Charting New Waters: Redefining Leadership in Modern Marketing

Show Notes

Join hosts Kelly Sarabyn & Asher Matthew on the Unlearn Podcast as they delve into a lively chat with Go-to-Market expert Amanda Malko. Discover Amanda's journey to guilt-free time off and her ingenious use of the regret minimization framework. Unearth the evolution of marketing in the digital age, and how Amanda envisions a strategic upheaval, with CEOs steering the ship. Tune in for insights on the modern CMO's power, crafting stellar customer experiences, and unraveling the mysteries of word-of-mouth magic.

Key takeways

00:00 - Introduction
04:11 - What's top of mind for you right now?
06:12 - Taking a career break
11:44 - Arriving at a decision to take time off
16:10 - The Regret Minimization Framework
19:43 - Providing a safe space for conversations
22:45 - Platform for success
24:46 - Transformation in the way people buy leading to a change in marketing roles
29:59 - Structuring the relationship between Marketing and Product with PLG
32:43 - Orchestrator of revenue
37:30 - Adjusting the structure of the business to evolve with the changing buyer journey
39:08 - Changing role of the CMO in today's business environment.
46:53 - What does the future CMO look like?
49:51 - Buyer's journey happening on communities and professional networks

"For a C-level person to just have revenue responsibility is actually limiting; they need to be able to operate"


Asher Mathew


Hey, everybody! We're back for another episode of the Unlearn Podcast. And, I'm supposed to start this conversation by explaining or sharing where I live. So, I live in San Jose, in the middle of Silicon Valley. We used to live in LA, and then I was traveling up here every two weeks for a week.

And my wife's like, Why don't we just switch? Like, why don't we move there and then we'll see what happens? And then we moved here in two weeks, to this place called Longview Drive, on the corner of Daly City. It's also the place that gets the most fog, so we go from 72-degree weather to 57-degree weather, and I'm almost getting divorced.

And so, they were like, What are we doing from here? They were like, Well, what are the other warm places around us? And so, that's how we landed in San Jose.

Did you get out of there?

Asher Mathew


Get out of the fog; you know, we did the thick walk. You can't even see things, you know, like, but one cool thing that we did experience there was off the coast; there's a lot of whales that come in. And so, every Saturday or Sunday morning when you wake up early at some point in the year, you could see whales just playing around and stuff like that. It was pretty clear; it was a very cool sight to see.

Amanda Malko


That is very cool. I would like to see whales on Saturday.

Kelly Sarabyn


Who wouldn’t like to see whales on their Saturday morning?

Amanda Malko


Here in Atlanta, which is Spoiled in the Bay Area

Asher Mathew


You know, it's like it's a world of its own. So, anyways, Amanda, welcome to the show. Tell folks a little bit about who you are, and then let's dive.

Amanda Malko


Sure, yeah, my name is Amanda Malco. I am a Go-to-Market Executive and have been in B2B marketing and operations for most of my current 20-year career. So, I've always been in tech, always been sort of at the intersection of marketing and tech. We were just discussing our journeys. I've lived in New York, L.A., and am now based here out of Atlanta.

I've worked for several companies you might know; most recently G2, where I was CMO, and now I'm an active, pretty active advisor there. Before that, I was at MailChimp, leading their partner ecosystem on the service partner side.

Asher Mathew


Do you know Joni Deus?

Amanda Malko


I do know Joni; she's the one who introduced us, which I know was months ago.

Kelly Sarabyn


But I know.

Amanda Malko


So I was already familiar with you all through Joni and some of the work that I know she's done with you all. And then, some of my team members at G2 yeah.

Asher Mathew


Whole team. Yeah, we were just out; we were just at the G2 offices on the same day that Tyler Prince announced he was moving to Snowflake. It was like a very big coincidence, and we were having a little meet-up, and then Godard showed up and, and, and we kind of invited him. 

So he was like, and then he was like, 'You know, I have a surprise for you guys.' I'm like, 'OK, well, I guess we'll find out what happens.'

And he walks in and then, of course, I'm like, Wait a sec, as Tyler said, this is interesting. And then, right as we're setting up, I open up LinkedIn and I'm like, shit, Tyler just announced he moved to Snowflake, and shit, he's here. This is gonna be very interesting. So we had to explain to us how his journey from Salesforce to Snowflake went. So, super big fan of G2.

Amanda Malko


Love to hear that. I'm a fan and biased, but I was a customer before coming over to the company, which is like, you know, the best market research you can do. 

Asher Mathew


Yep, all right. So, we always start these podcasts with, like, What's top of mind? right? Because we don't have an agenda, typical of (or) atypical of other podcasts. And we also love to have fun on these things because this is like our Friday fun activity, and, and maybe, I don't know, I don't know what that says about...

Kelly Sarabyn


So watch out; you might get some bad jokes over the next half hour.

Asher Mathew


Tell us what's top of mind for you.

Amanda Malko


Well, I thought about this in advance, but it didn't take me long. I mean, it's somewhat self-selecting in that, you know, when I took a step back from my full-time roles. and, you know, a lot of people say they take time off with their family, and for me, that's like 100% true—not lip service.

I had been going hard for a long time, and I wanted to take some time. I have a young son, but I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on what I want to do next. So, I promise this is not about me, but about the...

