Marketing Hires: The Potential Trap of Big Brands & High Titles, with Mark Donnigan

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Whether you are a SaaS founder looking to make your first marketing hire or a CMO building out your team, the rocky tech economy has created a surplus of marketing talent. VPs and directors from big tech companies are free agents…fantastic hires, right?

According to Mark Donnigan, virtual CMO and consultant, the answer isn’t always yes. In this episode, we tackle choosing the right type of hire (generalist or conductor?) and then dive into how to think more strategically about the top talent available today.

A tale of two marketing paths

According to Mark, initial marketing hires typically fall into two categories: generalists or conductors.

Generalists are usually earlier in their careers. They’re scrappy and probably haven’t led a team before — but what they lack in experience, they make up for in execution. Generalists are ideal for the daily minutiae of marketing, including setting up activations and posting on social media. 

Meanwhile, conductors (or CMOs) are higher-level executives who can orchestrate comprehensive marketing campaigns. Although these hires won’t be running around setting up marketing activations or drafting copy, they will delineate a long-term strategy that ties back to revenue.

“And [the conductor] approach is always more effective. But depending on the positioning of the company, sometimes the generalist path is the quickest way to get started. And it is… I would say the easiest way to start getting your marketing reps in… because the other path is definitely going to have a period of planning, a period of strategy,” said Mark. “[Conductors] may or may not have a team that’s on call…. So, they may have to go out and recruit.”

But that’s OK because there’s a surplus of exceptional CMO talent on the market, and these individuals always make for great hires… right?

Not always.

Hire smarter, not larger

The past 18 months have been challenging for B2B SaaS professionals. Massive reductions in force (RIF) have impacted thousands of generalists and conductors alike. Moreover, remaining marketing teams have been tasked with accomplishing the same results on a much smaller budget.

Mark mentioned that many startup executives may consider hiring newly #OpenToWork, big-name talent to fill their resources gap. However, he advises these leaders tread carefully and assess the candidate’s previous experience — and their former resources.

 The budget will look very different for a Fortune 100 company vs. an early-stage startup. Thus, conductors trading into this environment must be ready to pivot and think big on a small budget.

“It takes some self-awareness — or just some professional awareness — on both sides. I really do believe that the [conductor] also — unless they want to be a part of that churning CMO chair — they need to be very, very aware and cognizant and even have that discussion right up front,” said Mark. “[Say] like, ‘Hey, look, you know my background, you know the resources I had, you know the size of my team. I am very well aware that’s not what I have here. But we’re going to have to work together on this because there is a part of my strategies and my playbook that are going to come out of that.’”

Listen to episode 368 of SaaS Half Full for more of Mark’s insights.

What To Do When Your Best Clients Change Jobs, with Trinity Nguyen

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Most SaaS revenue leaders would agree that former clients (“Gems”) make amazing second clients. But how can you track job changers and operationalize an outreach program at scale? Trinity Nguyen, VP of Marketing at UserGems, joins this episode to discuss how to capitalize on this underutilized revenue stream, walk through how to identify Gems and create a program designed to target this critical group.

Goodbye 😔 for now 😈

When a buyer voluntarily or involuntarily leaves a company, it’s easy to panic, especially if they’re steering decisions for a critical account. But these individuals are about to become Gems — and marketers should re-frame their split as an opportunity, not a setback. Trinity breaks it down like this:

“We define gems as people who already have some type of relationship with your company. The easiest one is your previous buyers,” said Trinity. “But there are also other types of gems. For example, the users of your product. So maybe in PR, it could be a PR manager — [someone who was] not involved in the buying decision, but they used the product and know your brand.”

The tricky part of this equation? Not all Gems should be approached the same. For example, a Gem with decision-making power requires a different level of awareness consideration than one who is passionate about the product but holds less sway in a possible deal.

Despite the particulars, Trinity suggests treating Gems as ongoing colleagues instead of new prospects. “Please do not ask for a sales or meeting in your first email. I cannot emphasize this enough. Just think of them… like a coworker, someone you have a relationship with,” said Trinity. “When they have good news, the first thing you do is be human. Congratulate them, send them some gifts or any kind of helpful content.”

