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How The Best CMOs Connect With Investors: The Power of Partnership
Episode 327th April 2023 • The Get: Finding And Keeping The Best Marketing Leaders in B2B SaaS • Erica Seidel
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Listen to the honest dialogue between a CMO and her Board member, who have managed to forge a fruitful partnership together. Jen Pockell Dimas is Chief Marketing and Experience Officer for Telarus, the global technology solutions brokerage. Evan DeCorte from Columbia Capital is a Telarus Board member. 

You'll hear about:

  • How investors can have reptilian brains – focusing uniquely on Big V value: getting more value for the business than they paid for it
  • How to translate marketing-speak into investor-speak
  • How to set yourself up for a successful standing with the Board from the interview process onward: "Invest in the relationship before you even accept the job so you are on the same page for expectations."
  • How to react when a Board member suggests a marketing direction that feels like a firedrill
  • Why asking how Board meeting prep could be shorter is 'the wrong question to ask'
  • A simple framing that will help as you prep your board meetings

Key Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenpd/

www.telarus.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/evan-decorte-8086029

www.colcap.com

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The Get is here to drive smart decisions around recruiting and leadership in B2B SaaS marketing. We explore the trends, tribulations, and triumphs of today’s top marketing leaders in B2B SaaS.

This season’s theme is the CMO and Board Relationship in B2B SaaS. 

The Get’s host is Erica Seidel, who runs The Connective Good, an executive search practice with a hyper-focus on recruiting CMOs and VPs of Marketing, especially in B2B SaaS. 

If you are looking to hire a CMO or VP of Marketing of the ‘make money’ variety - rather than the ‘make it pretty’ variety, contact Erica at erica@theconnectivegood.com. You can also follow Erica on LinkedIn or sign up for her newsletter at TheConnectiveGood.com

The Get is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler Media Productions.



This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

OP3 - https://op3.dev/privacy
Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Transcripts

Erica Seidel:

Hello, and welcome to The Get.

Erica Seidel:

I'm your host, Erica Seidel.

Erica Seidel:

This season we examine the relationship between CMOs and Boards.

Erica Seidel:

How can that relationship go from fraught to functional,

Erica Seidel:

and maybe even to fantastic?

Erica Seidel:

Today's episode is special.

Erica Seidel:

I've invited a CMO and her Board member together to talk, not just

Erica Seidel:

about each other, but with each other.

Erica Seidel:

You'll see what a good partnership looks like in an actual CMO Board member pair.

Erica Seidel:

We talk with Jen Dimas, the Chief Marketing and Experience Officer

Erica Seidel:

of Telarus, and Evan DeCorte, a Board member from Columbia

Erica Seidel:

Capital, which backs Telarus.

Erica Seidel:

Some things to listen for, realize investors have reptile brains.

Erica Seidel:

They are focusing on Big V versus Little V value, so you as a CMO will

Erica Seidel:

need to do some context switching.

Erica Seidel:

Jen offers a guide for that.

Erica Seidel:

You'll learn what to do starting during your interview process to set

Erica Seidel:

yourself up for a successful standing with the Board, and you'll learn a

Erica Seidel:

simple framing that will help you as you prepare your Board meetings.

Erica Seidel:

Before we get started, a quick disclaimer as requested by

Erica Seidel:

Evan's friends in Compliance.

Evo Terra:

This interview should not be considered investment

Evo Terra:

advice or a solicitation to invest.

Evo Terra:

And the views and opinions expressed herein are those of the speakers and

Evo Terra:

do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent.

Erica Seidel:

Let's go.

Erica Seidel:

Welcome to the next session of The Get.

Erica Seidel:

This season, as we know, is all about the CMO Board relationship,

Erica Seidel:

and I thought, what better than to have a CMO and one of their Board

Erica Seidel:

members together for this podcast?

Erica Seidel:

So for this one, we welcome Jen Dimas, who is the Chief Marketing

Erica Seidel:

and Experience Officer for Telarus.

Erica Seidel:

And Telarus is a global technology solutions brokerage.

Erica Seidel:

And I actually placed Jen in her role.

Erica Seidel:

It was a really fun search.

Erica Seidel:

And I worked alongside Evan DeCorte from Columbia Capital.

Erica Seidel:

He is our other guest.

Erica Seidel:

He is, uh, a Board member for Telarus and is representing that perspective.

Erica Seidel:

They are a PE entity that backs Telarus.

Erica Seidel:

So let us get started.

Erica Seidel:

Um, I would love to know, the two of you just seem to get along really well,

Erica Seidel:

and as we have talked about before, you have a pretty strong Board partnership

Erica Seidel:

and sometimes the CMO and Board partnership can be a little fraught.