Asher Mathew


Role: a really good topic. Let's unpack that.

Amanda Malko


But about the role, I've been thinking a lot about go-to-market and the role, role of marketing, and marketing roles. And, you know, I'm having exploratory conversations and I'm maybe honing in on a realization, I feel like I've been sort of circling and talking to peers about for a couple of years now, which is, you know, I think the last few years have probably changed the role of marketing.

Maybe, except for when the internet was getting popular (I'm old enough to remember that), that changed marketing. 

This feels like that second wave of really dramatic change. And I think it changes the CMO scope; I think it changes the function of marketing. And I think it's gonna be really dangerous if we stay in some of the old paradigms of how we think about marketing for anyone in those roles. And also just for the growth of companies, if you're thinking about marketing too myopically for this new era. So that is what I've been thinking a lot about.

I'm happy to double-click on that. Right.

Asher Mathew


Let's say, so the first topic is, like, actually allowing yourself to take a break is kind of like, I like, I like, like to put it. And then the second topic is, like, the role of marketing, right? So let's talk about the first one first because I think that's how you come to that realization.

And then, how do you have enough courage to act on that realization? I think it's a really important thing to discuss, so tell us: if you're OK with it, I can start my journey, right? In this thing, I did take about three months off after running hard at this thing for 15 or 16 years.

Kelly Sarabyn


So, three months, you took three months off, Asher? Well, I stayed at home for five years, so I can also contribute to the conversation..

Asher Mathew


Wait, wait--five years of work--you know, that's, that's like, you know, that's like the American problem right now. I'm just kidding. Let's go back to...

Kelly Sarabyn


Amanda's perspective

Amanda Malko


But, yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there's no one way to have a career and a life, and it's difficult when you have, especially when you're trying to raise a young family. 

Like, let's just be honest, no matter, like, I feel very privileged. I was able to have good childcare and all that. It's still really hard. and, you know, I think careers are long and life is short.

And it's really easy to lose sight of the day-to-day in your life. Like, if you're not enjoying that, then you're missing your life. And so I felt like I'd been going hard for a while and was missing that. 

And my son, I felt like I, I mean, I traveled a lot and I love that and I love my work, but I also, it meant that I missed a lot of just getting to know him and he was changing--anyone who's had young kids knows, it feels like he's a different person every six months. 

I felt like I didn't know him the way that I wanted to. and I think once I had that realization...that was a really hard one. 

It was easier for me to accept that I wanted to take the time, and it, you know, it came with guilt at first. And I don't know how you felt, Kelly. But I was like, I feel almost guilty taking the time, but then I felt guilty not taking the time. 

And then I realized, like, guilt is a trap that is part of our culture, and we can choose to opt out of it and just live our lives the way that feels true to us and authentic to our families and what we need at that time.

And it's been great. I'm six months in, my son was having health challenges, which was also certainly a catalyst, and he is like a different child. 

He's had some surgeries; we've finally got some diagnoses, and I'm convinced that that would have taken exponentially longer and his health would have suffered more if I hadn't taken it. 

But even if that wasn't the case for anyone listening, who's like, 'Well, my family is healthy, but I still wanna take time,' I think if you can hone in on what feels right for you, decide what you want, you'll probably be able to figure out a way—even if it's three months, if it's five years, like whatever that looks like. 

And I think I had to get past the guilt and also the expectation of what, you know, work life was supposed to look like for me to hone in on what I wanted it to be--that's a journey that I think changes, especially if you have a family--it's going to change over time. How did you do?

Asher Mathew


Broke the conversation in your house? Like, Hey, by the way, I have a great idea, or OK, we have a problem, you know, or I was...

Kelly Sarabyn


Like, let me put on my marital therapy hat here. 

Amanda Malko


You know what, I'm fortunate to have such a wonderful partner in life, my husband. It was funny, I remember saying, 'I think I want to spend more time at home,' almost like a question. 

He said I'm so glad you finally realized that. I've seen your struggle every time you leave for work, and the travels too. 

Logistically, life was challenging, and he said, 'I just feel like it was there and you just needed to see it.' He was fully supportive, saying, 'I got you and we'll figure out how to make life work in this new paradigm.' 

He's also not pushing me to do any specific thing next, which he's like, just figure out what works for you and we'll figure out how to make it work for the family. So, I'm blessed that I have it.

Asher Mathew


A lot of people have taken time off post-COVID than before COVID. Right? And I think it's also one contributing factor is that people just realize that staying at home can be beneficial; people just upgrade their homes or whatever else they need to do, get new sound systems so that movie nights were amazing, etc.

It was actually like big kid homes, you know? I know this quite a bit because, you know, when I walk around in the evenings with all our neighbors and stuff like that, I'm like, 'Hey, what are you doing now?' 

Right. And they're like, 'Nothing. We're just hanging out at home.' And, pre-COVID, you would never have that answer, right? People would be like, 'We're going camping, we're going boarding, we're going, doing all these things.' So, great. I think it's fantastic.

Amanda Malko


Well, I'm curious about how you all arrived at your decision to take time off. I don't think this is so different.

Asher Mathew


Yours than mine?

Kelly Sarabyn


I think Amanda, your life is long, the comment is really strong and powerful because I think a lot of, people get very myopic about where they are in the present and they think, especially women, you know, if I take a step back, my career is gonna be torpedoed, which is a real challenge like that. 

