3-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Tricia Gellman has been there and done that at Salesforce Canada, Checkr, and now, conversational marketing category leader Drift. Aside from sharing the story of how she came to be the CMO at Drift, the conversational marketing company well-known for its non-traditional brand building and marketing methods, she and Erica talk about:

  • Hiring your first CMO: what to think about (and what’s the hardest thing about it)
  • The CMO Plus Role – how the role of the CMO is morphing
  • How B2B CMOs can be more CX-focused
  • How to achieve CEO and CMO alignment. How CMOs can move from scrappy to scale
  • Tricia’s personal examples of marketing org and culture design – mistakes and learnings

Did we get your attention?

      Share with your network on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Erica Seidel [00:00:42] I'm sitting here with Tricia Gellman, who recently joined Drift as the CMO. And so super excited to talk with her today. This is her third CMO role, right, Tricia?

Erica Seidel [00:00:54] And she was first CMO at Salesforce, Canada, and then at Checker. And now she recently joined Drift a few months ago. And we're going to be talking about something key for CMO's, which is CEO and CMO alignment. We're also going to be talking about how you move from scrappy to scale and how you maintain that alignment, not just when you're looking at a job, but when you are already in the role. We'll be talking about marketing org design and how that might be different from overall company org design and also culture design. So lots of good stuff. So welcome to the show, Tricia.

Tricia Gellman [00:01:34] Thank you so much for having me and for having Drift to be a part of your series.

Erica Seidel [00:01:38] Very excited to talk about this. So let's get started. Let's talk about the role of the CMO. So you and I talked about this before. So recently, I've seen these CMO plus roles for a CMO, plus products CMO, plus strategy CMO, plus sales in this kind of CRO title. Yeah. And then there's the chief growth officer role. So before we get into anything, just talk to me about how you see the part of the CMO morphing and what it is now versus what it used to be.

Tricia Gellman [00:02:05] Yeah, I think as the marketing world has become more mature with data, with the growth of sort of marketing within a company related to their brand experience brand being important for, you know, what is a company today and differentiating in the market. We see a lot of overlap between roles. And so I think there's a lot of discussions, not just about the topics you said, but about like is a CMO role even going away because you do have these like chief growth officers instead of CMO, the three letters.

Tricia Gellman [00:02:34] There's already this blending of sales and marketing. The two can't live without each other. And so drawing that line and saying, oh, this is only one part. That's the other. It's those two things that have to work hand-in-hand. And then, as we add in experience and Brand and build trust between your customers, trust as a new currency for engagement and success of businesses. And so, marketing is becoming more aligned with the customer success organization and post-sales. So it's I call it the CMO 3.0 where you have sort of this blending of the three things, sales, marketing, and service.

Erica Seidel [00:03:12] Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So it's interesting because everybody talks about customer experience and the importance of managing that arc of customer experience. And I feel like on the B2C side, you always say they want to be chief customer experience. Yeah. We don't see that in B2B. Right. What we see is what we don't see that title as much. You know, what we see as these like CRO titles. Exactly. And so any thoughts on that? Why is it that we talk about the customer experience, but then the role title is something else?

Tricia Gellman [00:03:42] Yeah, well, I think two things. So I think I'd  B2C really like Brand and experience is like that number one indicator. Like even then, you have a CMO who owns Brand. Yeah, almost all the time. And then you have growth people who own the entire funnel top to bottom in a B2C Environment because you have such a proliferation of e-commerce on the site.

Tricia Gellman [00:04:03] So you don't have a sales organization, whereas, in B2B, you have this marketing and sales with a big s in sales because they're the one's kind of out on the front line versus your website. At Drift, We 100 percent believe that customer experience customer center is the number one thing. And so we are architecting our organization. So marketing has pre-sales, post-sales, and then really has that interface to sales.