Erica Seidel:

So what makes your partnership special compared to other, uh, kind of, uh,

Erica Seidel:

dyads of CMO and Board members that you have seen or been a part of?

Erica Seidel:

Maybe Jen, we'll start with you?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I think part of the reason our, uh, relationship is

Jen Pockell Dimas:

so strong and functional is because we were just really, we, we're

Jen Pockell Dimas:

both kind of transparent humans.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So when we first met, we both sort of just laid all the cards on the

Jen Pockell Dimas:

table about what was going on.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Evan was really clean and clear what was necessary in the role, what he had

Jen Pockell Dimas:

observed during diligence, uh, looking at Telarus as an investment opportunity and

Jen Pockell Dimas:

kind of had done a ton of research and had a really strong thesis of what was

Jen Pockell Dimas:

necessary for the company moving forward.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And he also knew what he didn't know.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

He's like, I think I need this thing, but tell me something different.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, this is what I see in the market.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

This is what I see as an opportunity.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

There happened to be a great overlap with what was necessary and what I'm good at.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I think we had a nice development of our relationship just because we

Jen Pockell Dimas:

both say things that we're good at, things that we, uh, we, things that

Jen Pockell Dimas:

we know, things that we don't know and we're, um, honest with each other.

Evan DeCorte:

It's really, for me, it's about transparency.

Evan DeCorte:

It, I think it's hard to develop a meaningful and productive relationship

Evan DeCorte:

if you can't be straightforward about, you know, what you need

Evan DeCorte:

and want and what you expect.

Evan DeCorte:

And, and also it's being receptive to beat back and hearing from the

Evan DeCorte:

company and its executives what they didn't want from us as, as investors.

Evan DeCorte:

And, and then there can be a temptation from the Board to treat it as a one-way

Evan DeCorte:

street to, to sort of dictate outcomes.

Evan DeCorte:

And it turns out that's actually not, not really how it works.

Evan DeCorte:

Um, people build businesses and, and we're part of that conversation, but

Evan DeCorte:

I think ultimately we're facilitators.

Evan DeCorte:

And so if you don't, if you don't come to that table with that approach, right,

Evan DeCorte:

and you think you can sort of just tell people what to do instead building a

Evan DeCorte:

business with them and alongside them, you're gonna set yourself up for, for

Evan DeCorte:

trouble and a lot of disappointment.

Erica Seidel:

Jen, you mentioned Evan and you got to know each other

Erica Seidel:

through the recruiting process.

Erica Seidel:

And I know Evan, you and I worked together along with the CEO of

Erica Seidel:

Telarus for the recruiting of Jen.

Erica Seidel:

Is that, is that unusual?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It's not unusual at all.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I've always met with at least a Board member, um, during recruitment

Jen Pockell Dimas:

for a marketing leadership role.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And frankly, I'd be really concerned if that wasn't part of the conversation.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

If I, I would have requested it had it not happened organically.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

But it's a very important relationship.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

The, the executive team in general, delivering on the promise to their

Jen Pockell Dimas:

investors, that's a big deal.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so knowing what the dynamic is there and understanding that relationship

Jen Pockell Dimas:

is incredibly important to, to be able to set yourself up for success.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So, no, I don't think it's unusual.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I think what was unusual here is just how well-aligned we all

Jen Pockell Dimas:

were and like how quickly we established fluency with each other.

Erica Seidel:

Yeah.

Erica Seidel:

My take on having investors in, involved in searches is, I'd rather

Erica Seidel:

have somebody who is helping be a chef at the beginning of a process

Erica Seidel:

than being like the restaurant critic and at the end of a process.

Erica Seidel:

So sometimes I've done searches where an investor comes in way at the end and

Erica Seidel:

they're like, oh, thumbs up, thumbs down.

Erica Seidel:

And it's not as helpful as if they're kind of involved early on.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

There's, there's something else I just wanted to say, um,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Erica, that I think is, is special here.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Because Evan and Columbia had done such incredibly thorough work on diligence

Jen Pockell Dimas:

about Telarus, like they really understood the market in which Telarus is operating.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So they had really strong opinions about what could be done and what was necessary.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so I think it's a, it was important that they were at the table, like

Jen Pockell Dimas:

they saw the market opportunity for doing things differently.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And they knew that, that doing this right was gonna be a real

Jen Pockell Dimas:

lever for success of the org.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so I'm glad they were so involved and they were really well informed.

Erica Seidel:

Evan, I'm gonna actually ask you this, like what do Boards want

Erica Seidel:

from a CMO and what don't they want?

Evan DeCorte:

I think what we don't want is hand waving.