It can happen. So I think you do want to be intentional about where you're gonna be after. And are you OK with that?

Because all these things are just trade-offs. And I, I think for me, I'm kind of, I don't know, a little bit more of, a reckless person. I wasn't too concerned about the other side. And so I did want to stay home with my kids when they were young because I think it goes by in a second, right? 

Our kids are usually home with us for 18 years of their life, and, as they approach 18, they become more and more independent. They have all their friends and activities. So for me, I just wanted to be present and have that experience.

I guess the other thing is I'm not as career-driven as you might have been, Amanda. So, for me, as Asher knows, I love working; I work all the time and get passionate about my work, but it's more about finding projects and things that I find interesting, fulfilling, having a positive impact, than thinking about forward-looking. It's not my goal in five years to be a VP or CMO, for example.

Those are two different ways of looking at work. And so, if you do look at it the first way, when you take a step back, you just need to think about, 'How am I going to get back on the train?' 

There are more and more of these programs that are revamped for people who have experience in investment banking, finance, and things like this. It's like you can step out for a few years, and then there are these special programs to get you back on.

But I also think, regardless of your field, as long as you're comfortable, you know, repaying some dues in the beginning, if you're hard-working and good at what you do, you'll find a way back in. 

Right? There are always companies; for me, I was a lawyer before I stayed at home, and when I came back, I was just kind of looking around. My son was almost five; my daughter was almost one.

And I just came across this brand storytelling position, and by chance, I was like, 'That looks interesting.' 

I've always been a big reader and writer, and it was a smaller branding agency, so they were more open to someone who had an unconventional background. So I just went from there. I think there are all these companies, you know, and then maybe they're smaller, so you're not gonna go right back to Google if you were out five years, but you can get back there.

So that's kind of my take and I think it's OK to have seasons in life where you're more focused on different buckets of your life than others. Right? We know this when we think about, like, retirement. 

But I think the same thing can be said for those like decades of work life and it doesn't have to be kids. It could be, it could be travel, it could be, you're caring for a parent who needs caregiving. Like, I feel like there are lots of meaningful human reasons to not focus on work and I will call out too that not everyone's as blessed as Amanda, and having, like, the perfect partner be like, 'Whatever you want to do, I'll support.' 

But that's OK, too. Right? Like, I think that's just, again, looking at the different tradeoffs and making sure you know that there's not gonna be too much resentment in your household, but there are different ways you can approach it. 

Maybe you live a less luxurious lifestyle and that's okay. Because another way to look at it too is, to remember, what I would call 'if you were dead in three years': is this what you'd be spending your time on? Is that what you're gonna have those regrets and be like, 'Why was I doing all that?' 

And I think what Amanda was saying about taking that perspective out, because when you're at work, especially if you're working 60 hours a week, 70 hours a week - all in, it becomes very closed down upon you, as to this is what matters and this is what my goals are, so like finding a way to, like, step out and see it, I think it's uber valuable.

Amanda Malko


Kelly, I love that perspective and, I love what you said about work versus life and your prioritization. But, your choice sounds so conscious like you made such a conscious choice of where you wanted to spend your time. 

And I'll say I haven't always made what I think are super conscious choices, particularly about my personal life because I've been so focused on work. And so one of them, I know we like to talk about frameworks here. 

So one of the frameworks which you touched on, you know, regrets. And so I use a framework, of course, it's like a, it's from tech in the terms of Jeff Bezos, he kind of coined this framework. but I've been using it since my husband introduced me to it. I've been using it for about five years and it's powerful.

And super simple. It's called the regret minimization framework. So, again, Jeff Bezos coined this; this is not my coin term here, but essentially it's, and it's also how he came up with the idea both to do Amazon and commit fully and leave his corporate job. 

So, you can use it for anything in life, but you essentially look at what you're doing in life, you project yourself onto your deathbed and look back and say, Is there anything that I'm doing or not doing right now that I might regret?

And I use it every year. So, when I set New Year's goals, I'm thinking in those terms, not like, I wanna get healthier.' I'm trying to rethink a bit of the bigger picture, like, 'Let's take a step back from the myopic day-to-day. What do I think I am doing or not doing that I might regret because I hope I live my life in a way that is maybe more...'

I'm more conscious than I used to be when I was younger, and I minimize the amount of regrets and maximize the amount of life that I'm going to live. And when I had the realization that there was quite a lot that I felt like I was going to regret, it was like, 'OK, what do I do with this?' 

It probably took me about six months to fully decide. Then, when I talked to our CEO, he was like, 'Great, how do we keep you involved in the business? In transition, in a way that honors all the work you've done here and makes this a win-win for everybody?’ 

And of course, I'm grateful I have an amazing CEO at G2. But I also think there's a way to approach these conversations in any area of our life.

Whether it's our spouse or our work, we have to be conscious of the way we approach it, because it's really hard to argue when someone is speaking their truth. But you have to first define what's true for you. And I guess the only other thing I'll say is, being in a startup or a fast-moving tech company, especially in an executive position, is like running a marathon; it's the equivalent of a marathon. 

This is the only profession corporate, like the executive profession, is the only one where someone would look at you if you took a break. If a marathoner or a professional athlete didn't take a break, you'd think they were crazy. 

