The Growing Bench of CMO Free Agents, with Nirosha Methananda


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.

Back to Basics: Escaping Today’s Marketing Inferno, with Bhaskar Roy, Workato


For many marketers, 2021 and early 2022 was heaven: Big budgets, sky-high valuations and VC dollars pouring in. Today? “Do more with less” has become the most-hated phrase among SaaS marketers.

Bhaskar Roy, Head of Marketing at Workato, urges marketers to get back to the basics to climb out of the abyss. From obsessing over org-wide customer success efforts to creating “frame-breaking” content that goes against the grain, Bhaskar shares what he believes can significantly impact marketing efforts in today’s challenging economy.

It’s time to re-center the customer experience

Bhaskar said the customer experience (CX) should be a metric of prime importance to marketers. True, CX is usually a priority — but during the heyday of ‘21 and early ‘22, many B2B marketers placed unsustainable growth above tried-and-true markers of ROI. It’s time to flip that paradigm and re-focus on the customer.

But how? At Workato, Bhaskar looks at CX holistically: from the very first touchpoint to two, five or even ten years down the road, at which time a client is (hopefully) growing and expanding their adoption. He does this by asking a series of questions:

“Are we providing delight and value to [the customer]? If they come to our website, do they get what they’re looking for? And once they go down the path of becoming a buyer, are the sales development representatives (SDRs) aligned?”

If the answer to these questions is “no,” marketers have room to improve the buyer experience. Once a buyer becomes a customer, it’s time to ask the following:

“How quickly are [customers] adopting the product? How much are they adopting the product? Are they getting the ROI from the product that they need?”

To answer these questions, Bhaskar looks at several metrics — including a few that every B2B SaaS marketer is familiar with.

How can marketers define CX’s success?

Surprise, surprise: Bhaskar relies on customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) and net promoter scores (NPS) to gauge CX. But he also suggests reviewing less traditional success metrics like usage growth and tech championship.

Unlike user growth, usage growth doesn’t track an uptick in customers but rather an uptick in adoption across a single organization. For example, does the engineering department follow suit after the sales department adopts Workato? What about communications and HR?

Finally, Bhaskar looks at which of his customers are champions, as evidenced by their willingness to participate in events, talk to media or act as references.

“[These actions are] a huge signal that, oh my gosh, they’re willing to invest their own time to [promote a product], which is phenomenal,” said Bhaskar. “[Loyalty to this extent] is something you cultivate and manage throughout the organization.”

Break the mold with compelling thought leadership

Boring content is a significant roadblock to B2B marketing success. It’s time-consuming to generate, and most customers won’t blink twice while reading it (if they read it at all). Frame-breaking content, on the other hand, is exciting and attention-grabbing.

“[Frame-breaking content provides an] almost 180-degree spin from what others are saying… but [the thought leader] ties it in in a way whereby [the reader] thinks, ‘yes, that is how it should be,’” said Bhaskar. “So, one, it obviously breaks away from the noise because it’s providing a very different point of view. But they hook you with a [take that is] almost like an opposite of… the norm.”

The result? The reader has an interesting takeaway and a call to action. And as any B2B SaaS marketer knows, CTAs are critical.

Listen to Episode 348 of SaaS Half Full for more of Bhaskar’s insights.

Quit Pointing Fingers: It’s About Brand and Demand Balance, with Palmer Houchins, G2


“Do more with less” is this year’s most-hated phrase for marketers. This thought process often directly impacts budgets responsible for a company’s reputation. On this episode of SaaS Half Full, Host Lindsey Groepper talks with Palmer Houchins, Head of Marketing at G2, about the lopsided finger-pointing that often happens between demand and brand teams, especially in a recession when short-term ROI is king.

Grab a drink and join the discussion as Palmer dives into what CMOs often get wrong about their brand spend, how to intertwine brand and demand to create balance, and why a founder brand works for some organizations, maybe not others.

Strike the right brand-demand balance

As humans, we want to categorize things. Maybe that explains why brand and demand colleagues — who, by the way, are working toward the same organizational goals — often find themselves at odds, according to Palmer.

In reality, demand cannot exist without brand, and vice versa. For example, say an organization identifies that paid search is performing well. In response, they increase their demand budget at the expense of brand. Their pipeline triples by the second month. But by the fourth month, their pipeline peters out entirely, and they’ve lost brand recognition and momentum — AKA, they’re back to the drawing board for both brand and demand.

Palmer said he’s been in a situation like this more than once, and it’s convinced him that balance is beautiful.