Erica Seidel [00:04:34] OK. So let's go through the whole kind of arc of a CMO being hired before they're hired after they're hired. And let's look at the CEO and CMO wooing process. Yeah. OK. And so and so as a CMO, how can a CMO vet if that CMO role is real? So I've been thinking about this, and you know, we have this situation of CMO not lasting necessarily for a long time. Says like, you know, a big thing. And so I feel like we want this Goldilocks situation; we want a role to be strategic and meaty enough for that CMO. But we also want the expectations to be realistic enough. And for the CEO to understand that there's a sequence that you can't, you know, build Roman a day and, you know, it takes a while to do it. So it kind of set up a fully functional B2B marketing, you know, engine. So what are those questions? Are those indicators that can help a CMO see if this is a good opportunity for them to invest their time?

Tricia Gellman [00:05:35] I think it's important to establish upfront. Is the company a company that thinks marketing is the side project, or is it a company that thinks marketing is this ingredient within the success of the whole company? I wouldn't say there's like a right and a wrong. Different companies have different needs, and different CMO is want to do different things. But I think establishing that and being 100 percent OK with the answer and where you're going to go is important because it's OK sometimes to kind of be like marketing on the side. It's not the number one focus. The company is not 100 percent driven by the Brand and the differentiation of the Brand. It's maybe more about the technology you're selling to developers or something like that. But then it also puts a burden on the CMO to kind of motivate the team because they feel a little bit off on the side. And so from the role of the CMO, you need to think, well, what am I doing? Is that exciting and compelling? And to how much am I going to carry sort of the culture, the team engagement, and all those things? Because it can be kind of a heavy lift.

 Erica Seidel [00:06:40] So, Speaking of Drift, right? Have you just joined what the process was like and what did the company do to recruit you, and how is it distinct? We give it the audit. You know, what was good in the recruiting process and how you would tweak it if anything?

Tricia Gellman [00:06:55] Yeah, I think I mean, the recruiting process at Drift was unique, actually, for me, because I wasn't looking at other times when I have moved jobs and felt like, OK, I'm ready to leave where I am. And so where am I going to go? And then sort of looking in a way for Drift. I met one of the co-founders, Dave Cancel, three years ago, almost four years ago now when I was CMO of Salesforce, Canada. And they were building the Brand. They were building as a company, conversational marketing as a concept, and just going around and having dinners with CMOs and marketing leaders.

Tricia Gellman [00:07:31] And I connected with the way that they were being so genuine about it and listening and trying to understand. And like, what is this challenge resolving? Are we relevant? So our audience like, how can we actually at the grassroots level be a part of the community like he was just so honest.  That one of the things about Dave Cancel is that he takes the long view and is pretty sure that he put it on his phone. Like if I don't have a CMO in a year, call Tricia, because maybe after she's been in her role for a year, she would entertain the idea of leaving. And so he called me, and I was like, oh, I'm not looking. He's like, well, we'll see. Should we talk more? And I was like, I don't know why not. And so it was interesting to me because then hearing like the progress they had made, the challenge they were facing was really bringing sales and marketing together. I started to realize that, like this, my passion is like what's happening with CMO is the relationship between CEO and CMO. The relationship between sales and marketing of Brands like all of these things. And so whether it was like financially the right thing to do or anything else, I was like, you know, I just feel like this is what I need to do.

Tricia Gellman [00:08:41] At Checker. I was the first CMO. So in the beginning, you know, DC brought along a different person to be the VP of marketing from like the super scrappy days. And then in the growth of the company established the Brand, established a category and then realized like, well, we know that we have been so successful, we need to have a full content team, a comprehensive demand team, et cetera. And so it became a much bigger group. And they feel like we need to unify this under a leader, which I think, you know, across all my CMO roles has kind of been the role that I've played. So, in general, I think the challenge that existed on the marketing side at Drift was interesting. And then what Drift is trying to do in the market was interesting to me.

Erica Seidel [00:09:30]  Yeah, right. Right. Got it.

Erica Seidel [00:09:33] How did you align between, you know, you and Dave in terms of structuring this role? And then was that a challenge, you know, to kind of articulate what the role would be, given that you'd be the first CMO?

Tricia Gellman [00:09:44] Yeah, I don't think it's been that much of a challenge because it's aligned to like where is the company's next phase of growth? Yeah. And so that also makes it easier to measure is, OK, we're looking to go from, you know, being initially in the small business market and growing upmarket. So there's like one phase of growth there, which is getting to the enterprise. That's. Are we getting more enterprise customers? Are we having success there? That's a clear metric. We want to grow from the sort of our revenue growth that we had to continue the growth at like 50 to 70 percent. And so that's very clear how that's going to tie together. And then really this idea of like how do we unify the marketing organization? How do you go into a pretty large team that has a creative team already built in it, almost like its agency, and bring all these people together so that we can get to scale?