But when executives do it, you're like, what's happening in your life that you had to do this?' I am now committed to doing this every 5 to 7 years because I just don't think you can be the executive that you can and should be for your teams if you're unwilling to take a break and work on yourself.

And to be present fully in all areas of your life and set those goals. So, I'm here to advocate for taking a 5- to 7-year break if you can afford to. It's certainly a privilege, but certainly, at leadership levels, I think it's pretty game-changing when you take that time; even three months after is a great break to be able to reset. It doesn't have to be, you know.

Asher Mathew


I'm really glad. So, what I've realized in the last seven months of going full-time to Partnership Leaders is that you need to design your life and work to make it real, you know? And somebody - and again, this is not what I said - somebody told me this over the last seven months, and then when I was coming back from Europe.

That's when it, like, really hit me. And I'm like, a lot of people can go and design their lives, but there's no 'Design Your Life One on One' in school. So you kind of have to experience this or stumble upon it and just meet up with people who've kind of gone through this. 

But the importance of just taking a step back and designing your life and then thinking...

I think it's important. and I wish more platforms would help people understand this stuff and provide a safe place where they can have these conversations. It was in those three months that I came up with the idea for Partnership Leaders because I was trying to figure out where partner people go.

And there were zero modern platforms for them to stand up on and get recognized and enable themselves. And then we just started at this little hobby, and then all through COVID it just kept growing.

Kelly Sarabyn


Your tagline, or at least at one point you guys had a tagline about being for personal and professional success. And I don't know if you're still committed to that, but it's interesting given your comment just said about having a platform where people are talking about these because PL could be a place for that, right? 

Because it could present that sort of community element of like let's have these conversations, especially people who are younger and newer to the workforce, because I think it isn't talked about a lot and it's very easy, unless you happen to know someone who's kind of like a mentor and gone right through it before you, often people are just kind of winging it until they end up in a spot where they're not happy with where they landed and the balance is off, right? 

And then they may have an event that triggers them to take the bigger look. So, I think it's a great service to everyone and all of us as humans to have these conversations and talk about it together.

Because also there's the issue of judgment, right? Like, we want to work as a community to make these things more possible because American society has an especially tech-oriented slant of bias of 'go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go' and 'you are your work', right? 

There's this status within the tech community often; it's like, 'Do you have top-tier investors? How big is your company? Did it go public?'

And so, I feel like talking about that and asking questions about it. Is this the best narrative? Is there more to life? Should we be looking at this more holistically as people? It's great to be having those conversations out there. 

Asher Mathew


We did, we did so. So, we started with this personal and professional success thing and then we realized that it was the same thing. And then, so now, we're working on basically seeing if a community can reach its platform for success, just the same as if you have a platform for sale.

Right? And then you say, 'What's the platform for marketing?' I'm pretty sure half the people would say Marketo, you know, but then if you're like, 'Well, what's the platform for success?' Right? And then you're like, 'Well, what is the platform for success?' Right? And then you're like, 'Well, what are the APIs for success?' And the APIs for success are like, 'Do you understand your...?'

Into jobs and the people you wanna hire, or do you understand how mentorship works? And, like, you have to like to evolve into mentorship. You just don't start to build a brand or you're gonna become a social media influencer and you know, end up on TikTok, right? 

So, I mean, there's like all these things that have to be designed and created. And then, you know, like then, I mean, I'll give you an example of our conference that we do is only for our members to speak at. We're not providing some 20-year thought leadership. We're saying, 'Come speak at this conference in front of your peers.' 

If you mess up, it's OK, but you'll know how to speak in front of 1,000 people. If you can speak of it in front of 1,000 people, you can go to a 10,000-person conference also. So, these platforms for success have to be created, and they're very niche, right? Like, the platform for sales is just very different; success for sales is very different because you know, the salespeople are a little different breed than...

Partner people who are primarily connectors. So, that's where we've evolved the whole thing. And we will publish a lot more content on, like, how you design your life based on all the experiences that we're gathering from our members and...

Kelly Sarabyn


That is a good segue back into Amanda's other framework. I think I'm talking about the sales persona, partnership persona, and the marketing persona. So, I would love to hear, because I feel like in your initial comments, you were talking about two things: one, the transformational change that is similar to the internet that is causing the marketing role to be revamped. 

So, I would love your thoughts on how you describe that transition as the prompt, and then also how you see that changing the marketing role and function. 

Amanda Malko


For sure, so I'm curious what you all see too because I think there's a lot of change happening right now—both in technology and then what that means for our roles, whether it's in the marketing side, partnership side, wherever you sit within an organization. 

What I see is not just because of AI—I think that's a lot of the discussion today—I think this has been happening for a couple of years now. And really, I think it comes from the way that people buy, especially if you're in tech or software, which is obviously what we're doing and who we're talking to.

It is just so fundamentally different than it was even five years ago. So, we see at G2 that there is a rampant change in the way people buy. There is more online buying, more trials, and more plug-ins happening. 

It is starting to look more like e-commerce than what we might traditionally think of as enterprise SaaS relationship-driven businesses. And then, certainly, AI is sort of like fuel on top of all of that, right? The change is not just how we buy, but...

