their business, so that they can do more of that. I see a lot of different themes happening, but they all tie back to the central problem of what’s actually working and how do we figure that out.

Drew Neisser: It’s a great question and it’s always sort of been that ultimate marketing challenge. It goes way, way, way back. What are you finding in that area? What’s sort of starting to bubble up in terms of what’s working and what’s not working?

Brandi Starr: What I see a lot is that there’s a lot of technology and for a lot of companies, their tech stack is kind of a mess. They bought a lot of things, they piecemeal things together, they’ve been trying to do this, that, and the other. And now there’s a lot of focus in scaling back tech stacks, in sunsetting certain things. There’s a detachment from what everyone is considering best-in-class and a more focus on “best-for-us.” That is really what I see is the key focus—there’s all this tech, and we’ve got to home in and figure out what to actually do with it.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, too much tech. If you read, I think it’s chapter 10 or 11 in my book. It’s 11. Automate Attentively is the thing and I talk about how so many of the CMOs that I interviewed had gotten up to 30, 40 different technologies. And when they finally do an audit, they go, “We don’t need 20% of those or 30% of them.” And I know they’re not confused about this. But MarTech is not marketing.

Brandi Starr: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: Now I will also tell you that there are many CMOs who will say, “Hey, Drew, don’t get carried away on that because there are some technologies out there that are actually saving us time and giving us things back.” But I’m curious—and you have this chapter in the book called “Too Much Tech, Not Enough Strategy.”

And so the basic premise there is, we’re going out—and I know that Forrester had a big number for that. But you’re seeing that consistently what crushed your clients—where you can go in and look at their tech stack and say, “Yep! Don’t need that. Yep, don’t need that. And why do you do this? And you’re understaffed there.”

Brandi Starr: Yes. And that chapter is one of my favorite in the book because I’m a strategist by career. The key is: Marketing technology doesn’t solve business problems on its own. Marketing technology is going to enable the strategy that is going to solve the business problems. And so what it seems like is a lot of companies just buy stuff… “We have this problem. Okay, buy a tech for that.”

We do technology audits and health checks for clients. I’ve done some interviews where I talked about what are you using day-to-day, and we have discovered that they have multiple things to do the same thing. We even had one client that was actually in the market for a technology that they had three other techs that already did that thing.

And it was like, okay, what’s happening here? Really, it’s about getting the right technology that is going to support the strategy because that overarching big picture… The marketers know the markets, the marketers know the customers, so you have to put that technology to support those efforts.

Drew Neisser: So, I can imagine the CMOs that are listening at this moment are sort of wondering, scratching their head going, “Okay, which are the ones that I have?” Part of it is—and I love this statement—marketing tech doesn’t solve strategic problems, or is not a strategic solution to a business problem. And I just wanted to put a big punctuation point on that.

A corollary that I see a lot out there in the CMOs that I talked to is they adopt a marketing technology, but it’s insufficiently staffed to take advantage of it. There’s this notion that this technology will work on its own. And that’s not the case, right?

Brandi Starr: Yes, and I think you had it in your book in chapter 11, which was a great quote that said, I think it was every 1 to 3, in terms of what you’re spending on the tech versus the people. The people have to run the technology, and it is the people that are going to be able to leverage the functionality to do what it needs.

You do have to be properly staffed. And whether that is internal headcount, or outsourced—which is why we exist, because there are a lot of companies that are not able to have the right expertise, the amount of people to actually run everything. But you have to make sure that you put the bodies and the brains behind the technologies so that you can actually get the ROI.

Drew Neisser: Well, we couldn’t agree more. Thank you for reading that, my book, or that chapter at least. Thank you for that.

[10:13] Rolly Keenan on Restructuring B2B Organizations

“Create a front office IT department that operates at the speed of revenue and not at the speed of infrastructure.” —@rollykeenan @revenuetakeover Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Rolly Keenan, who is the CRO of Tegrita. Got it right. Welcome, Rolly.

Rolly Keenan: Yes, you did. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: So, your background is in sales, right?

Rolly Keenan: Yes.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so my question is: Do you have more or less empathy to the plight of the modern marketer?

Rolly Keenan: Well, I think, for me, not so much maybe born out of the fact that I have a lot of sales background. But for me, I have plenty of empathy for the plight of the modern marketer because even as I was in the very early years of selling and we’re talking… I know some people say they’re in sales, but let me tell you, I was in a “Wrestle to the ground and strangle a sale until I get it” kind of job as one of my first roles after sports.