Erica Seidel [00:10:38]  your previous role with CMO Salesforce Canada, So that was like this geo-specific CMO role. And now, you know, since then you've been CEO of the whole company. So can you talk about us between the differences between those two experiences and, you know, primarily how that CEO and CMO alignment works?

Tricia Gellman [00:10:59] Yeah. So when I was a CMO at Salesforce, Canada, then I reported to the CMO of Salesforce Global. So that's interesting, right? CMO is appointing a CMO, but because of the relationship. US and Canada. There is always going to be this sort of like, is it a full country? Is it not a kind of thing? It's like the bane of existence for Canadians, as the reality. And so that was, I think, the biggest challenge for the role of CMO Canada is the one you're a region. And so you don't own like the full tech stack. You don't own the full operations. You don't own how budgeting decisions are like overall made and things like that. There's someone else that kind of owns some percentage of what you do, and then you have to sort of fit within that. And then the other thing is with the U.S. Canada relationship; it's like how much of what's happening in HQ? Can you pull versus having to feel like? Yes, like it's not in the right language. It has the wrong customers. People don't know this. You know, like there's a lot more relevance between the two countries. And so that was the biggest challenge for me. And why they decided to create the role of CMO of Canada was how do we define the relationship between the country of Canada and the US? The relevancy of customer stories or not. And like how you would transition the go to market.

Erica Seidel [00:12:17] Let's talk about how CMOs need to kind of organize and design their team. So in a previous episode, I was speaking with Drew Fortin about building a team culture that is distinct from the company culture. You know, sometimes there's overall company culture, and of course, marketers should align with that. But sometimes marketers need to create their own culture, their kind of subculture of the marketing team. So you don't agree? Disagree. And, you know, how have you built your culture of the marketing team, you know, in the past or here?

Tricia Gellman [00:12:51] Yeah. I think well; I think it's interesting because at Checker versus here, at Checker marketing was a newer thing. Yeah. So I was building a whole team and building the culture, whereas, at Drift, it's been a very marketing-led company. And so now I'm stepping into a group of people that have already been together to figure out like how do we sustain and build that culture?

Tricia Gellman [00:13:14] Yeah. And so I think that's always like, you know, sometimes you go into building from scratch. Sometimes you go into a sort of build and mold.

Erica Seidel [00:13:23] You said something exciting to me, which was if there's only one goal for marketing and not, say, creating a pipeline, then many on the marketing team are going to feel like they can't directly influence that. Yeah. So say they're a graphic design or they might feel like you know how do you do that?

Tricia Gellman [00:13:43] So I think it's essential as marketing leaders to figure out what is the real purpose of marketing in the company. So like a Drift, we identify that. Yes. Like we want to help drive the revenue. That's marketing's role, whether it's making the employee engagement successful, which then goes back to that other conversation or like working with sales. But at the end of the day, like that's going to be delivered in multiple ways, not just pipeline. So the pipeline is the thing that demand Gen is held accountable for. And that's like, you know, love it or hate it. That's what the demand and people it's like the most measurable attachment to sales. And then marketing at the draft is very content-driven. And so content is about partnering with the pipeline, but it's also about building the community. And so what we've identified is that we have a community and engagement metric. So it's not fine to just chuck out a bunch of content. But people need to engage with it. And so if we can measure that engagement, then that shows the success. And we will get to the cooking school because we'll have a bigger and bigger community of people. We also have this like a post-acquisition lifecycle activity. So that's about really helping people be successful with the product, showing customer success, and partnering with that. And then the product marketing like the launches, the creative, which goes across everything and your PR and your comms is we decided about voice in some ways that line up to Web site traffic. But a lot of the demanding stuff lines up to Website traffic, too. We decided that sort of has to be shared across everyone. But the share of voice is something that likes having a successful launch—having great differentiated messaging, being involved in what's happening with the competition. And all these things can roll up to share a voice. And so if you have those metrics, which is sort of the influence of customer success, the share of voice engagement in the community and pipeline, you can help get your company in true growth.