How do we do all of this? Create content, interact with customers - it's changing so much. On top of that, I think in an environment where customer behavior is changing so radically and the tools we have to interact with them are also changing so rapidly, job descriptions and functions need to change. The challenge I see, as I'm starting to have conversations about marketing roles, for example, even the CMO role...

And this isn't necessarily new this year; it's been over the last several years. Oftentimes, the goals that marketing is held to don't align with the scope of responsibilities they're given, right? So, I think, a classic marketing framework has four pieces: you've got product, price, and packaging, place (which, in our case, is like channels and partnerships), and then promotion. Well, most marketing roles I see are just...

Promotion. But what if you have a pricing and packaging problem? What if you're not distributing your product in the right way? Whether you know it's the channel, PLG, or enterprise? Is it sales, who are inbound or outbound? Who's overseeing the way you're going to market and channel capacity?

Your product: is it best suited for the IC P you're trying to go after, or do you need to think more radically about the product strategy?.. And right now, I think everybody's answer to that is probably yes, given how AI is changing things. So I think that the CMO function has to change... And there's a lot of, I have some great peers who have spoken on this topic, because if you're only responsible for promotion, but you're on the hook...

For revenue or pipeline, you're not set up in many instances for success at a sea level, and in particular. So, I think a lot about how marketing can have an impact. And I think it comes down to how marketers or go-to-market thinkers drive impact. And I think oftentimes our roles today are pretty limiting because we are in silos that don't serve our companies anymore.

And so, I don't know what to do. You know, we, I think we have to have a change in the way we think about organizational structures. to have companies that are built, purpose-built for this era.

Asher Mathew


So, if we can dive in, a little bit, 

Kelly Sarabyn


That's super interesting.

Asher Mathew


Sorry, I think there's a lag, Kelly. I can ask my question afterward.

Kelly Sarabyn


I think your internet's a little dodgy today. I don't know, Amanda. Are you picking that same thing up with Asher's internet? Yeah, you're going in and out like a robot. But, yeah, I think that it's super interesting because in partnerships cross-functional collaboration is a huge pain point and I agree with what you said about the changing buyer journey. but maybe let's hone in on the product example that you gave because I think that's.

What would be your ideal relationship, right? Because the product is a function, and departments like the Chief Product Officer are on the hook for driving certain KPIs as well, right? And so, of course, they don't want to just give it over to marketing and say, 'Well, we'll just take the back seat and report to the CMO.' But what would be your dream world, because those things should be interlocked, to your point about cross-functionality, right? And the information that marketing is gathering should be...

Central to those discussions around product evolution and vice versa, so what would, so if you had your dream company and you were the CEO, what would you structure that relationship between product and marketing to look like?

Amanda Malko


Well, I think that it depends on how you like it. So, I'm going to get to your question in a roundabout way, but I promise I'll get to it. I think that one of the things that's needed in organizations is clarity on how go-to-market decisions are made, right? And, like, who owns that? And so that it's not like a three-legged stool; that's probably a controversial idea, but at the end of the day, the CEO owns go-to-market.

But who's helping the CEO drive that? It could be the CMO, it could be the Chief Revenue Officer, it could be the Chief Product Officer, it could be the Chief Strategy Officer or Commercial Officer. I'm seeing the Commercial Officer title more and more these days, but like who is saying, Not here's what products we have to build, but here's what has to be true in our product functionality for us to be competitive?

And then, every year, who is driving the analysis behind that so that the product leader has the inputs they need? It might be marketing; oftentimes, market research does sit with marketing, although it might not. But I think it's less about what the marketing and product relationship is first, although it's certainly important to address that, and more about how we make go-to-market strategy decisions and such.

What are the inputs, and who's owning which pieces? And right now, what I see in a lot of companies - and I'm an adviser now, so I'm seeing more of it than ever - is that everybody owns little pieces and nobody looks at it holistically, and that's a problem. And so, I would rather be a CMO who's like a Chief Strategy Officer, telling us all, 'This is the vision. Let's go.' Then I own this, you own that, you own that, but if we're not in lockstep...

The go-to-market doesn't work; that's hard and puts the onus on the 'tripod of revenue'—you know, sales, marketing, and product—to be constantly evaluating collective decisions to have a central strategy. That's just really tough to make work, even if you're an exceptional collaborator, I was very fortunate in my career to have worked with great product and sales leaders, but it's still really hard to do that. It's like...

A three-headed strategy and you're trying to run your function is just really tough to do. So, I think that it's a roundabout way of saying that product and marketing just need to be seen from the same 'songbook', and I don't know that there's one right way to organize who creates and how the songbook gets created. I just don't see it working very well in many companies that I work with. And that's not for lack of trying; I think it is just difficult because we're talking about thinking about organizational structure.

Differently than maybe we've been wired to think about it, with functional areas of expertise.

Kelly Sarabyn


Are you seeing a certain company size?

Asher Mathew


Sorry, I'm going to cut through with that robot voice, but like, go.

Kelly Sarabyn


Go ahead with your crappy internet; an interesting piece.

Asher Mathew


What the manager said, you know, is that for a C-level person to just have revenue responsibility is limiting; they need to be able to operate. And it's interesting because, in each function that's happening, it's not just the marketing function roles saying the same thing. If you listen closely to what they're saying, they're saying, 'Stop treating me like a VP of sales.' Now, the opposite is also true, which is that a lot of VPs of sales were elevated to C-level roles when they did.