Building this bridge may be the ticket to cinching a more lucrative deal down the line.

More Gems = better deals

According to UserGems research, including alumni customers in new deals results in 54% bigger deal sizes, even in today’s flagging Tech market. That’s because Gems who return to your product are highly motivated. They understand your product’s ROI, so they usually don’t need to “test the water, crawl, walk, run,” according to Trinity.

“When someone already knows you, they trust the product, they know how to use it already. They went through that whole adoption journey with you. So when they land a new company, they’re not going to start out with a startup package… That’s when we see the deal size actually increase upfront,” said Trinity.

In a market defined by shorter CMO tenures and lower average budgets, it’s critical to capitalize on these upfront increases in spending.

Alumni are valuable in more ways than one

Former buyers usually land with new clients in their previous vertical — SaaS Tech buyers will probably find another SaaS Tech gig, and so on. But what about Gems who find homes in new, less relevant industries?

Trinity suggests that marketers and salespeople should view this divergence as another opportunity. This person may act as a referral to land new clients. Alternatively, they can become a “marketing nurture,” someone marketers rely on to lightly evangelize in the future, even if these activations don’t immediately close deals.

The bottom line? Don’t let your Gems slip away from you under any circumstance.

“This concept is pretty intuitive… When you want to operationalize this kind of signal in your go-to-market, there’s a bit of [hesitation] thinking, ‘Okay, when do I do what? Which team do I pull in?’ And it’s very easy to boil the ocean,” said Trinity. “My tip would be start small, crawl, walk, run. Start with one use case, one team. Get some success before you scale it out.”

Listen to episode 367 of SaaS Half Full for more of Trinity’s insights on alumni customers and their value proposition.

Taking Marketing Risks in a Strained Economy, with Emily Montgomery

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If you’re a SaaS marketer who tends to be risk-averse, the last 12 months haven’t been kind. Market volatility and “doing more with less” does not pair well with risk-taking. However, Emily Montgomery, VP of Professional Services at Xplor, believes there are still opportunities to take calculated risks… and doing so starts with a mindset shift.

Listen in as we explore how to “experiment and learn” to create a culture of risk among your marketing org and discuss the channels that are best for experimentation.

Experiment with opportunity

During their conversation, Emily and Lindsey discussed the transformational power of shifting from an “experimenting with risk” perspective to an “experimenting with opportunity” mindset. As marketers, we often doomsday about worst-case scenarios before creating a new campaign. But what new heights could we reach if we considered the potential benefits of a big risk instead?

“Risk has a negative connotation to it… I believe that even just reframing it and not looking at it as a risk but rather a willingness to experiment takes away that negativity. And with that negativity often comes fear,” said Emily.

Emily also suggested that risk-averse marketers objectively weigh a risk’s pros and cons before spiraling about a decision’s potential fallout. At Xplor, Emily accomplishes this by thinking through worst-case scenarios and determining if the possible consequences of a campaign or idea outweigh its potential benefits. If the answer is “no,” it might be time to walk on the wild side and try something new.

Lead with wow, not how

It’s one thing to convince yourself of a good idea, but convincing an executive or manager? That’s an entirely different ballpark, especially when risks are involved.

If you’re in this situation, Emily suggests taking a data-driven approach. For starters, answer the following questions:

  • What is the organization attempting to accomplish with this idea?
  • How will we know if that goal is accomplished?
  • What KPIs can we track for this campaign or idea?

Alternatively, if you’re a marketing manager presented with a novel idea, consider the impact you might have on an employee if you shut them down immediately. Instant rejection is demoralizing and might discourage employees from sharing further ideas. So, instead of leading with a derogatory line of questioning, welcome new ideas with healthy skepticism. In other words, “lead with wow, not how.”

Work backward from your goal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a comprehensive guide on which risks are “worth it” for every organization? Unfortunately, no such tome exists — so instead, marketers have to rely on their instincts to determine which channels are best to experiment with. Emily advises marketers to outline their goals early in a new campaign and be intentional about their investments.