And so, even at that time, I was meeting with the CMO out of my own interests, like, “What are you doing? How are you supporting what we’re doing? What are we doing that’s getting in your way?” I’ve been in that mindset for a long time just as my own interest.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting that as a salesperson and you’re going and knocking on doors, when 7 out of 10 or 8 out of 10 say, “Who are you? And where are you from?” And they have no idea, suddenly, the salesperson really understands the value of air cover and how marketing creates that.

In our prep call, you mentioned that this book has been really good at provoking conversations with your clients and prospects about organizational structure, technology, and metrics. I’m really curious, in terms of the response to the book, what’s resonating the most?

Rolly Keenan: I think organizational structure has caught the most attention because we knew when we sat down and started to put together what we wanted to communicate to the community and marketing and revenue in general, we knew that organizational structure just had to happen. Those changes had to happen and they’re super inconvenient and you can’t just hide while you’re doing it.

This involves the CEO, this involves the business, so that hits people the most and they have a lot of questions and they have a lot of initial like, “Well that’s never going to happen” and then follow up with a, “But how does it work? What would we do?” There’s a lot of kind of shock value to that argument and how, even though it’s super difficult, I guess that is how we might fix it instead of just trying to collaborate or hire an alignment consultant or something like that

Drew Neisser: I was reading the chapter right before we get to the money chapter of “Becoming a CMO to CRO.” You talk about this organizing MarTech and SalesTech under this RevOps group. And I do know several CMOs who have set up this sort of Switzerland-like thing where at least they can get one single view of data and they’ve created this sort of dotted line between this group and marketing and sales. Is that essentially the same idea as what you guys are proposing for the RevOps structure?

Rolly Keenan: No, I think a couple of ways to look at that would be number one, setting up that group gives you better visibility into your dysfunction. I suppose having it front and center is great. But I also think it’s why we wrote the book, because of that halfway situation.

In other words, I make a lot of analogies to kids because I have so many even though they’re grown up now. To me, it’s like we need a soccer coach. What you’re talking about where they put up a Switzerland group is the same as getting mom or dad to coach. It works. And the games are going to happen this weekend. And the practices are going to happen on Thursday. Is anyone going to learn any soccer? Probably not. Are people going to come out better than they were before? Maybe a little, socially.

But that’s why we kind of got together on the book. This doesn’t really work. It accomplishes a little, but it doesn’t do what needs to happen, which is to basically create a front office IT department that operates at the speed of revenue and not at the speed of infrastructure. They will be communicating with that back end, but that needs to be a very agile, customer-centric group and that is all those words and others are not the description of an IT department.

[15:43] Peter Finter on Measuring What Matters (Hint: It’s not MQLs)

“Let's figure out which are the real levers of the business and focus our efforts on using those as our KPIs.” —@prfinter @cybergrx Share on X

Drew Neisser: So we’ve got—and I love this expression—front office IT that works at the speed of revenue. That’s the critical thing. That’s the money phrase. Alright, with that, let’s welcome Peter Finter, CMO of CyberGRX and the star of Episode 191 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hello, Peter.

Peter Finter: Hey, Drew. Good to meet you again. And hi to Rolly and Brandi.

Drew Neisser: So one of the early chapters—I know you’ve now had a chance to read CMO to CRO. One of the early chapters is called “What Gets Measured Gets Done.” And what I want to ask… Is that true for your organization? And if so, how do you make sure, as we say in my book, “Measure What Matters?”

Peter Finter: First of all, is it true for my organization? Yes. I would say, despite this being month four, we have already aligned around goals and KPIs. KPIs essentially are, or should be, just that. Key performance indicators. Some of them focus on output metrics like ARR, and others are process metrics, which are generally like, for example, the number of meetings you have per week per rep, or number of opportunities that they create that are really leading indicators.

But I think the point here is that KPIs are success measures. They’re supposed to tell you whether your strategy is working, and to be able to determine that you better figure out what your strategy is first. What are you trying to accomplish? So what are the business measures that you care about? And then how are you going to get there, and your KPI should then layer into that.

I think what I got from the book really was around how you should think about that in the context of an integrated go-to-market model, where you have sales and marketing and customer success, and customer support, all working in tandem around the customer, which we all would acknowledge is not typically how our organizations are established.

My final thought on this would be, essentially, boil it down to fewer, not more, metrics. We generally now can track a lot of things. But as Einstein once famously said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” So, let’s figure out which are the real levers of the business and focus our efforts on using those as our KPIs.

Drew Neisser: I have a couple of big picture questions. But first, I have a little picture question because I think I know the answer. What metrics did you ditch?