Background, right? or experience? And so, they, because of this, got bucketed into this VP of Sales role when they were supposed to be CROs, who were supposed to be routers of revenue, not drivers of revenue, you know. And so,  but then you come across the partnership people, who are also saying, 'Hey, partnerships are all about impacting the entire customer journey, and it's not just about revenue.' And then you go to the customer success people, and the customer success people are like, 'Hey, you know, the post...'

Sales impact gets realized if the pre-sales requirements are properly gathered, etc. So, customer success also plays a full role throughout the entire customer journey, right? And so, I think you hit it right on the head, which is, if there's no orchestrator of revenue, regardless of titles, then everybody's just gonna keep butting heads. Right now, the market loves the word revenue because it shows up on a P&L and stuff, right? And so...

That the Chief Revenue Officer title is a little bit more appreciated by Wall Street, I type of companies, right? but the consensus right now for sure is amongst who's the person who is the orchestrator, and then everybody else just serves that person to make that person great, because that role is equivalent to being a CEO. It's really difficult to be able to operate all four functions at scale; very, very few people can do that.

Amanda Malko


Yeah, well, and, I think you're right on central strategy, but I don't even know that they need to serve the person. Like, you could have a, I think they need to serve the strategy that serves the business. So you can have a strategy created in a place. And I just wanted to, yeah, I just want to say, I don't even think it matters who. You could have the CEO create the strategy and you report to them or you could have a Chief Strategy Officer and no one reports to them. I mean, I'm sure that there are challenges with that, but I think it's more about how you get everybody on the same page.

Songbook and create the songbook in a way that's as frictionless as possible, as opposed to everybody owning their pieces. and maybe I'm more kind of attuned to this because I've actually, one thing interesting about my background is that over half my roles have been more operator roles. So, I've usually not just had marketing roles. So, when I get in just a kind of promotion role, which I've only taken maybe one or two of in my career, it immediately makes me think we could do so much more.

But, but, you know, there's so much value in promotions done, right? That it needs to be done exceptionally well, but it works best when it's surrounded by, right? Pricing and packaging, right? Product and product experience, and the right channels and partnerships. That is, that is the magic formula where promotion works well. If you don't have those other three nailed down, promotion is just expensive, like.

It's just wasting money and time, right? So, I think that if you're going to be in a promotion-only role, you have to make sure you feel good about the strategy and what's happening on the rest of those things. So, and it doesn't, again, I think back to reporting lines. I don't think there's one way, what you said is well, Asher, it just has to be a centrally orchestrated strategy somewhere in the organization so that everybody is swimming in the same direction, to just pick another me.

Asher Mathew


Now, because the CEO, if you keep going to the CEO to ask go-to-market questions, all four, five, or seven people are going to that person, like the SEO job as well. And, now that person, like I was in one company where the CEO had 21 direct reports. And, until we all learned that that was not the right way to do it, we just needed to centralize some of these things and the CEO had, like, five direct reports, which is fantastic. And then, all of a sudden...

Kelly Sarabyn


Well, doesn't Elon Musk have, like, 50 direct reports or something? He likes a flat organization, so...

Amanda Malko


You know, it can be great. I think it depends on the size of the organization. Kelly, I think you were going to ask a question, maybe even about, yeah, I...

Kelly Sarabyn


Was I asking, like, why now? Is this becoming an orchestration? Right? Because presumably businesses should always have been orchestrated. But is this becoming a problem now because businesses have been slow to adjust their structure to the changing buyer journey that you flagged? By the way, I completely agree with your analysis of the changing buyer journey.

What might have been working before as a way to orchestrate is now not the right sort of bucket. And so, organizations haven't quite figured that playbook out; is that where the problem now is going?

Amanda Malko


I think so. I think it's because the way the buyer is buying is so fragile. and it's changed so much, so much of it especially is happening online. So, yes, Kelly, I do think that's why: if you just take PLG as an example, like who owns PLG in an organization, I mean, really everybody in a way, right? But if you're marketing and product in a PLG organization, that alignment of who's doing what and it better be excellent. I mean, it has to be excellent. It can't be, 'Well, marketing gets us to this page, and then product takes over and we each work in our silos because...'

It's an e-commerce experience; the consumers, like me, experience everything from who they talk to on the phone, to the chat, to the website, to the product prompt. I just see it as you, your company, and your product. So I think that so many things today have become digitized and online self-serve. that siloed kind of 'this is a product, this is marketing' is...

antithetical to the way we think as consumers, both in our B2B lives and certainly in B2C.

Kelly Sarabyn


Yeah, I agree. And I think B2B marketplaces are just exploding, right? And so I think that that's just kind of an extension of the PLG motion often. And it's a good point in terms of the marketing role, right? Like even today, you still have some large enterprise purchases that are gonna be heavily hands-on.

And the role of the CMO in that company might be very different from the role of the CMO and PLG, because ultimately when it's a PLG motion, the marketing role becomes much, much more critical through the end-to-end journey, right? Because often you have them becoming users, but then you have to continue to encourage them, I'll say, to convert over to paid, and it's not usually a high-touch experience. So then that falls to marketing because marketing ultimately...