For instance, if your organization is considering a paid media opportunity with a KPI of X% sales growth, outline these expectations on the front end of your campaign. And if the metrics don’t suggest success when it’s all said and done, take that under advisement as you consider future campaigns.

Remember that failure to meet a specific metric doesn’t equate to wasted time or resources. If nothing else, you learned a valuable lesson:

“[Nobody] can make sound business decisions when motivated by fear and negativity of what will go wrong. Whereas if it’s reframed as an opportunity to learn or experiment — to try to see if it’s going to work — it feels less… scary to create a culture that allows and encourages experimentation,” said Emily. “Not everything will work, but there’s always something to learn from what you were willing to try. [For example], if you were to try again, what would you do differently? Or, if you were never going to do it again, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Listen to episode 356 of SaaS Half Full for more of Emily’s insights.

Threads, Mastodon, X, and More: A Look at Social Mayhem with Karri Carlson

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It’s been a minute since the social media industry has been in the spotlight, but the past six months have been poppin’ off. Between the launch of Threads and Twitter rebranding to X, there’s a wealth of new info to digest if social media falls under your purview (in-house or via an agency partner). 

In this episode, Karri Carlson, VP of Operations at LeadTail, updates us on the changes that matter and discusses emerging platforms — looking at you, Mastodon. Plus, she digs into the trend of “atomizing” social media into niche communities, each with its own set of rules and community standards.

WTF is happening with Twitter? Eh-hem, X?

In the heyday of Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition — that is to say, a few months ago — news about Elon’s questionable choices littered the news cycle. Now, Twitter has evolved into X (long live Twitter), and many B2B social media managers are scratching their heads as they assess how to handle the bird platform.

Karri’s advice? In an age of social media turmoil, it’s wise to step back and see where the chips fall before making rash decisions. 

“When it was clear that the ownership [of Twitter] was going to change hands, [we had to ask ourselves], ‘What do we do? How do we advise clients? What is going to be the approach?'” said Karri. “For us, we decided early on to take a ‘wait and see’ approach… so, when there’s a new change announced, let’s see if it’s an announcement of a change or an actual change. And when the actual change hits, let’s give that a minute and see if it bakes in.”

For example, Karri has dubbed September 2023 the month that LeadTail internal materials will transition to referring to the bird app as X, approximately two months after the change officially occurred. 

Up-and-coming B2B platforms (and some late bloomers)

Many newcomers have entered the social media game in response to X’s volatility. Karri provided the 4-1-1 on these platforms, advising marketers on how to handle each.

  • Threads — “Threads is essentially a Twitter clone that Instagram launched. And so essentially short text messages, threaded messages, per the name,” said Karri. She’s currently drafting plans with clients to leverage Threads effectively, but the platform’s popularity has already waned since its launch. It received 30 million downloads in the first 24 hours
  • Mastodon — This platform is niche, according to Karri, and may herald a new era in social media wherein online communities become smaller and more focused. More on that to come later in this article.

Some other social media platforms to watch in the B2B space include:

  • LinkedIn — You know it; you unironically love it. But did you know LinkedIn is officially cool? Karri suggests taking advantage of the platform’s newsletter publishing capabilities to build an audience.
  • TikTok — “I think we’ve only just crossed the threshold from, ‘TikTok is for kids and irrelevant to B2B’ to, ‘Um, hey, I think there might be something here,'” said Karri. Many B2B marketers are waiting for more data or resources to build a presence on the video platform, but it shouldn’t be counted out entirely.

So… is social media dying?

All of this hubbub about emerging — and dying — social media may have some marketers questioning the longevity of their social-based strategy. But Karri said we shouldn’t worry about the death of social media. However, we should be on the lookout for its rebirth.

“Things are going to atomize and go into lots and lots and lots of smaller communities, lots of more niche communities, smaller groups of people who can be governed more effectively by one set of community standards,” said Karri. “It’s unsurprising that you cannot create a town square for the whole world and have everybody agree to the same rules.”

Listen to episode 355 of SaaS Half Full to hear more of Karri’s insights.