Peter Finter: Yeah, that is a very good question actually. I am not a fan of MQLs, which puts me in a minority of CMOs because that is the de facto standard and it’s also the way that a lot of benchmarking is done. I’ll tell you right off the bat why that is. It’s because it’s under the control of the marketing team.

And before you all get upset about that, what I mean is, you can essentially define an MQL to be whatever you want it to be, you can decide what that lead score needs to look like or what action they needed to have taken before you qualified it as a lead that should be passed over to a BDR or SDR team or whatever you do with your MQLs.

I am resisting the temptation to do that because I hate the concept of a blazing green scorecard, as one of my bosses used to describe it, for marketing when sales is bleeding red. And that happens in a world that’s focused on MQLs in my experience. So, there’s my tip for the day.

Drew Neisser: No, I’m in complete agreement with you. There was a moment that was shared in a Huddle where it was the first time a CMO was presenting for the first time to a board. Went to the board—and it was a male—and he said, “I’m so happy. Look at our MQLs. They’re killing it. We have so many leads in the pipeline. Look at that number! It’s so great! And look, it’s quarter after quarter, grow, grow, grow, grow, grow.”

And so, one of the board of directors says to this new CMO, “So we’re not hitting our numbers. Does that mean sales is not doing their job?” And it was at that moment that we realize, “Okay, number one, I’m never presenting the numbers again without my salesperson approving them. And number two, that metric doesn’t matter.” Right? Because it doesn’t matter to the board and it doesn’t matter to the executive committee, so why does it matter to the CMO?

That was the moment, so I think you’re on really safe territory without that. And at some point, we’ll get Brandi and Rolly in to give their opinion on this, but not quite yet because I want to go back to the bigger picture.

You talk about having metrics that align with strategy, so what are we talking about here from a strategy standpoint in order to get the metrics? We know we need to grow revenue, right? And when you’re looking at a revenue target, sales has a certain number of leads, they do need in order to close. What are we talking about from a strategic standpoint that will then drive KPIs?

Peter Finter: Sure. So, I think it’s useful for us to put ourselves for a moment in the shoes of either a CEO or a CFO—the people that are actually concerned about the effectiveness of sales and marketing and customer success because they’re managing a portfolio of investments.

If we think about it through that lens, we need to think about the go-to-market team being accountable for spending money, generally on building sales capacity on the one hand, and investing in demand generation and other types of marketing on the other hand. And in the context of a SaaS business, we’re always focused on renewals and therefore customer success becomes part of that solution as well.

For them, the real question—meaning for the executive team—the real question is: How do we know that what we’re investing is going to deliver the return that we want in the time that we want it? And what are the metrics that we should be keeping an eye on?

I’ll suggest three that I have found to be extremely valuable to boil it down. The first is to recognize that the output from marketing that is most meaningful is pipeline creation in the context of that overall end-to-end. A useful metric is demand generation ROI. For every dollar I put into demand, how many dollars of pipeline do I create? That would be metric one.

Metric two is, how productive are my sales reps in creating new pipeline? What should I be expecting from each incremental head and in each incremental roll that I add? And then the third one would be, how do I convert that pipeline to bookings?

What I found to be quite helpful is to focus on what we call walk-in pipeline, so how much pipeline do you have at the beginning of a quarter, and the ratio of that to the bookings that you make in a quarter.

One of the reasons I like it is because we are generally dealing with very long sales cycles and most of our business is B2B. They could be two quarters to six quarters in length, and usually are more at the upper end. And if you want to be able to make adjustments to your business, you need to be able to respond more quickly than wait to see if what you did made a difference over 18 months. You can boil it down to relatively few metrics, which align to the overall concerns of the CEO and the CFO.

I’ve made this generic enough that it really doesn’t matter what business you’re in, those principles probably still hold true. There are many subsets that we could go into—indirect versus direct go-to-market models, many other things. But I think at the highest level, it’s useful to talk in the language of the CEO and the CFO before we get into the language of marketers and sellers.

Drew Neisser: So, I’m with you to a point. And then I’m missing something. What I’m missing—and this is what I talk a lot about in my book—to me, to be a successful brand, you need to have employees who believe in the brand and who can evangelize on the brand. And you need to have customers who love the brand and want to evangelize the brand.

If you don’t have metrics against those two things, the organization only looks at acquisition as a goal. All these metrics that you put here were acquisition-related. I get it that you’re on a growth trajectory. But where do we get back to some of these other things that essentially will build a company that can last versus, say, one that gets flipped?