They have the pro expertise, but they have, like, this kind of communicating at scale and communicating digitally--that's their expertise. There's no one else in the organization that has kind of put together that skill set. So, I do think that's very interesting and something that hasn't fully caught up to the market yet. Yeah.

Amanda Malko


And I love that you talked about the experience. So, you know, I'm imagining if someone's listening, they're like, 'Well, I'm not gonna get the CEO to change your org structure, nor, and you may not need to, by the way. Sometimes it's as simple as planning and creating strategies differently, right? And if you do it well, you should come to the show and talk about how you plan. But I, I think there are some simple things that you can do, and whether you sit in marketing or anywhere else, like I'm a big believer in, in people's careers at all levels. Like, don't think past your job description. If you think, you know, think about yourself as helping the business, try not to be too caught up in things like what's your role versus what's not your role. I mean, there's an EQ like a high,

An emotionally intelligent way to do that, but you can add value beyond maybe what's on paper. And I think when you've talked about the experience, one of the skills and tactics that I think is important for businesses, where anyone can add value, is thinking holistically about your customer experience. And I'll give you two real-world examples because I think that might help bring it to life, where I used it both at Mailchimp and G2.

Again, back to, like, OK, let's assume our structure is siloed in product sales and marketing, customer success. Let's assume we're all good at our functional expertise. And let's assume that very rarely are we all sitting around going, 'What is a customer seeing?' Right? Because we have our day jobs to do. You can create moments in time where you get everybody on the same page as to what a great experience for your customer looks like and then make sure you're delivering on that. And if you're not, make a plan together for how. At Mail, we were creating a new product within our product; so it was actually for a specific segment, and we had to create the product experience.

Almost, I don't want to say from scratch, but we created an entirely new product experience within the product. everything from login to pricing and packet, like the whole brand, everything was new and we decided because this was, you don't get that opportunity very often at product companies. Certainly not at that scale. We needed to create experience principles and these weren't product experience principles, these weren't design experience principles. These were, if you're a customer of this particular segment in this product, what is the experience of your total experience with mail?

We created those principles collectively across c um who do we have in their design engineering and marketing products? Certainly. and everybody contributed, and then we had everybody take those experience principles, things like treating them as an expert was one of our principles. And so everybody internalized, 'What does that mean for me?' So our support team, if you get a call from this type of customer...

And you know, the experience pri[nc]iples to treat them like an expert, how do you do that when you show up for them in a way that's different from the other persona? So, that was kind of transformative to the work because it did change the way we thought across every team. It didn't matter who created that; it mattered that we created it together. so that's one thing we did. And so, we had, of course, like we've had an experience map and a journey map and all that. But, like, how do we approach that work with the principles?

And then, on the G2 side, we already have a fully-fledged B2B marketplace working very, very well that serves both, you know, 80 million, you know, consumers looking for software and then software companies all around the world. We wanted to think about: if you're a software company trying to get your presence on G2, claim it, improve it, etc., what's your experience? and we're not creating a new one?

We hired someone to audit our experience as a customer, as in this case, a software company, and just rip us apart and then do it on other marketplaces and tell us what was different about our experience and what could be better, and rate us. And I had them do it by becoming a customer. So, like, their experience with our account executives or chat, not to hold anybody's feet to the fire, just so we could learn.

And I invited all our functional leaders to sit in on that meeting and hear the readout; it was super painful. We had a lot of marketing stuff that we needed to improve upon or things that marketing, you know, in this place owned. But it made us so much better, right? Because we could see where there were handoffs in the product experience. Because of marketing on this page and product on this page, we could see where we forgot about that particular part of the customer's success.

Journey, you know, and so just a simple audit and no strings, you know, no objectives other than to learn together can also be a good way to bring that. So that was long. But I just wanted to pick up on what you said, Kelly, about the experience because you don't have to reorg your whole company to create more centralized experiences for your customer.

Kelly Sarabyn


Yeah, I love that. I love both of those frameworks.

Asher Mathew


I would say, if you leave it to Kelly, she's going to reorder the whole company.

Amanda Malko


What would you do, Kelly? Like, tell us; I want to know.

Asher Mathew


Who should go where?

Kelly Sarabyn


No, I agree with Amanda. I think it's just gonna depend on what you're selling and how you're selling and your buyer, right? Because even within the B2B SaaS space, a lot of these spaces look differently. As we all know, selling to developers, for example, is very different from selling to salespeople; the experiences look very different. And I think that has to be baked in, not just to your business model, your marketing model, your product model, but also your org structure.

And so I, I don't, I don't think, as Amanda said, there's one size fits all. And I and I do think what one might call seamless handoffs underneath a strategic orchestration strategy is what you need to think through. But, I do think it's often something that's missed, right? I think when companies start, CEOs often just hire the usual roles like they know they need a marketing leader, they know they need a sales leader, they know they need a CS leader. And it's not the ORG chart that is often not thought about strategically until perhaps you're very far along. And it's very complicated at that stage.

And much tougher to disentangle. So, I think it's a good call-out that, for earlier-stage startups, you know, you may only have 30 employees; think about it now, like bake it into your strategy conversations. How does what I'm trying to do in my business model tie into how I'm separating these functions?

Asher Mathew


So, let's bring it back to then: in your opinion, what does the future CMO look like? Because I don't know if you've configured that part yet.