Bot Rising: AI’s Volume, Velocity & Variety with Pete Housely and Amanda (Elam) Cole

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By now, we get it: AI is here to stay and makes marketing more efficient. But what fears do marketers have around AI, and how do you responsibly feed the board’s appetite for it? And to what level do marketing leaders need to understand the technology?

In this episode, we’re joined by Pete Housley, CMO at Unbounce, and Amanda (Elam) Cole, CMO at Bloomreach, to dig into these questions. Listen in for a deeper understanding of the technology’s seemingly unlimited opportunities and potential pitfalls.

AI will expedite your three Vs — if used correctly

According to Pete, marketers should stay logged in and active on their large language model (LLM) of choice throughout the workday. Otherwise, they’re probably falling behind. That’s because engines like ChatGPT and Bard can expedite workflows across three crucial productivity areas, which Pete called the “three Vs:” volume, variety and velocity.

  • Volume: LLMs help marketers “do more with less” (I know — we’re all tired of hearing it, but it’s true!).
  • Variety: We all get stuck sometimes, especially when we’ve spent too long staring at a project brief. LLMs save your eyes by providing variance in thought and presenting unique options or avenues to approach your work.
  • Velocity: LLMs get the ball rolling and place marketers in the fast lane, allowing them to accomplish immense amounts of work in non-immense quantities of time. Pete mentioned that a marketing team member at Unbounce recently wrote a sprawling 6,000-word blog post in just 1.5 days, thanks to ChatGPT’s brainstorming.

But marketers can only benefit from generative AI if they use it (duh). Pete and Amanda agreed: The biggest mistake is shirking AI just to adhere to your status quo.

“The people who really embrace [LLMs and AI]… are going to be the future,” said Amanda. “My content team has said, ‘It gives me a really good starting point, so I don’t have to spend so much time in the initial thinking. I can get something to start with, and then I can edit it from there.'”

But what if AI takes my job?

McKinsey predicts that generative AI and automation will be able to handle tasks accounting for nearly 30% of hours worked in the U.S. by 2030. However, marketers shouldn’t clutch their pearls just yet; more likely than not, these developments will inspire occupational shifts, not outright job loss en masse.

 “The question is: Are robots coming for our jobs? I’d like to think not, but certainly, marketers using AI will come for the jobs of marketers who are not using AI,” said Pete.

Amanda concurred with Pete’s sentiment: “We’ve seen social media, digital marketing, Google ads, Google search — all of these things have been developed in my marketing career. And if you don’t understand them structurally and think about how to use them in your day job, you won’t have one.”

Marketing leaders should prioritize understanding the use cases for leading AI tools and assess where these functions could improve their workflow. Otherwise, they risk their position — and their entire organization’s success.

Luckily, AI sells itself.

Executives are often difficult to convince. But, according to Amanda, that doesn’t ring true for AI, which executives have a vast appetite for — sometimes even too vast. Instead of convincing stakeholders to adopt AI, it may be helpful to persuade them to adopt AI effectively. It’s a small but important difference.

“There is a tremendous amount of pressure, particularly from investors, to leverage AI because they see the efficiency metrics, they [think] ‘I can get more out of the current team,'” said Amanda. “I think there are two issues. One is focusing only on the scale of the current team and decoupling it from revenue growth. And two is coming up with an AI strategy independent of an overall business strategy.”

For more of Pete and Amanda’s insights, listen to episode 354 of SaaS Half Full.

CMOs speak: CEOs are undervaluing brand

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What do CMOs wish more CEOs understood about marketing?

It’s the big question we ask our guests at the end of each episode, and during the first half of 2023, many answers came back to one core topic: CEOs don’t value brands enough. In this episode, we’re bringing you a compilation of our guests’ answers and biggest shared wish — namely, that more CEOs understand not everything in marketing can be measured.

Ali Fazal, VP of Marketing at Grin

In his episode, Ali unpacked the importance of the creator economy and discussed how brands — yes, even B2B brands — can take advantage of influencer marketing. He described what he calls “the secret sauce” of marketing, which explains how some brands tap into their ideal customer profile (ICP) through brand awareness instead of charts, facts and figures:

“Not all marketing yields leads [or] direct attribution pipeline,” said Ali. “Companies spend so much time, money and manpower on consultants and fancy agencies and analysts to come in and advise them on how to get that next level of growth when they hit a stall. And I promise you the stall is almost always because you’re not letting your head of marketing invest in channels that can’t be proven.”