Peter Finter: You’re raising a really important point Drew which is, if you look at your portfolio of investments as a marketing leader, if you allow yourself to be persuaded that the only dollars you’re going to spend are on demand generation, or as some people call it, “sales activation.” You’re going to find yourself in a trap, which is the classic sawtooth. The more I invest in demand, the more pipeline I create. The minute I stop investing in demand, my demand goes away.

In order to address that issue, as has been discussed in a number of places like The Great Brand Battle, if you want to check that out, folks, you can see an argument that is made, which I strongly support, which is, “Investment in brand drives long term value creation.” The trick for a marketer is how to build a business case to invest in both demand and brand building.

They complement and feed each other to a degree, but one is less tangible than the other. So, therefore, the metrics that we think about in those terms become less about output metrics because the timeframe over which we see the benefits of brand investments are generally extended and we’re more focused then on process metrics.

So how are we, for example, tracking on web traffic? Inbound, generic web traffic is a metric that might be useful to you to think about how well you are presenting yourself out in the market as a whole. And I really love your comment about advocacy. I couldn’t agree with you more.

Our job as marketers is to get other people to do the work for us, if I can put it like that. On the one hand, we’re equipping and enabling sellers to go out and sell. Our job is to make them successful and as we do so, we can grow our business.

But the second, most important asset that we have generally are those who are convinced that what we do for them adds value to them. And they, with proper motivation, will then actually promote your product, your offering to their peers to others in their network, in their communities. And that then generates demand, which is not contingent upon your sales reps or direct demand spend.

So, there’s an indirect demand model, which comes about through that type of peer network and community building. And I think that’s sometimes overlooked. As a result, we end up with more expensive models than we really need. And certainly, from a customer point of view, isn’t it great to be engaged and involved with the people that are making you successful? Most customers are interested in that.

[26:29] CMO to CRO Authors Weigh in on Marketing Metrics that Matter

“Do I really need all this tech? Do I really need all these KPIs? Like, which ones do I actually need?” —@rollykeenan @revenuetakeover Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring Brandi and Rolly back. And you guys, I’m curious, you heard this conversation that Peter and I went down the metrics road and so forth. I know you have thoughts so weigh in on this metrics debate.

Brandi Starr: I was sitting off camera doing the big happy clap. Peter, you may be my new BFF, because we think so very similarly. Yes, I am a marketer who has always hated the MQL. I definitely have had times where I know that my counterparts just said, “Oh, you want me to hit this number? I’m gonna define MQL as a post. Wa-la! I made my number. Go me!” And it’s never ever been effective.

I really like and had not heard the metric walking pipeline before. I really, really like that one because that is one challenge as we’re working with clients that we see a lot—those long sales cycles and the challenge of that long runway to tell what’s working. So, looking at that as what was working at the beginning, what percentage of that close gives us a little faster input into what’s working and what’s not. But yeah, I definitely echo everything that you were saying.

Drew Neisser: And Rolly, what were you thinking?

Rolly Keenan: I was thinking, I also hate MQLs. But also, I was combining kind of what Brandi was saying about the state of marketing with what Peter was saying in terms of focus and simplicity and how do you get to the things that matter? Do I really need all this tech? Do I really need all these KPIs? Like, which ones do I actually need?

I look at it in two ways with metrics. There are metrics that I am very actively managing, so maybe three to five, where those are kind of success or failure, just looking at them. But then there’s a host of other ones that may or may not be terribly public. I may or may not constantly present them to people, board members, or whoever because I know those are leading indicators of my metrics that matter.

I kind of look at those two things, like what am I going to put at the front of the store where everybody can watch me? And then what are the ones that I just know those are going to give me an early warning signal for what I care about?

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay. Just for the record in, in my book on metrics, there should be four metrics, or four boxes of metrics with two in each one. It’s all blended metrics, but there’s an employee metric… And the reason why I keep coming back to employee—one, we know retention is a huge issue. Employee brand matters more than it has in a long, long time and marketing could have a role in that.

So, we’ve got to have some kind of an employee metric, we’ve got to have a customer metric, and it has to be more than NPS because you can have a high NPS score and not get any referrals. Some kind of blended metric for employees and then customers and then some obviously some kind of pipeline-like thing.

And then I go farther and say there’s got to be a bucket for brand health. Peter, you talked about that as the long-term thing. I think there are some short-term indicators that can help you with that. But again, it’s blended so that you can take things like share of voice and so forth.

[30:28] On CMO Huddles

“What we all need is an environment where we are pushing each other to be bolder, to make more difficult decisions, to be more experimental, and to be prepared to fail without feeling like a failure.” —@prfinter on @CMOHuddles Share on X

Drew Neisser: It’s time for me to plug CMO Huddles, which we launched in 2020. 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 huddles as “Timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment,” while another called it “A cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.” If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOHuddles.com or send me an email to see if you qualify for a guest pass.