Amanda Malko


Yeah, well, I mean, I'm not trying to give a cop-out answer, but I think it depends on the organization. And so I think if you're a CMO or looking to be a CMO, I think you need to look at what I thrive in doing in terms of skill set. How do I want to be measured and make sure that the scope of whatever the role is supports both what I want to be doing and what I think you can contribute relative to the goals they're giving me? So I mean, in general though, I think that marketing is a key growth driver for companies. And I think the scope needs to either be more inclusive or CMOs need to have a strong presence.

The seat at the table for strategy, which they often don't have at technology companies, to create change. And I think that that's not acknowledged enough; promotion alone if anything, can accelerate some problems when they happen in those other three Ps if you do a lot of promotion and the rest of those aren't working well.

Asher Mathew


You know, a lot of companies don't do this, but I think some of them take leaders from one part of the organization and move them to another part of the organization, just so they get a real feel for how that organization works. That I think will allow marketing leaders to go through strategy sessions and then sales leaders to live the life of marketing and understand what happens at the front and middle of the line. Then, when you're a sea-level person, a marketing leader at that level can take on the sales team. They're just doing things they enjoy doing day in and day out, but they're all building the business together.

Amanda Malko


Yeah, I mean, I think if you can find a place where you can do that and you can have rotations, that's super valuable. I'm a big believer in having a nonlinear career and I have taken roles in different functions. So I haven't always been in a marketing function and I started my career in sales. I mean, if I was customer success, I mean, I have done that not always, but often intentionally.

because I think, to your point, it makes you a more well-rounded leader who can bring that back to whatever your core function or skill set is and do it with more empathy, but also a more shared understanding of, like, how do I need to contribute relative to what everybody else is doing? and I think you can do that at any level in your career; just to start, you could have coffee with someone.

Like, have coffee with a product designer--you know, if you're in marketing, you don't have to--you also could just do that, you know, and.

Kelly Sarabyn


Don't have to be a Chief Product Officer for a year; it seems like a little bit of risk from the company's perspective.

Amanda Malko


And so I think there are ways to be curious and get that value out of it. But I think it's great.

Kelly Sarabyn


Have a pressing question because I feel one of the biggest things going on in marketing is the buyer's journey and how much of it takes place in communities and professional networks through media, and the attribution around that. So, I would love to get your take on this.

I see that as something companies are struggling with in terms of that is not as easy to have attribution around. They recognize the value to some degree, but there's this tension. So I would just be curious about where you think that is now in terms of, we know these professional networks, these communities, this all this different media that may not be owned or may be owned, but it's not getting attribution in the same way. Where is that today? And where do you see that going? Yeah,

Amanda Malko


It's a great question. so dark social terms some people use sound very like foreboding as what it is, which is like the digitization of word of mouth, right? like we're just now having word-of-mouth conversations online through these different channels. communities are a great example. I just think communities are so needed and so many facets of life as well as B to B tech. But super helpful but very unattributable. I think there are two things, one, I think our attribution models and tech are gonna continue to get better. I think I actually can be potentially very helpful there. But there's always going to be a lot that can't be measured. And it's funny because word of mouth, if you ask most business owners,

anyone of any size is probably gonna tell you like if you dig under the hood, how do they think they get business, good customers talking to other potential customers that they like you? Right? And we've never been able to measure that ever in the history of marketing. And I mean, you can argue there's like studies you can do or whatever, but it's mostly happening offline now. It's somewhat happening online in these online communities. you know, groups like yours, which is great and I think we'll get a little bit better, but probably not a lot at measuring that. And that's OK I think sometimes we overcomplicate things in marketing on attribution. And I'll give you an example. I worked at a company fairly sizable

had, you know, millions of customers and was wondering like, how do we get better attribution for some of these things? And I said, can we just test by asking a question? I realized adding a question to our demo, like our free sign-up form, is very controversial. But can we just do it on a subset of users and ask them how they heard about us with the drop-down?

And in one month, we had all this data that very clearly pointed to the top three attributes like attributed sources, many of them were like, so word of mouth was one and we had like who was it? And I think the other one was an event or something like that where it was like I heard about you in an event. Those are two hard-to-measure channels and they were far and away like the ones in the top three. And so sometimes you overcomplicate things. It's like, well, we could just ask a subset of users and ask enough that we think is statistically relevant and then see what they tell us. And so I do think that there's some low-hanging fruit of just like the classic, like, ask them and they'll probably tell you

and then you'll know. Should I invest? It's not perfect. It doesn't help you, you know, decide every dollar. But um, it might be directionally useful.

Asher Mathew


All right. So all of these podcasts, you know, we're gonna run out of time, but we'll have you on again if it's ok with you, Amanda, because there are several topics even from this one. After all, we never went to the regret minimization framework in detail and then, you know, but it's, it's bad about things, right? At least that's how I like to learn more. But with this digitization of word of mouth, I think there's more to unpack there. But outside of that, thank you so much for spending some time with us. We, if my robotic voice is still going on, this may just be a podcast between you and Kelly, but we'll see what happens, you know. But again, thank you so much, and best of luck on your journey.

Amanda Malko


Thank you. It was great to spend some time with you all. thank

Kelly Sarabyn


You so much.

Thank you for listening to unlearn, subscribe wherever you listen and visit unlearned podcasts dot com for the transcripts.

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