Erica Seidel [00:15:49] Are you comfortable sharing how your team is organized?

Tricia Gellman [00:15:54] They have field marketing events in demand gen but not like our huge hypergrowth Dreamforce kind of event. Aha. We'll get to that. So Demand gen. They own the number. They're responsible for that interface to sales. Demand Gen also in our company owns the sales development functions. So the people who helped qualify through the leads in our case, conversations, analysis.

Tricia Gellman [00:16:22] . We have no forms. Everything is a conversation you like. Interact with the bot and humans—drift site, So that's the demand gen team. Then we have the content and community team. They partner with the management team on what content we do—but also working with content to help onboard customers. And then in general, just to push forward this idea of the changing role of marketers in the future of B2B. And that's the measurements on engagement and community. Then we have comms, and so we have comms owning PR and employee homes and that they're looking over the share of voice with the head of product marketing, which is the fourth group. And then of customer marketing, which was customer marketing, which is underneath something we call customer experience.

Tricia Gellman [00:17:18] That's a subcomponent of customer experience. And then with the creative, which works across everything.

Erica Seidel [00:17:29] Has there been an org Design choice that you've made at some point in your career where you look back, and you said some of it was not the right thing.

Tricia Gellman [00:17:39] I mean, I think you always have those things. So when I was at Salesforce, I created the demand gen function. So I didn't own everything. But I owned this new concept, which was how do we connect marketing and sales? And so we started to define that. We defined that. It included digital. We define that it included field events and these different activities. But Salesforce had two vectors. One was this like the proliferation of products, and the other was sales segments. And so it was a question of what do you do? And like the CEO was holding the sales team accountable for the number. But then at the same time, when the product teams saw number two. And so I decided that I had a good relationship with sales leaders so I could kind of bridge across. And I would organize my team by-product because each of the product leaders was as a GM. And they were going to want to know, like, what's happening with my product. Yeah. And we need to be able to have one answer to that. Mm-hmm. And so I thought, like, this is great. First, we had a sales club; then, we had a service cloud. Then we had a platform than all marketing clouds. Then it was like, oh my God, this does not work. It doesn't work because a budget became fragmented into each of these silos of clouds. And at the end of the day, the sales team didn't necessarily care. They just wanted to make a number. It was like being pulled in two different directions. Like when the rubber band is going to break.

Tricia Gellman [00:19:07] And so then I started like I lived a good six months of regretting that Cloud organized us because the sales team would be missing their number, which you knew meant you needed more money in a specific area of the product. But to get it from one product to the other meant like getting buy-in from three to five senior leaders. And so just the orchestration of that was challenging. And so then we moved to solutions, you know, where we were looking more at the persona and like these personas existed across all the sales segments. And really, like it was a huge lift.

Erica Seidel [00:19:44] Org Design Is this thing about, you know, putting boxes on paper and, you know, thinking theoretically about how something's going to work and then and then stuff gets real? You start hiring and looking at who you have. So, you know, in general, how do you think a marketing leader should think about reconciling that theoretical or design strategy with the reality of hiring people into actual roles?

Tricia Gellman [00:20:10] The way that I view or design is that you need to figure out who your stakeholders are, and you can't have the stakeholders going to four to five people within your organization. You know, they just get frustrated, and there's no specific person responsible. And so so that's the key factor at the time when I did that org design for demand gen. I feel like the key stakeholder was the product people, you know, because they were the ones who were getting the questions the most of like, how are you going to market? What is your message, et cetera? Whereas later I felt like it was more about like, how are we like driving the business?  How are we increasing our efficiency, etc.?  And it didn't mean the other groups were less important. But you know, it's like this. The key stakeholder changed.

Tricia Gellman [00:20:59]  for me Like saying, OK, so pipeline, it's owned by Demand Gen. Yeah, it's very clear. Like that's their number one thing that they have to do. So like, OK, we need someone who understands that and understands how to work with sales. Content is about helping Demand Gen and but also about building this community and building sort of like this content marketing motion, which is about engagement and sort of breadth. So then that person has to understand those skills. And so the more you can identify as the one key thing for each group, then you can kind of write that job description.