Peter, how does that align with your experience of CMO Huddles?

Peter Finter: Great question, Drew. It’s been a really a good experience for me to be part of the CMO Huddles group because I think there are three things that you focus on. The first around sharing. Accelerated learning is what we all need, right? We have far too much on our plates. And how can we tap into the expertise of others who’ve been down the path that we’re going down? That tends to be a wide variety of topics, and I love the way that you’re able to bring together experts and practitioners to share their experiences and to accelerate learning. So for me, that has been phenomenal. Of course, a byproduct of that is you get to know other CMOs who are facing similar challenges, who have different ideas, and I love that creativity that comes out of the conversations we have.

I think the second thing is, there’s a lot of caring that goes on. It’s a pretty darn lonely place to be a marketing leader these days. You’re still as vulnerable as ever you were. Possibly even more so now. You really need your colleagues around you. And when I was transitioning between roles—or resting between engagements I think actors like to call it—I got a lot of benefit from the transitional huddle that you offered at that particular time. So, with that and your concierge service, phenomenal caring I would say.

And then on the last part around daring, we’re in an environment where we are always tempted to be more conservative, to take less risks, because it’s dangerous out there, right? We can make mistakes. And I think what we all need is an environment where we are pushing each other to be bolder, to make more difficult decisions, to be more experimental, and to be prepared to fail without feeling like a failure. I think that is an absolutely critical component. For me, having a supportive environment gives me the confidence to really shoot for the moon. That’s what I got out of CMO Huddles.

Drew Neisser: Oh my gosh, I love that. And just for that, we’re going to have to have a toast.

[32:51] Why CMOs are Perfectly Positioned to Drive Revenue

“The CMO has the best understanding of what is happening across the business with everything that is touching revenue.” —@ModernMktgStarr @revenuetakeover Share on X

Drew Neisser: One of the things that you talk about in the book, Rolly and Brandi, is this notion that there could be these DevOps folks, and it’s not Switzerland, it’s a restructuring of all of the technology into one central group. And then above that is a new kind of CRO. When I floated this idea by some CMOs in a huddle of a while back, the response was, “I don’t want the responsibility of sales!” And I’m just curious if you’ve had any pushback from marketers on that particular point?

Brandi Starr: Oh, yeah. Yeah, there are—I’ll start and then Rolly as this kind of CRO will be able to speak to it a bit more. But one of the points that we make is, every CMO that is a CMO today is not necessarily going to be the right fit for this new type of Chief Revenue Officer. It definitely takes a special kind of person, so we definitely hear the pushback.

But the key point here is that we feel like the CMO has the best understanding of what is happening across the business with everything that is touching revenue. The CMO feels the pains of the silos and the disconnect, so they are best positioned. We don’t feel that the CMO moving into a CRO role has to necessarily become a sales leader and a sales expert.

We do talk about there still being a head of each function. And that might be a VP depending on the size of the company or that might be a director, but there would still be someone who heads the sales function and does the things that the head of sales does today, but that person, along with the head of marketing, the head of success, and the head of support, would all roll into this new CRO role, who is then setting the direction and the goals across the revenue organization.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. I’m curious, Peter, do you want that job?

Peter Finter: Actually, in some sense, I do. But I would also just take a step back from it for a second and say, why do we think this role needs to exist? That’s the essence of the book, it really speaks to this issue that unless we take an end-to-end view of the customer experience and the customer lifecycle from first touch—and even pre-first touch if we’re talking about awareness building—all the way through to a successful customer who becomes an advocate for as, as we discussed earlier on.

It’s the alignment across the piece that is today dependent on either one of those four leaders taking the leadership role and making it happen from within their own function with their colleagues. Or it goes up a notch to a CEO who is typically busy on other things, and typically looks back to their sales and marketing leaders in particular and say, “Why can’t you guys just figure it out? We’re investing in sales and marketing; just get together and decide what to do.”

So, a tremendous amount hinges on the ability of those individuals to partner successfully and I do believe that there is a partnership model that is successful and successful companies do figure that out. But as a general rule, it now requires a much more integrated approach understanding the nuances in each of these discrete functions to understand the implications of making a change in one to the other.

I wanted to also just highlight here something else has been on my mind, which is this difference between what we might call “healthy tension” and “conflict by design.” And I would use that phrase to describe some experiences that we can—Rolly and Brandi and I—I’m sure can relate to.