“It’s not about brand or demand. It’s about creating that symmetry. And it looks different for every company,” said Palmer. “I think if you approach it from [the perspective], ‘oh, well, demand is where our pipeline’s down,’ or ‘we’ve gotta get more leads to our sales team, [so] we’re just gonna invest there…’ That may be a short-term strategy, but long term, it’s going to put everyone behind the eight ball.”

But how do we measure brand?

The age-old question is receiving more mileage recently as executives turn to metrics to understand their organizational spending. Unfortunately, brand is trickier to quantify than some other business functions — however, it’s not impossible if you get creative.

Palmer has developed two methods to track brand initiatives and brand-marketing balance.

  • Nimble surveys or awareness testing: Palmer suggests using relatively inexpensive testing methods to track brand awareness over time. Theoretically, awareness should constantly be increasing.
  • Brand perception studies: Quick questionnaires placed in channels your audience already uses — like Google, Youtube or Facebook — can help gauge how your brand is performing relative to a competitor’s.

Although they’re “no silver bullet,” Palmer said these initiatives have helped him and his team create an action plan when brand awareness lags behind demand.

“It’s less about finding that one framework that’s gonna work everywhere and more about being… nimble and taking a temperature in a bunch of different places and trying to add that up to a recipe that works,” said Palmer.

Founder brand doesn’t  — and shouldn’t — always look the same

Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to measuring brand, there’s no “correct” path for establishing a founder brand. For some founders, it works; for others, it doesn’t. Palmer advised marketing professionals to follow their founder’s lead here.

“I’ve seen some founders who just say, ‘you know what, this is not me. I’m more of a technical founder. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person. I don’t want to do that,’” said Palmer. “But I think when it’s done right, it can be really effective. Frankly, I think when it’s done right, it’s less about the founder and more about the brand, if that makes sense.”

As an example, Palmer discussed his time in Marketing at MailChimp. MailChimp co-founder and then-CEO Ben Chestnut didn’t love public speaking, but he was a fantastic writer. So, he provided near-daily customer updates that became “evangelism of its own.”

Listen to Episode 346 of SaaS Half Full for more of Palmer’s insights.

The Great Divide Between Corp Comms & Marketing, with Grace Williams, BLASTmedia


Gone are the days of internal-only communications. Every internal message is now at the risk of being shared externally, creating more pressure for communications professionals to skillfully craft statements surrounding economic, societal or company impact events (RIFs, outages, data breaches, etc.). As a result, Corporate Communications roles have never been more in demand or vital to a company’s long-term reputation.

So, why does this function still report to marketing, a department typically focused on short-term ROI? In this episode, Grace Williams, SVP of PR at BLASTmedia, makes a case for why Chief Communications Officers and other high-level corporate comms leaders should report directly to the CEO.

Marketing and comms deserve an amicable breakup

As the SVP of BLASTmedia, Grace has plenty of experience working with marketers who report to the CEO. She’s noticed a few concerning patterns with this structure.

“[Marketers squeezed by CEOs] are saying, ‘Why [comms and PR support]? What’s this going to do for me? How’s it going to drive demand?'” said Grace. “I spend a lot of time helping to educate our clients on why certain media opportunities are worthwhile and… what they will accomplish eventually.”

The fact is, communications and PR fulfill a distinctly different role from marketing — so much so that many CMOs wish they could lose their comms responsibilities.

“It’s more difficult for those CMOs because they’re constantly having to fight for the brand budget, justify their brand budget,” said Grace. “Often we’re in a situation where, even if we’re working with an SVP of marketing or CMO who believes in brand, they’re having to communicate that up the chain to maybe a CEO or founder who does not.”

“Doing more with less”

Does that heading ring a bell? If you’re a marketer, the answer is almost certainly “yes.” Over the past three years, many marketing leaders have been forced to transition from a growth-at-all-costs mindset to a demand gen and ROI-oriented approach that prioritizes results, results, results (all with fewer resources, resources, resources).

Accordingly, Grace said strategic and long-term initiatives like communications often go ignored, especially if these roles are in the marketing department.

“[In the] heyday of 2020, 2021, there was a lot of time and resources to invest into different parts of the business. And now [marketing leaders are] like, ‘okay, let’s make sure that we have our pipeline stable and we’re growing at a steady rate,” said Grace. “It’s a little bit like, ‘let’s not deal with that comms stuff over there that’s not gonna give us the results we wanna see right away.'”

According to Grace, the problem with sidelining corporate communications strategy is that it’s an excellent way to lose sight of vital long-term initiatives like crisis communications and brand perception.