Palmer Houchins, Head of Marketing at G2

We all know there’s no silver bullet to demonstrable success in marketing. Palmer discusses the challenge of quantifying the intangible, AKA brand, in his episode of SaaS Half Full. According to Palmer, the trick to good marketing is balance, balance, balance.

“It’s about harmony. It’s about creating all of these pieces — whether it’s brand, demand, customer marketing, content marketing — all these pieces have to come together,” said Palmer. “And it can be very specific and very individual to your business, but you’ve gotta figure out what that harmony is.”

Allyson Havener, VP of Marketing at TrustRadius

Allyson cautioned leaders against short-term strategies prioritizing the bottom line at the expense of long-term demand-generating initiatives. She also said providing B2B buyers with the sales experiences they crave is essential. (Spoiler alert: overwhelmingly, these experiences resemble those of B2C commerce.)

“I wish [CEOs] understood more of the demand creation piece and the brand piece. I think they understand numbers, so when something doesn’t have a number that ties to the bottom line, it usually gets cut,” said Allyson. “I wish CEOs understood the value of this kind of demand creation and brand and how powerful that can be when thinking about your long-term strategy.”

Tara Pawlak, VP of Demand Generation at Revenue Grid

Perhaps you’ve heard of marketing, the holy grail of sales-marketing alignment. Tara takes marketing one step further, suggesting marketing should be a mission-wide initiative. Furthermore, she said CEOs should be willing to take more chances — after all, the most significant leaps have the best payoff.

“Our CEO is invested in brand and marketing, and I think that can be rare,” said Tara. “I think more CEOs should do that — whether it’s a project or just one [good] idea. They need to be on the ground, in the details, in the weeds.”

“I’ll never forget, we had this great campaign once, and it took our team four and a half months. And there were so many facets of it, and it was so successful, and the response [from leadership] was: ‘Let’s do this again next month,'” said Tara. “I just felt so defeated. I was like, ‘Wow, I did not do a good job of explaining how we got here and got to this many leads and deals,’ because you can’t do that every month.”

Sarah Reynolds, CMO, HiBob

In their episode, Sarah discussed the importance of genuine inclusivity in your marketing initiatives and company mission. Additionally, they described the elusive nature of successful marketing fantastically: “It’s just vibes.”

“At least 50% — if not more — of marketing is vibes,” said Sarah. “You’re going to get the right answer when you have to tackle marketing challenges that are the art side of marketing versus just the data side. I love making a data-driven decision as much as anyone… But there are so many times when you need to either make data-driven decisions in concert with vibes, or you need to make a gut choice and go with it and commit and see what happens and learn from that experience.”

Listen to Episode 353 of SaaS Half Full for more of our guest’s insights.

Crushing It in the B2B Creator Economy, with Ali Fazal

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Our circle of influence has fundamentally changed. Whereas we used to follow brands, we now follow people. And while B2C companies were quick to invest in online influencers, B2B marketers took a little longer — but now, they’re finally vibin’ with the creator economy. 

In this episode, Ali Fazal, VP of Marketing at GRIN, explores the most impactful channels through which to reach consumers, gives advice on the possible value exchanges between B2B brands and creators, and digs into how B2B brands should think about influencer marketing (spoiler alert: it has very little to do with follower count).

Step aside, Kardashians — influencer culture is expanding

Traditionally, influencers were celebrities made famous through reality TV or other high-profile activities. However, Ali said this is no longer the case for most online creators.

“Everybody from your neighbor whose opinion you really trust ’cause they live in the same place as you and they have a similar lifestyle to you — all the way to, you know, the celebrity you’ve been following [for years],” said Ali. “All of these people classify as creators.”

Ali cited journalists, PR professionals, podcast hosts and athletes as key influencers in their respective professions. But in the age of widespread social media, less traditionally qualified individuals have also jumped into the influencer game to share their opinions on lifestyle choices and products. These creators may have fewer than 1,000 followers, but they can still significantly impact those individuals’ buying behaviors — and therein lies the opportunity for B2B marketers.