When we’ve worked with our colleagues in the sales and marketing functions, it can become a highly conflict-oriented environment for the reasons that you highlighted earlier, Drew, which is… If marketing measures itself on its MQL production and sales is held accountable for bookings, and something’s not working, somebody is pointing a finger at somebody else.

So, how do you drive that co-ownership piece without losing the accountability? I think that’s why this is a very valuable conversation to be having and it’s a necessary one that may result in an organizational structure that introduces another layer of senior management which is effectively what we’re saying. Or it may result in a more collaborative integrated model that could be built in other ways.

Drew Neisser: And so Rolly, I’m interested because that’s what I’m seeing in the CMOs that seemed to get it and understand what you’re talking about. They’re just going in and saying, “I don’t show numbers unless I’m with sales; sales doesn’t show numbers unless they’re with marketing.” They’re connected at the hip and they know that there’s overlap and there’s a codependency. In that scenario, have we solved the problem?

Rolly Keenan: No. The book itself is because we know that, sure, if aligning and collaborating would work, there would be no book. Like I was saying with my parent coaching kids soccer team analogy, you might get a parent who knows something about soccer. It could happen. So, you’re gambling with a pretty big outcome and it’s not as if this is a new idea and we invented it and, “Oh my gosh, why did you guys just come up with this and now we’re saying we should have been doing it all along!”

The issue is that this whole interaction with customers has evolved so much and become so digital in nature that you have to change, and you can’t just still say, “Well, this person’s leads marketing, so Let’s have a chief accounting officer and a chief investment officer and have all these people instead of a CFO.”

We’ve gotten to a place where interacting with customers and prospects that this stuff has to come under… A different technology team is part of it, and it has to come under a single leader. To the point that Brandi was making about who’s right for this and you asked Peter “Would you would you want that job?” As Peter’s in the camp of unpopularity and hating MQLs, although I’m in that club with you, I’m also in the small club of, I don’t think anyone can do anything well.

It’s a certain kind of person that loves that job. The people who are saying, “I don’t want that job,” exactly. They’re not built for it. They probably have a hard time getting attention at the boardroom. It’s the person who has the mix of the accountability—and stealing other people’s words—has the hutzpah to show up even though they lost the biggest client and they’re gonna fix it.

Having that and knowing all the things a CMO has experience and knowledge in. All these different teams, all these functions that they’re interacting with, sometimes directly and sometimes they’re just handling the fallout of what’s happening with support, success, and sales, but they understand it all. That person, and we talk about it in the book in that last chapter, is a certain kind of person that is ready for that role, that can handle the pressure that comes with being the head of everything sales and everything marketing.

Brandi Starr: And I think a key point here as well… as I do agree, Peter, that it is possible… I have seen it, where you get a good sales and marketing leader, and they are joined at the hip and they have that strong relationship.

Number one, that doesn’t happen as often as we would need it to, but then even where that does happen, even if we could replicate that relationship in every company, we’re still leaving out two key components to revenue.

You’ve got success—and everybody doesn’t have the organization called success—but there’s generally some portion of the organization that is responsible for current customers and the renewals and upsell, cross-sell. And then, depending on the type of business, is also some type of support. And there is generally a leader of all four of those. I’ve even had some people say that account management is another department that can fall under this revenue engine.

So now, we’re not talking about getting two people to have this great relationship, we’re now talking about getting four people to align. And I’ve got five kids—just getting everybody to even settle on a restaurant to go to is damn near impossible. Then you want to try and get four people to agree on goals when they all have different compensation packages? When we’re talking to senior leaders, it’s not just about doing the job. We’re talking about—how are you compensated? How do you maintain your tenure? What do you need to do so that you hit your metrics so that you can fully vest or depending on what the exit strategy is…

There’s a lot of human components that are kind of the ugly side of the executive tier, but those things play a key role in being able to create this alignment that is really, really difficult to achieve, especially at scale. That is why we feel like you got to have this one person who is really incented on revenue across the board, who is then going to have four functional leaders who they can then cascade, “Here are the priorities, here are the goals. Here’s how we’re gonna tackle customer experience. Now, each of you do your part to align to this one strategy.”

And that is really why we feel like it has to be that one person that is really looking at the pains, the opportunities, the challenges across revenue, and then you have those functional leaders who are amazing at what they do, who can then support that strategy.

[43:55] How to Become a More Customer-Centric B2B Brand

“Do a better job of thinking about the metrics that matter from a customer experience point of view.” —@prfinter @cybergrx Share on X

Drew Neisser: Peter, as you hear those things, I’m curious, how have you either in your current role, which I know you’re just a few months in, but in previous roles, where did customer success and where did support fit in relative to your partnership with sales? Assuming you had one.