Evan DeCorte:

As I sort of think about it, it's like a lot of vagueries and, and talk like

Evan DeCorte:

big talk about what could be or the things that are in motion and what things

Evan DeCorte:

maybe should look like in the future.

Evan DeCorte:

But it's hard to know.

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, I think Erica, you, you sort point out and say this all the time, but

Evan DeCorte:

like we have very simple reptile brains.

Evan DeCorte:

We are investors, right?

Evan DeCorte:

And our, our goal is to invest money in the company and then to sell or recap as a

Evan DeCorte:

business some way and get money back out.

Evan DeCorte:

And our goal is to have that pile of money at the end be a lot bigger

Evan DeCorte:

than the pile at the beginning.

Evan DeCorte:

And so a lot of what we are focused on is what is the result of the

Evan DeCorte:

actions that you're taking as a CMO?

Evan DeCorte:

How do they intersect with the strategy of the overall business?

Evan DeCorte:

And how do they correlate with value creation?

Evan DeCorte:

I, I think as investors we can probably, we're probably pretty thoughtful

Evan DeCorte:

about function and we maybe have some thoughts on sales and operation.

Evan DeCorte:

I think it's a rare investor that is, uh, you know, a marketing

Evan DeCorte:

expert that probably approaches nearly 0% of the, of the population.

Evan DeCorte:

And so we just need things in many ways think brought back to the basics, which is

Evan DeCorte:

we are doing X and here's how it aligns to the plan and here's how it creates value.

Evan DeCorte:

If you can sort of link all of those points in a clean way, you're gonna

Evan DeCorte:

have a very easy conversation with the Board and the investor syndicate.

Evan DeCorte:

I think where conversations break down is pointing to activity and

Evan DeCorte:

describing the value it will create without either data or, uh, an

Evan DeCorte:

obvious linkage to a strategic plan.

Evan DeCorte:

You know, activity doesn't create value necessarily.

Evan DeCorte:

Some activity does, but, but not all.

Evan DeCorte:

And so then confusing lots of moving pieces and lots of activity for

Evan DeCorte:

the process of sort of building the business like that, that's, I think,

Evan DeCorte:

where things get a little shaky.

Erica Seidel:

I love this reptilian brain concept.

Erica Seidel:

I find that so hilarious and so accurate, and I, uh, thank you

Erica Seidel:

for, thank you for saying that.

Erica Seidel:

So it seems like, and Evan is, I mean, I think you're, you're right, I heard the

Erica Seidel:

stat the other day that fewer than 5% of Board members have marketing backgrounds.

Erica Seidel:

So it's, as you say, it's kind of like approaches zero.

Erica Seidel:

So it seems to me that investors are asking for CMOs to kind

Erica Seidel:

of context switch for them.

Erica Seidel:

It's not like the Board members are not going to context

Erica Seidel:

switch for marketing leaders.

Erica Seidel:

So, Jen, I'm curious, there is this kind of translation between

Erica Seidel:

here's what I'm doing and, and how value gets created here.

Erica Seidel:

So can you talk more about that context switching and, and also

Erica Seidel:

like why is it incumbent upon you to do it if you believe that it is?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Uh, well, yes, I do think it is important for me to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

be able to speak to the value that I'm driving in the business in a way

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that our investors would care about.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Uh, a hundred percent I believe that's important.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I think, um, one of the ways that Evan and I sometimes talk about this

Jen Pockell Dimas:

is "Big V value" and "Little V value."

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I think the Little V value, a lot of times people are really attached to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that, like that's the, what am I doing today that helps to drive pipeline and

Jen Pockell Dimas:

like the things that I'm measuring on the daily, weekly, monthly to say I

Jen Pockell Dimas:

am doing these activities and they're creating value in the business.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It would be easy - it's not easy, by the way, lots of people aren't

Jen Pockell Dimas:

comfortable with that kind of a conversation or that flow, but that's

Jen Pockell Dimas:

not - Evan does care about that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Believe me, he cares about pipeline and booking that are happening.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What Evan cares about is the thing he told you about five minutes ago when

Jen Pockell Dimas:

he said, I put some money in and three to five years from now, I want it to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

be more money that I'm getting out.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

That's Big V value.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So it's a really, it has been hard in B2B marketing historically

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to draw a direct line from the activities that you're making to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the outcomes that they're driving.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

But now we're actually talking about Big V value, the value of

Jen Pockell Dimas:

this company, not just the value of these marketing activities that I'm

Jen Pockell Dimas:

driving, this, this my contribution to pipeline, whatever those things are.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

This is about how am I increasing the value of this company in market?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And that is not a conversation that is necessarily one that many

Jen Pockell Dimas:

are comfortable or fluent in, and that's the code switching that needs

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to happen between the operational plan and how I'm executing today.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

That's also important, by the way, and Evan cares a ton about that, too.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

But how am I changing the program that I'm running, the team, the, um, the efforts

Jen Pockell Dimas:

where I'm investing in order to increase that Big V value for the company at large.

