Challenging the Definition of CMO, with Sydney Sloan

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In this episode, Sydney discusses elevating your role as a CMO, the best strategy for board presentations and advice for aspiring chief market officers. Join us and learn how to get out of the weeds as a marketing leader and start owning your role as a strategic lead. 

Defining the CMO role (no, not that CMO)

Maybe you had to reread the first sentence of this blog. No, we didn’t publish a typo. Sydney is a chief market officer, not a chief marketing officer. And the difference is significant.

Whereas chief marketing officers focus on marketing activations and campaigns, chief market officers take a broader approach to go-to-market strategy, according to Sydney.

“When I joined [Drata], one of the first things that I did was a market segmentation analysis. I led a highly collaborative half-day working session on identifying our approaches,” said Sydney. “We went from 12 good ideas to three focused execution areas. And it’s not that the 12 ideas were wrong — it’s just, and I say this a lot, sorry, but 12 at once is what the problem was.”

TLDR: Regardless of your ARR, portfolio size or product, 12 markets are always too much. Sydney suggested honing your focus on a few specific markets and executing them flawlessly. Only then can you claim the title of chief market officer.

Allocate resources smarter, not harder

So, you’ve narrowed your product’s fit to three ideal markets. That’s great news! The only problem is you’re executing GTM strategies across five additional verticals — at the behest of your CEO.

It can be challenging to advocate for fewer targets when the board expects your team to generate revenue and pipeline. Less is more, but that narrative doesn’t always sell.

Sydney recommended thinking about market activations in terms of ROI. “If you’re asked to execute against six strategies, how efficient can you be? Can you be more efficient if you’re executing against two?” said Sydney. “[I’ve said] a couple of times, ‘Okay, we have five strategies because we couldn’t get to three, but marketing is going to invest 80% of our effort against the top two strategies.’”

By allocating resources smarter, not harder, CMOs can work to capture a greater market share of their most lucrative target verticals.

Sydney also suggested being extremely proactive about communicating ROI timelines to the board. By prioritizing cold, hard metrics, CMOs can assuage board concerns about budget cuts and tightened purse strings.

So, you want to be a CMO?

Sydney provided great advice for young marketers eyeing the CMO title. Her suggestions include:

  1. Prioritize continuous learning. Take CMO courses and get certified in relevant topics. There are plenty of options for continuous learning, including LinkedIn courses.
  2. Follow and learn about companies of interest. Cold applications are great, but informed relationships are better. Sydney suggested that young marketers start following a few companies of interest — get to know their product and structure, then keep an eye out for relevant job openings.
  3. Consider hiring an executive coach. Soft skills are all the rage, and executive coaches are a great way to hone your innate speaking abilities. 

Listen to episode 371 of SaaS Half Full for more of Sydney’s insights.