Peter Finter: Well, yes, I did. Otherwise, I don’t suppose I would have got this job. But just to react a little bit to the comments that Brandi was just making—I think if the board asks the question, “Who is responsible for revenue?” the answer that they would likely be expecting to hear is that the CEO is going to say, “That’s my job. My job is to drive the success of the company. And I’m going to hire people who are experts in their domains and ensure that they’re aligned, that they have common goals, and that we drive the outcomes that you are expecting from me.”

So, the discussion we’re sort of having is kind of like, why is it that the CEO is not able or doing that? If that is indeed the case. The fact that we are still agreeing that there’s a need for specialists around sales, marketing, customer success, doesn’t take away from the need for them to collaborate effectively. They still need to align and be able to work across the board. It doesn’t go away just because they have a new boss.

And so, I think that’s something which is in my mind as we think about organizationally how would we want to evolve? Something that you put in the book that I think is absolutely central to this is what you refer to as customer-centricity. I think we would all relate strongly to that idea that says, “The reason that we’re getting this wrong is because we take an inside-out view instead of an outside-in view.”

If we thought about the customer journey as a continuum crossing over these different functions and we drove our business that way, I think we would solve some of the problems that we are seeing today, where we start from our functional groups and we try to express our touch points or the things that we care about that are customer-related. I know that’s a little bit off-topic from what you were just asking, Drew, but…

Drew Neisser: No, I think it’s exactly on topic. Because ultimately, we are talking about change. And I think in the book, there’s sort of two levels of this. There’s˙ where you put your technology and how you organize it, and then how you structure. And in both cases of those things, there’s a lot of painful disruption that could happen in this area, which is why when we ask what would Ben Franklin say today, he would say: “There are no gains without pains.”

So, thank you, Ben Franklin for that. Random, I know. It’s a little random, but it’s just part of this show. But we are talking about disruption one way or another in the book and the orientation. And I guess, Peter, I’m gonna come back to you and say, “Why is it so hard?” We can sit here, all of us, four of us can say, “We’ve got to put the customer at the center of our organization.” And we’ve heard that, but yet, Rolly and Brandi have seen that’s not true. That most companies don’t. There’s looking at revenue and marketing… so what does it take? And why is this so painful and hard for companies to do that? To get to this customer-centric approach?

Peter Finter: I think actually Brandi and Rolly are on the money here, which is, it takes an investment of effort to be able to map across an organization, to understand the implications and the interactions from these different groups as they are impacting on our customers. And many times, we simply don’t have the motivation to go beyond the things that we’re expected to deliver.

It unfortunately boils back to the MQL discussion, which is to say, if my marketing metrics define my success, then I’m optimizing for that. And that’s not necessarily in the context of customer success, if I can use that more broad term. The end-to-end customer experience.

I think, actually, part of the way to approach this is to do a better job of thinking about the metrics that matter from a customer experience point of view. Again, the outside-in view, rather than the inside-out view. I think that’s part of why it’s hard. And let’s be honest, there’s so much to do in each of these roles, right? The sales leader is driven into every deal that needs to be fixed and every customer that’s about to churn. The marketing guy is trying to take care of 30 different types of marketing technologies, and figure out how to hire people to do the jobs that no one’s available to be hired for, et cetera, et cetera.

We’re all busy people. The question is, who’s bringing it together? And I think in that I’m strongly aligned with Rolly and Brandi’s basic contention, which is to say, unless you have someone who is accountable to make that happen across the functions, it won’t happen organically. There’s a high risk that you will never do it.

Drew Neisser: Right. So either the CEO has to step up and say, “I’m the guy or gal, I’m the person to bring this all together.” And one of the things I think that Rolly and Brandi say…. because we know most CEOs don’t come from marketing—they’re more likely to come from sales or finance—they’re probably not equipped to do the job that you’re describing. Is that a fair assumption?

Peter Finter: I think it’s true. We’ve seen lots of CEOs who are lacking an understanding of the marketing components. And we’ve already identified that marketers now have insights across the business that are not available to other functional leaders. And that I think does lend to the problem that you’re highlighting, Drew.

[49:26] Defining the CMO to CRO Structure

“For a CEO to be effective, they have to have the right team in place that is bringing them the right information so that they can make informed decisions.” —@ModernMktgStarr @revenuetakeover Share on X

Drew Neisser: Brandi, Rolly, have you guys seen—this is where it’s so interesting in what you are proposing. The CEO is saying, “Wait, I just got my CMO in place. I just got my new CRO. What are you doing to me? What do you mean, I need somebody that they can report to?”