Erica Seidel:

Can you say more about that Big V value?

Erica Seidel:

Like when you're at a Board meeting, what does that look like

Erica Seidel:

when you are describing that?

Erica Seidel:

Can you say like, oh, the, the value of the company just went up X percent?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I wish I could do that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

That would be cool, but no, that, that's why part of this is hard is this, that's

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the hardest thing to measure, right?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

In marketing, the, the easiest thing to measure, which honestly years ago you

Jen Pockell Dimas:

couldn't even do this is I did these activities, I created this pipeline.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Right?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Those are, those are the, the kinds of things that you can

Jen Pockell Dimas:

draw straight lines to now.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Even those things used to be difficult.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

But in terms of value creation of a brand or a category that's

Jen Pockell Dimas:

really squishy and difficult.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

If you're not spend, if you're not spending tons of money on a

Jen Pockell Dimas:

share of voice, share a wallet, what's going on out there?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And for a company in our stage of growth, those kinds of, um,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

studies don't make any sense.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, and by the way, even if you spent hundreds of thousands of

Jen Pockell Dimas:

dollars to do those studies in five minutes, that data would old.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So it, it's not a good investment to do those studies

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to understand your Big V value.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

But in our particular case, we have understandings about how we want this

Jen Pockell Dimas:

company to be understood and valued and what new markets we want to open.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And we'll be able to see that we're having success there because we will

Jen Pockell Dimas:

begin to create revenue in new directions.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

We will open up, uh, we will see consistency in, uh, bookings

Jen Pockell Dimas:

creation, in, in directions we haven't seen historically.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Maybe into a new geo, maybe a new, new product offering, maybe

Jen Pockell Dimas:

in a new revenue source that we hadn't considered historically.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Those kinds of things would increase our value.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

The squishy ways that this would show up, and every marketer hates this, but

Jen Pockell Dimas:

one of the things that we knew was a challenge here is our own customers saying

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to us, "Oh, I didn't know you did that."

Jen Pockell Dimas:

That breaks every marketer's heart.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

We don't want that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So addressing those kinds of things, those are, those are the squishy

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things that are hard to measure, right?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

How do we make sure that where we are understood, um, where we are in

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the consideration set of our future customers, that that is, that market

Jen Pockell Dimas:

is expanding, and that more folks are understanding the ways that

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Telarus can drive value for them.

Erica Seidel:

So, Evan, let me ask you, if Jen or a different marketing leader

Erica Seidel:

from a different port co brought up these kind of squishy things, which

Erica Seidel:

it's, it's, I don't know if I would say squishy, but kind of like directional

Erica Seidel:

things, like in a Board meeting.

Erica Seidel:

So, for instance, people are, are not saying that they, um, knew that such and

Erica Seidel:

such a company did X, Y, Z, like, do you think that's valid for a Board meeting?

Evan DeCorte:

It's very rarely the case in a complex operating business that you

Evan DeCorte:

have one-to-one correlations everywhere across the company where you can directly

Evan DeCorte:

tie specific actions to specific outcomes.

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

And so this idea that we're gonna have perfect knowledge, it's like,

Evan DeCorte:

I don't really think it makes sense.

Evan DeCorte:

And it seems like an impossible goal.

Evan DeCorte:

In many ways, I, I think the Board meeting, and this is not exactly what

Evan DeCorte:

you asked, but I think the Board meeting and the, and the conversation in the

Evan DeCorte:

Boardroom can act as like a bit of a forcing function to, to cause all of the

Evan DeCorte:

executives in the business to stop and reflect on this very specific operational

Evan DeCorte:

activities that they've been carrying out and ask how does this create value?

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

Why are we doing these things?

Evan DeCorte:

How do we know that they are successful?

Evan DeCorte:

And sometimes we can, all we can do is get a sense where we're directionally

Evan DeCorte:

correct and like, that's okay.

Evan DeCorte:

I think what, what doesn't work, though, and where I think really, I

Evan DeCorte:

don't think it should be a, a question of, of code switching where marketers

Evan DeCorte:

think about marketing things and investors think about investment things.

Evan DeCorte:

We are united in a common goal, right?

Evan DeCorte:

Which is creating, creating value for the employees, for the shareholders,

Evan DeCorte:

and creating valuable business.

Evan DeCorte:

If we don't look at the, all of our activities through that lens, I, I think

Evan DeCorte:

we've sort of failed the enterprise.