“As kumbaya as [it] sounds, there is a place for all different creator types and sizes on different networks,” said Ali.

But which of these networks are profitable for B2B influencing?

Where should your brand live?

The perhaps unexpected answer, according to Ali? Everywhere. A good mix of content across several channels is the most reliable way to meet your audience wherever they live, work and play. For example, while LinkedIn is a powerful channel to draw in B2B buyers, TikTok is a fantastic channel for catching B2B buyers during their downtime.

Part of the reason B2B marketing is expanding, according to Ali, is the shifting culture of work brought about by the pandemic.

“This is yet another way consumer behavior has shifted in that the lines between work and leisure are so blurred, right? Especially for those of us who work from home or work hybrid,” said Ali.

Finding the right champions

Ali mentioned most SaaS products — scratch that, most brands, period — have a mission or goal to change their industry’s landscape. For example, Salesforce aims to create meaningful connections between companies and their customers, and BLASTmedia is working to redefine SaaS marketing by bringing industry-leading expertise to our account teams. 😉

B2B marketers can use their organization’s mission or value statement to their advantage by seeking like-minded creators who can vouch for their product. Ali connected this method of influencer marketing with another, more steadfast B2B marketing strategy: customer stories.

“What really sets vendors apart is social proof,” said Ali. “Of course, my marketing team at GRIN is going to put all the amazing stuff on our website, all of the G2 badges [and other accolades] we’ve received… But really, who you’re going to believe if you’re thinking of buying influencer marketing software is someone who has used GRIN, is trying to accomplish something similar to you, is in your community and has credibility… Authenticity is at the root of influencer marketing.”

For more of Ali’s insights, listen to episode 351 of SaaS Half Full.

The Elusiveness of Inclusive Marketing, with Sarah Reynolds

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While most SaaS marketers agree on the importance of inclusive marketing, achieving inclusivity is still a work in progress.

In this episode, Sarah Reynolds, CMO of HiBob, chats with Lindsey about the importance of establishing an authentic culture of inclusivity. Sarah also details common oversights and dives into the beautiful fabric that makes today’s diverse customer base — oh, yeah, and something about a little brand called Bud Light.

Make your inclusive marketing actionable and authentic

At the top of the episode, Lindsey asked Sarah how marketers can start creating truly inclusive marketing campaigns today. Their answer? Don’t guess your organization’s culture — speak with HR professionals and employees to determine which causes you should prioritize.

Sarah suggested marketers ask themselves: What employee resource groups (ERGs) does my organization currently have? Can I create a campaign that honors those diversity and inclusivity values?

“You wanna make sure that you’re understanding the baseline for your organization,” said Sarah. “It’s really important that you start to build not just a marketing engine, but a conversation that’s gonna feel authentic to the people who actually work in your company day in and day out.”

Additionally, Sarah said marketers should never capitalize on a social movement that doesn’t reflect their organization’s values. Sure, marketing is often built around timeliness — and it might be tempting to generate content for Black History Month, Pride Month or AAPI Awareness Month — but organizations shouldn’t weigh in with platitudes or empty gestures. For example, if you post a black square to support the Black Lives Matter movement, ensure your year-round content reflects that commitment to racial justice.

For an incredibly recent example of un-inclusive marketing, look no further than Bud Light’s trans pride campaign. Bud Light executives mishandled the campaign’s backlash, Sarah said, and essentially exposed themselves as inauthentic supporters of the trans community.

“[Bud Light] attempted to garner all of the good press. They tried to do the inclusive advertising thing, [but] without a culture of inclusivity, without the accountability,” said Sarah.

Re-examine your brand materials

Once you determine which causes best reflect your organization’s values, ensuring your content is entirely inclusive is important. For example, if you disseminate marketing materials and messages supporting the disabled community, have you provided alt text for your images? Have you eliminated ableist language from your vocabulary, like “crazy” or “mental”?

“There are lots of different opportunities… for you to be more thoughtful and more mindful about the language and imagery that you’re choosing to use and the way that you’re coding your websites,” said Sarah.