And now it’s going to be a marketing person, not a salesperson who I’ve trusted all my career to deliver the revenue for the organization. You’re really saying, “No, it’s not about sales. It’s about a leader who can do these things, who understands strategy, understands customer success, understands how the marketing works, and understands sales.” Wow. And you’re also saying that person is more likely to be a marketer than a salesperson, which I certainly agree. I mean, are you getting any traction with this conversation in the C-Suite?

Brandi Starr: I would say yes, holistically. We definitely hear the same kind of pushback, and the conversation around how difficult it is to get there. The main reason why I don’t feel like the CEO is the person to take this role is because the CEO—I mean, yes, they are, of course, accountable to revenue and the growth of the business.

But in a lot of cases, the CEO has a leadership team who is able to bring to them all the things that they need to focus on, and that is going to go beyond just the revenue functions. There are things that have to do with product and there are so many different things.

For a CEO to be effective, they have to have the right team in place that is bringing them the right information so that they can make informed decisions. And what we see as a CRO is going to be a bit more hands-on involved in all of the departments. And they would, very similar to how the CFO and the COO are the right hands to the CEO, we would essentially be adding a third BFF for the CEO, because that would be that third person between the CEO, the CFO, and our new version of the CRO.

That is going to be the team that is going to equip the CEO to have that full picture across the organization and to be effective in their role. And that’s my main reason why we don’t feel like the CEO and our version of a CRO should be the same because this person is a bit more hands-on. I think I might have went a little bit left Drew, but I wanted to make sure to…

Drew Neisser: No, I get you. I will say to the CMOs listening, one other thought is, at certain SaaS firms, your salary caps off, but your CRO salary keeps going. So, if you’re a CMO and you have ambition to make a lot more money other than the stock that you might get, that’s about the only route. So, you’re giving a path and a rationale for it, which is great. I’m just curious, and it didn’t occur to me until now, but at any point in time, did you say, “Do we have to call this person to CRO?” Couldn’t you have given them a new title so we could just sort of avoid the confusion?

Brandi Starr: So it’s funny, that has been a big debate. I was a part of another conversation with a big group of CMOs and there was this, “Should it be this chief growth officer? Should it this?” For us, it was pretty simple. Like, we want them to focus on everything that touches revenue, so they’re the chief revenue officer. It was pretty straightforward for us, like keep it basic. There did not seem to be another title that fit. But that has been one of the other conversations that has come up. Like, “I support this, but can’t we just call it something else?”

Drew Neisser: Yeah, exactly. I get it.

Brandi Starr: The title is not the most important thing, so technically you could.

[53:38] How Marketers Can Drive Revenue at their B2B Organizations

“Call out the problem first and propose the solution first. Lead by leading, not by job title.” —@prfinter @cybergrx Share on X

Drew Neisser: I know you’ve thought about this a lot, so I’m going to go around the horn and I’ll start with you, Rolly. Final words of wisdom for CMOs looking to drive revenue at their organizations.

Rolly Keenan: I’ll say that the human part of all this is the part that you may have, in your career, successfully avoided, in a sense that you go from one organization to the other and handle the nuts and bolts. But if you really have the courage, and you’re not just kind of on your way to retire, or just you just like to just do the same thing over and over… If you really want to change things up, you really need to start thinking about how you structure the business and how to get the CEO on your side for that.

Drew Neisser: Okay, perfect. Peter! Final words of wisdom.

Peter Finter: I would say your CRO—probably you have one today, you may not be it—is your partner in crime, not your competitor. You can serve the business by being the headlights on the business. Be the ideas generated, be the insight provider, be the market opportunity identified, and be the proactive problem solver. Call out the problem first and propose the solution first. Lead by leading, not by job title. That would be my takeaway.

Drew Neisser: And Brandi, take us home.

Brandi Starr: Mine is to focus on the metrics and line up the way that your teams function so that you are able to really report. One of our chapters is called “The Domino Effect” and that’s how we believe goals should be lined up. Every goal should hand over to the next goal that leads to pipeline and bookings. That is a key focus in everything that’s being done—it’s making sure that you are able to track and walk into that boardroom talking about things that actually matter.

Drew Neisser: Alrighty then you’ve heard it all. And one of the key words that I heard and all of that was courage and courageous. And anybody who reads my book will know that is one of the four traits of a successful CMO. Thank you, Brandi, Rolly, and Peter—you’re all great sports. And thank you, audience, for listening.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius.

To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.