Evan DeCorte:

And so I, I just, I think in a really simple example, right?

Evan DeCorte:

Every CMO in our portfolio is a shareholder, right?

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, either through a management incentive plan or direct

Evan DeCorte:

ownership, they participate in the value that's being created.

Evan DeCorte:

And I don't actually think that that the worlds are too,

Evan DeCorte:

they're, they're too different.

Evan DeCorte:

It's just where you focus and where you apply your efforts.

Erica Seidel:

Evan, is there something that you admit that you

Erica Seidel:

don't understand about marketing that you'd be willing to share?

Evan DeCorte:

I don't know anything about marketing.

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, like, there's not like, like so many things I don't know.

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, I, I don't even know, I don't even know how start answering that.

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, at, at one point in a, in a life long, long ago, I, I, I had some

Evan DeCorte:

marketing experience and like, I'm not even sure I was very good at it.

Evan DeCorte:

And I wouldn't even pretend to give, um, relevant operational advice.

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, I think the world in which Jen says, like, I'm, I'm thinking

Evan DeCorte:

about running this campaign and here are the various ads in front of me.

Evan DeCorte:

What should you choose?

Evan DeCorte:

It's like, well, like that's very misguided to ask me because like

Evan DeCorte:

what of worth could I tell you?

Evan DeCorte:

I think this just kind of goes back to like what is the, what is the relationship

Evan DeCorte:

between the Board, the investor syndicate, and the executive team?

Evan DeCorte:

It's, hey Jen, like show me with your track record.

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

So you've told me that you wanted to pursue these things, that they would

Evan DeCorte:

be valuable in the past you did them.

Evan DeCorte:

What was the outcome?

Evan DeCorte:

I think that feedback loop is just as valuable when things are working

Evan DeCorte:

as it is when they're not working.

Evan DeCorte:

In fact, it's probably more valuable when it's not working right.

Evan DeCorte:

So, to the extent that we can see team hypothesis test and then

Evan DeCorte:

course correct, that's great too.

Evan DeCorte:

We don't expect everyone to be right a hundred percent of the time.

Evan DeCorte:

What we, what we care about is that we're measuring the activity as best

Evan DeCorte:

we can and knowing that it's probably imperfect at best, and then using

Evan DeCorte:

that data to inform our next action.

Evan DeCorte:

And so, I mean, I don't know, Jen, correct me if I'm wrong, but, like,

Evan DeCorte:

the number of times I've given any kind of meaningful, substantive advice in

Evan DeCorte:

the Board meeting around some specific marketing tactic, like I, I probably

Evan DeCorte:

could count on one hand and every time I gave it was probably wrong.

Evan DeCorte:

So our, our goal is not to be smart marketers.

Evan DeCorte:

That's why we recruit great people to work with our businesses.

Evan DeCorte:

So we don't, we don't have to do it.

Evan DeCorte:

We're getting involved it's because something's gone horribly wrong.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I do think now there was something, um, underneath what Evan

Jen Pockell Dimas:

just said, that that has changed who marketers are, who CMOs are, Erica,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

and that is this preponderance of data that allows us to understand now

Jen Pockell Dimas:

digital buying behavior, to be able to see how people are engaging with

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the brand and how they become engaged when they're in the consideration set.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What their purchase journey looks like.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What happens after.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Now that we can understand these things, it, we, we must, right?

Erica Seidel:

Mm-hmm.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So what Evan didn't say is like, that's why he wants

Jen Pockell Dimas:

data-driven marketers to help him because he speaks with his reptile brain.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

He wants to understand, if I put in a dollar here, how many dollars

Jen Pockell Dimas:

am I getting out on the other side?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And that's hard to do if you're talking about squishy, you know, arts and crafts

Jen Pockell Dimas:

marketing, which that, that's why the profile of who leads marketing has

Jen Pockell Dimas:

changed so much because the data exists to be able to tell more informed stories.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so that's why folks are looking for that profile from a leader today.

Erica Seidel:

So, Jen, let me ask you, we asked Evan what he wants from a CMO.