Erica Seidel [00:21:32] Could you talk about the hardest role you've ever had to hire for a particular instance where you were just, you know, banging your head against the wall while trying to find that good person.

Tricia Gellman [00:21:44] I think two roles are really important, but then also really hard to hire. One of them is internal communications. It's an interesting thing. And at Drift, we rebranded it to be called an employee brand.

Tricia Gellman [00:22:01] And that's why we were more successful in hiring it. But the internal communications have in the past; I think being specific is like, OK, it's the end of the year, your benefits are going to change. You need to sign up. It's working enrollment time, whatever. Not so much about the culture, the engagement, and these other things, which also translates into like how you portray yourself when you're trying to hire people. Yeah. And I think companies a lot of times don't hire anyone in that role at all, whether it's an HR. or marketing until around a thousand people for some reason. But I think people are starting to realize like, oh, we need this now. We need a way to unify people and make sure everybody knows everything, etc.. So then we need it when we're two hundred people.

Tricia Gellman [00:22:50] The second is a VP of product marketing.

Tricia Gellman [00:22:56] I think it's hard. Two things are hard about the VP of Product marketing. One is that like what product marketing does is a little bit depending on the company like a little bit different. So you have what I call 1 to 1 product marketing, which is working with a product, helping to define the roadmap, and then really like messaging the features. And then you have what I call a true product marketing, which is that plus working with demand, gen and others to say, hey, these are the personas, this is what they care about.  Let's look at where these people are, what they care about, how we map to it, and how we develop the messaging and sort of narrative around the whole thing. Yeah. So finding product marketers who are this second part like a true well rounded is challenging because a lot of historic marketing is what I call the one to one. And if you are this well-rounded product marketer, then that means that you're used to working with sales, with demand gen, with marketing as a whole. The end product, which means you have your finger and a lot of things, which is the cool, fun thing about product marketing. It also means you can just be a CMO when there's a lot of product marketers who've just gone to vcm shows. And so getting people to realize, yes, in our company it's a super valuable role, and you're going to grow your career by doing this role versus going to like a 20 person company and being a CMO. That's for me in size, a company that I've been in recently. It's challenging And then actually the other challenge is that these people are in such high demand that they can make a lot of money just being consultants and taking two months off in the summer and like having this great life.

Erica Seidel [00:24:33] It's true. It's true.

Erica Seidel [00:24:34] Yeah, I think product marketing is the hardest one. I see.

Tricia Gellman [00:24:36] You can see companies struggling with, and often, they will seek it like the company's around 200 people. They will think that a manager level product marketer is what they need. And then they put this stuff, all the stuff into the job description. It ends up being the job of the CEO. And if ultimately you like to find the market where we should be. Exactly. And get us to product-market fit and support the sales team and get the message out, and it's just its huge shunning. And then so often companies leave the mid-level where, you know, they like that manager becomes a director. That director becomes a VP marketing, you know, after the company he attributes for it and then they off level it. But meanwhile, time ticks on, and the job is out there for a long time.  Well,  we've covered quite an arc from looking at jobs and getting hired and structuring the team and hiring and good stuff. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and welcome to your new job. Welcome to your boss. Now your second home. Yeah.  So Tricia Gilman's CMO of Drift. 

The Podcast Team

Erica Seidel

Recruiter And Founder at The Connective Good As host of The Get, Erica talks to CEOs, VCs and Marketing Leaders about finding and keeping great marketing talent for B2B SaaS companies.

Team MarTech Advisor

Chief Editor Chitra Iyer, and the team at MarTech Advisor edit, produce and distribute The Get.


Episode Highlights

Guest Profile

Tricia Gellman

Tricia is the CMO at Drift. She has over 20 years of marketing experience and has a proven track record of building brands and leading change at companies like Apple, Adobe, Salesforce and Checkr. Before joining Drift, Tricia held the CMO role at Checkr, where she built out the marketing leadership team, created the operations foundation and rebranded the company — repositioning it from a background check provider to a multi-product, People Trust Platform. Prior to Checkr, Tricia spent 9 years at Salesforce and rose to the role of CMO of Salesforce Canada.