The solution? Give communications leaders a little more autonomy.

CCOs wear plenty of hats

Contrary to popular belief, according to Grace, CCOs and their corresponding team can easily support all functions of the business, much like the marketing, sales and finance departments.

For example, a communications team could work with HR to craft an internal note celebrating the company’s recent wins; they could partner with marketing to highlight customer stories and draft newsletters; and they could work closely with the CEO to provide them with talking points for conferences, internal gatherings and even analyst meetings.

“The external communications piece and the executive communications piece are certainly growing in importance to an organization. People — whether that be your investors, your partners, and specifically your employees — want to hear from the leaders of your organization.

And those leaders certainly need help in making sure their messages are on point,” said Grace.
Listen to Episode 345 of SaaS Half Full for more of Grace’s insights.

Why Hidden Pricing is Enemy #1, with Allyson Havener, TrustRadius


Despite data supporting the case for creating a more self-serve buying process, many SaaS revenue teams still operate in a way that is legit the opposite of what today’s buyer wants. New report data from more than 2,000 B2B tech buyers reveals what self-serve looks like in practice — and it’s transparent pricing, free demos and no freakin’ cold calls.  

Listen as Lindsey speaks with Allyson Havener, VP of Marketing at TrustRadius, about the report’s results and how it’s changing the course for SaaS go-to-market teams.

B2B buyers want the royal treatment (AKA, a B2C experience)

TrustRadius’ 2022 B2B buying trends report has an intriguing title: “The Age of the Self-Serve Buyer.” The report suggests B2B buyers crave consumer experiences, even when shopping for organizational expenditures like software.

In other words, according to Allyson and TrustRadius data, buyers want B2B brands to court them in a different (albeit familiar) way. They want to feel like they’re sitting at home in their pajamas and impulse-buying a Stanley cup. But why is that, exactly?

“More and more millennials and Gen Z are joining the buying committee. They’re coming into places of leadership, and they’re digital natives,” said Allyson. “In B2C [interactions], you have all this product information and customer feedback at your fingertips. You don’t have to interact with people to interact with a brand. And so that’s transcending into B2B.”

In fact, Allyson said 100% of respondents indicated that they prefer self-service B2B buying platforms (up from 80% last year). And that’s not the only wild stat Allyson and Lindsey discussed…

Hidden fees are out, transparency is in

In other instances, it may be wise for marketers to act as not-so-mysterious shoppers themselves. After all, to sell like a B2B pro, marketers must first buy like a B2B pro. And when marketers put themselves in the buyer’s seat, they’re more likely to keep pace with rapidly changing consumer standards.

“We can pretend, and we can research, but you have to feel the pain, and you have to feel what it’s like to have a deadline and jump through the hoops to get these demos and make a business case internally,” said Gracey. “You need real skin in the game to feel what your buyers are feeling.”

Allyson’s trick to getting organizational buy-in for direct, pricing-first structures? Discuss the approach’s benefits with your entire go-to-market team, including sales and customer success.

“It’s not fun to be sold to”

TrustRadius’ report detailed the top five resources buyers rely on through the sales funnel — and for the first time in seven years, vendor sales representatives weren’t one of them. Allyson said this is a significant trend away from traditional sales tactics like the dreaded cold call.

“As a marketer, everybody’s dodging calls and emails all day. So… if you think about the sales role in that perspective, and you think about your end customer… and what they really want, well, they want someone that really understands their problem and their use case,” said Allyson. “So, I think it’s much more of this consultative [relationship] versus trying to shove a product down someone’s throat, right?”

Listen to Episode 344 of SaaS Half Full for more of Allyson’s insights.

What Does Agile Marketing Mean for PR?

The term “agile” likely isn’t new to you, especially if you work at a tech company that relies on agile software development. Agile marketing is, as a HuffPost article defines it, “a measure of the speed at which marketing gets done and a philosophy about ‘how’ marketing gets done.” (For a much more complicated but colorful definition of agile methodology, this clip from HBO’s Silicon Valley, a BLASTmedia favorite, is worth a watch.) Continue reading “What Does Agile Marketing Mean for PR?”

3 Marketing Technology Trends to Watch for In 2018

One of the hallmarks of a successful thought leader is the ability to use his or her base of knowledge to formulate commentary around events and trends that are still in progress or haven’t fully come to fruition. This skillset can be what turns your CEO or CMO from a company spokesperson who can speak to your company’s impact on the industry, to a thought leader who can speak to the industry at large and is looked to as an expert source by journalists. Continue reading “3 Marketing Technology Trends to Watch for In 2018”