Erica Seidel:

What do you want from a Board and what don't you want?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I love that they know what they know and

Jen Pockell Dimas:

they know what they don't know.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, and they're just so that, that's super helpful because it

Jen Pockell Dimas:

hasn't always been like that for me.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I'll, I'll be honest, like there are a lot of people who read something

Jen Pockell Dimas:

about marketing and, and then send you a note saying, you should do this

Jen Pockell Dimas:

with your SEO strategy, or you should go on Twitter and say these things.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

There are a lot of people who sort of like play at operating, and that's not bad.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I mean, it's, you get good ideas from all over the place.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It's not a bad thing to have that, but it, it's really powerful to know where

Jen Pockell Dimas:

you add value and where you don't.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like Evan and I have had many conversations about me understanding

Jen Pockell Dimas:

his financial perspective on things and what good looks like and what success

Jen Pockell Dimas:

looks like for the company and things like that so that we remain aligned.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So I like, I like that kind of openness.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I like that we have open channels of communication.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like that's another thing is I like ungated access to Board.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Uh, sometimes you have, uh, leadership that, that's really

Jen Pockell Dimas:

protective of that relationship, and we don't have that at Telarus.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

We are, we are allowed and encouraged to have direct relationships with Board

Jen Pockell Dimas:

and I think that is really healthy.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So that's something that I would want is open access.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And feedback like when things are going well or when things aren't going well.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Just like Evan wants me to tell him, hey, I, I ran this play and oops,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that didn't work out well, so now I'm gonna do it this way next time.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

This is what I'm gonna change and this is how, this is what I learned

Jen Pockell Dimas:

and how I'm gonna do it differently.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I also want them to be like, hey, by the way, when you presented

Jen Pockell Dimas:

information the following way is this did not, um, meet our expectations.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It would be better if it was like this, and this is what I really meant

Jen Pockell Dimas:

when I said I wanted this thing.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like real open, honest feedback is super helpful.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

'Cause I've definitely had it where it's not that and that I've

Jen Pockell Dimas:

been surprised by Board reactions.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So I think that that's sort of me as a human, um, wanting that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I want more open communication anyway.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And having that from a Board is very important.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I, I believe I have that with Evan and with the rest of the

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Columbia Capital Board, too.

Erica Seidel:

So Jen, what would be your advice to another CMO who is facing that

Erica Seidel:

challenge that a Board member, you know, saw something, you know, like, oh, go

Erica Seidel:

do this thing on Twitter, or, you know, why don't you, why don't you do X, Y, Z?

Erica Seidel:

How, how would you advise them?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Well, what I've said, I really believe.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like good ideas come from anywhere.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So part of the guidance there is listening, uh, you know, being open-minded

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to things, but the other part is to, it's an opportunity in some cases to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

remind folks about what your priorities and where your areas of focus are.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So it, it would be great in, in, in the case when someone came up with

Jen Pockell Dimas:

a thing and said, "Hey, why don't you go do the thing over there?"

Jen Pockell Dimas:

You could say, oh, that's a really interesting idea, and remember this year

Jen Pockell Dimas:

we're focused on these three priorities.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

These are the things that my programs are driving toward.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I, we could, um, we could take some of our focus away to try that experiment,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

but I'm not sure it would have the same impact on the bottom line as these

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things that we're doing or whatever.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Bringing information back to what are the like top line objectives

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that you're trying to drive through the business is one way to do that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Because there's always a lot of ideas and keeping focused and, uh, and trying

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things is good or, or keeping a carve out for ex-experian, like, uh, experiment,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

pardon me, is is also not a bad idea because there are often ideas that

Jen Pockell Dimas:

come at you from lots of directions and it's not a bad idea to try things.

Erica Seidel:

Right.

Evan DeCorte:

I actually think it's funny, like, I hadn't really thought about

Evan DeCorte:

it that way, but I, I do think framing things for the investor or the Board

Evan DeCorte:

around this idea of constrained resources.

Evan DeCorte:

Like we only have so many people.

Evan DeCorte:

We have to pick the things that we're gonna do and we wanna

Evan DeCorte:

be best in the world at them.

Evan DeCorte:

In order for us to do that, this is what we have to do.

Evan DeCorte:

Like that, that is, that's language that resonates, right?

Evan DeCorte:

So we, I always sort of ask people like, what are you best in the world at?

Evan DeCorte:

What is the company best in the world at?

Evan DeCorte:

How do we do more of that thing and do less things you're not?

Evan DeCorte:

I think investors and finance folks understand this idea of constrained

Evan DeCorte:

resources and tradeoffs really well, but somehow, like when we talk with

Evan DeCorte:

the companies with which we invested, we have this expectation that people

Evan DeCorte:

do endless amounts of work with, you know, very limited resources.

Evan DeCorte:

And then there's also this question about budget, right?

Evan DeCorte:

So we like the idea of endless work, but without endless budget.

Evan DeCorte:

And, and like turns out those are, like, contradictory ideas.

Evan DeCorte:

And so, you know, I think framing the priorities around, you know, what we can

Evan DeCorte:

do well and what we need to focus on, I think is also, is always a, a helpful

Evan DeCorte:

way to ground and frame the conversation.

Erica Seidel:

Thank you.

Erica Seidel:

So any tips on when things are not going well?

Erica Seidel:

Evan, you brought this up earlier.