Making these changes will signal that you’re not just talking the talk but walking the walk.

Resources to drive inclusivity

Discussing how marketing can be more inclusive and less exploitative for marginalized communities is essential. But actions speak louder than words. Accordingly, we’re sharing several resources Sarah mentioned during today’s episode in the hopes marketers can use them to build a more authentic, inclusive strategy in their organization.

  • An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Startups and Tech — A guide on inclusive workplace language designed for the Tech industry.
  • Katrina Kibben — Katrina is an HR expert passionate about eliminating bias from job searching. They share many helpful resources for HR leaders looking to hire talent in a better, more inclusive way.
  • Textio blog — Did you know ChatGPT-generated job postings herald gender, race and age bias? Textio’s blog examines these and other AI inclusivity topics. 
  • Accessibility Awareness bot — This account provides daily reminders about important web accessibility features, intending to create a more accessible digital future for all.

Listen to Episode 350 of SaaS Half Full for more of Sarah’s insights.

The Growing Bench of CMO Free Agents, with Nirosha Methananda

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We’re gonna need a bigger bench. The list of available SaaS CMOs is growing, with many finding themselves free agents for the first time — involuntarily. In this episode, Lindsey connects with Nirosha Methananda, a senior marketing leader on the bench, about what she’s learned during her transition period.

From digging into learning and community to investing in an executive coach (bye-bye ego!) and her personal brand, Nirosha is far from wallowing in her circumstances. She rounds out the episode by providing her take on the future of full-time work and where she sees the CMO market heading.

Invest in your brand

When your organization’s daily task list bogs you down, it’s easy to lose sight of critical self-improvement goals. Nirosha encourages marketers on the bench to consider learning initiatives like self-guided courses during their time between roles.

And once you’ve locked in on personal growth goals, consider advertising your insights to the industry. After all, marketers know that brand is crucial — so why shirk personal brand?

“You don’t have to be at [the CMO level] to start. I see a lot of up-and-coming marketers really having a voice, leaning in, sharing and advocating for themselves,” said Nirosha. “I really love seeing that, and I think a lot more people would benefit from being able to do that.”

Leave your ego at the door

After leaving a company — especially involuntarily — it’s easy to fall into the trap of assessing what could’ve been. While self-reflection is a valuable pastime, Nirosha suggests that marketers on the bench avoid attributing a layoff to their professional abilities.

“Stop and recognize it’s your ego [being hurt] as well… That’s the key to being able to bounce back,” said Nirosha. “Are you feeling [hurt] because of some rational thing? Or is it because it’s something in [your head] that you are creating for yourself? You know, ‘I’m not worth this,’ or ‘They think this about me,’ or whatever it is.”

We all know layoffs are a difficult part of organizational restructuring. Impacted individuals are no less capable than their colleagues. Accepting this fact and moving forward with your experience is the best way to make the most of a difficult situation, according to Nirosha.

Additionally, consider speaking with an executive coach during your transition period. Coaches provide potent insights into how to lead during tough times — and they may help check your ego, too.

Prepare to go with the flow

If the current Tech landscape has taught marketers anything, it’s that nothing is forever. Over the past year, the value of cryptocurrency has crashed, generative AI valuations have skyrocketed and top marketing leaders have been slapped with the dreaded 15-minute meeting.

“You have so many people who have been in roles for… 15, 20 years… and then they’re gone,” said Nirosha.

For many, layoffs have included poor severance packages and minimal departure offerings. “All these companies purport [that] people are [their greatest] asset and so on and so forth. But when you treat people like that, it’s clear they’re not your asset #1,” said Nirosha.

In response to layoffs, many marketing leaders have opted for consulting work. These part-time opportunities allow marketers to devote excess time to their passion projects or other advisory roles without becoming tied to any company’s overall mission.

Although Nirosha doesn’t foresee this trend continuing indefinitely, she does expect volatile markets to necessitate part-time roles, at least until the economy settles. In the interim, it’s wise for former CMOs to strap in and ride the wave.

For more of Nirosha’s insights, listen to Episode 349 of SaaS Half Full.