Erica Seidel:

If, um, you know, say leads are down, conversion is suffering, a launch

Erica Seidel:

falls flat, you know, you spend a lot of money on a campaign and it

Erica Seidel:

doesn't do, doesn't go anywhere.

Erica Seidel:

Like, I'm curious from, from either or both of you, how should that change

Erica Seidel:

how a CMO interacts with the Board?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

If you have the measurements in place, like

Jen Pockell Dimas:

we were talking about, there's always something that's out.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

People don't buy the way you expect them to buy.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Buying trends change, things change.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, and so there's never gonna be ever a time when you 100%

Jen Pockell Dimas:

delivered on your promise.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So I think just being completely, first of all, managing expectations

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that that's true is helpful.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like if someone's expecting green across the Board and everything just

Jen Pockell Dimas:

goes the way that they, uh, hoped it would, like, that's not rational.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It's probably not gonna go that way.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And we're probably not measuring things appropriately if everything's

Jen Pockell Dimas:

always looking up and to the right.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So what we're looking for are to have the mechanisms in place that we can see when

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things are out and that we can adjust.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So Evan just said, tell me early and often when things aren't going right.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I would hope, Erica, never, I mean, not never, unless Evan wants me to,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

but I'm not gonna be in the business of talking to Evan about the messaging

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that I have at the campaign level.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

That's something, that's like too small for him.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

He doesn't care about those things.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What he cares about is the outcome in a bi- much bigger sense.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So he needs to believe that I'm tracking the business in a way that I can

Jen Pockell Dimas:

make adjustments, um, to my business and ma- and make those outcomes.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And that, and that I need to be out and honest with what's going

Jen Pockell Dimas:

really well and also with what I'm, uh, working to correct.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so some of that is me, um, actively managing expectations that

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things will, will always be out.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And secondly, me, me showing the reds and the yellows too, not just

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the greens when I'm communicating with the Board about what's going,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

you know, how things are going.

Evan DeCorte:

I guess just what I wanna know is that, amongst the teams that

Evan DeCorte:

we back, there's enough willingness to reflect on what's going right and wrong.

Evan DeCorte:

Communicate those lessons in, in an open and honest way

Evan DeCorte:

that we can have a dialogue.

Evan DeCorte:

What I think, I think when that breaks down, I think you get a lot of, you get a

Evan DeCorte:

lot of commentary about, you know, Twitter tactics from Board members who don't

Evan DeCorte:

know what they're talking about, right?

Evan DeCorte:

There's like some, some interests are desired to assert control where

Evan DeCorte:

maybe they feel like they don't have their arms around things.

Evan DeCorte:

And I think similarly, if teams don't feel like they have an understanding

Evan DeCorte:

where their investors sit and how they're thinking about the world, then maybe they,

Evan DeCorte:

maybe they wanna hoard information too.

Evan DeCorte:

And like if, when you get to those, those are very dark places to get and

Evan DeCorte:

you really never, ever wanna be there.

Evan DeCorte:

And the only way to, to avoid it is just be open, honest, every

Evan DeCorte:

step, every step of the way.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Your question, um, was about what to do in these cases.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So part of my guidance would be include the Board in all of your interviews.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

First of all, don't ever accept a marketing leadership position without

Jen Pockell Dimas:

relationship development with that Board because you don't know what

Jen Pockell Dimas:

you're walking into otherwise.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like you're signing up for something that you don't know what that's like.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And then manage that, um, relationship actively.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I can- earlier when leadership was less comfortable to me, when it was a newer

Jen Pockell Dimas:

experience of leading the functions, I don't know that I had the confidence to

Jen Pockell Dimas:

push on that kind of thing as much and I didn't, um, and I didn't know that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I don't think I developed the Board relationships as much as I

Jen Pockell Dimas:

should have, like looking back.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, and so there was an out between expectation and, uh,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

delivery and things like that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I think that as I've moved on, like that's an incredibly important,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

uh, relationship to invest in before you even accept the job so that

Jen Pockell Dimas:

you're on the same page about, um, expectations, but also certainly

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to cultivate while you're in-seat.

Erica Seidel:

That, that makes a ton of sense.

Erica Seidel:

Jen, you were mentioning, you know, reds, yellows, and greens.

Erica Seidel:

Um, which makes me wonder, what has worked and what hasn't in terms of

Erica Seidel:

structuring your Board presentations?

Erica Seidel:

And relatedly, is there a way that you've seen to not have Board meeting prep

Erica Seidel:

take days of intensity and days of time?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Well, your Board meeting content is

Jen Pockell Dimas:

always incredibly important.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And I, I'm not even a year in-seat at Telarus.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So if I am honest about how we've managed our Board conversations

Jen Pockell Dimas:

to date, it's not like I have a, a rote package that I'm continuously

Jen Pockell Dimas:

delivering to them every single time.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It's more complete updates to like, what are the strategic imperatives?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

The first 120 days I was like sitting and looking and evaluating the business

Jen Pockell Dimas:

and deciding what priorities were, and it was aligning on priorities and it

Jen Pockell Dimas:

was restructuring and doing all that.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So there's been a lot of higher level updates, but my goal ultimately

Jen Pockell Dimas:

when I get the business to where it is, is to have more of a regular

Jen Pockell Dimas:

package, which is data driven.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I have, at this point, um, developed a dashboard, but it, it is a dashboard

Jen Pockell Dimas:

that I am just now reporting on regularly to the internal business.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It's not even Board ready.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like, I'll, Evan, I could, I I would show it to you in a private meeting right

Jen Pockell Dimas:

now, but it's not consistent enough.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Um, I haven't had enough months in-seat, like measuring the same

Jen Pockell Dimas:

things that I believe it's Board ready.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so I think by partway through this year we'll be in that place,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Erica, where I'll have a more standard Board reporting package where Evan

Jen Pockell Dimas:

can be like, aha, these, this is what I expect to see from Jen.

Erica Seidel:

Evan, anything to add on how Board meeting prep can be less intensive?

Evan DeCorte:

I don't actually know if that's the right question.

Evan DeCorte:

Like, I mean, I think that the sort of frames Board meeting prep as like

Evan DeCorte:

eating, eating your vegetables, right?

Erica Seidel:

Yeah.

Evan DeCorte:

It's like what's the least painful way to do this?

Evan DeCorte:

It, it's, something's that's kind of a pain and it takes a lot time,

Evan DeCorte:

and could we be more efficient?

Evan DeCorte:

Because it, I, I think it treats the, the Board reporting as

Evan DeCorte:

perfunctory and as reporting.

Evan DeCorte:

And I think if that's the where you are, well then just send out the deck.

Evan DeCorte:

We don't need a Board meeting, right?

Evan DeCorte:

I mean, send some materials.

Evan DeCorte:

Tell me, show me the same thing every month or every quarter, whatever.

Evan DeCorte:

And we don't need to get together and burn up a bunch of time.

Evan DeCorte:

If that's what you're doing, I, I think Board meetings, Board meetings probably

Evan DeCorte:

were being run pretty poorly, right?

Evan DeCorte:

It's not good use of everyone's time.

Evan DeCorte:

I think Board meeting prep takes time because it is, I think, for the business,

Evan DeCorte:

like a moment of self-reflection.

Evan DeCorte:

What have we done?

Evan DeCorte:

What were the outcomes?

Evan DeCorte:

What are we gonna do differently?

Evan DeCorte:

How does this impact our view on strategy or the market?

Evan DeCorte:

And those are not always easy questions to answer.

Evan DeCorte:

And if they are really easy, like I, I might, might think it's time

Evan DeCorte:

for a little more self-reflection.

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

Because it, because they're, these are like, it very rarely are the things

Evan DeCorte:

that we're doing, even in businesses that are just really doing well, easy.

Evan DeCorte:

We face tough questions that take time to grapple with, right?

Evan DeCorte:

We are conducting a lot of activities and hiring people and running new

Evan DeCorte:

strategies and evaluating them and measuring them against the alternatives.

Evan DeCorte:

Like those are complex questions.

Erica Seidel:

Yeah.

Evan DeCorte:

If the answer is obvious and easy, and it's the same every

Evan DeCorte:

quarter, like something's not working.

Evan DeCorte:

So I, I encourage the companies that we work with, and I think this, you know,

Evan DeCorte:

extends all the way to the marketing function to look at the Board meeting as a

Evan DeCorte:

way to just pause and to, to kind of think about what you've been spending time on

Evan DeCorte:

and you know, what you wanna accomplish and, and what you have accomplished.

Evan DeCorte:

I think for, just given where Columbia invests, a lot of times we'll get involved

Evan DeCorte:

in the business that maybe has actually never even had a formal Board meeting.

Evan DeCorte:

And I think there's sometimes a little bit of, like, a allergic reaction idea.

Evan DeCorte:

We'll write all the things working down piece of paper then talk about them.

Evan DeCorte:

But over time, I, I, I would say the universal, in your universal

Evan DeCorte:

view from the executives that we partner with, the Board meeting

Evan DeCorte:

itself is a highly valuable exercise.

Evan DeCorte:

It is not just to give an update to the investor group.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

It does force you to look with outside

Jen Pockell Dimas:

eyes at your business, right?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

'Cause you can get so in the weeds on a regular day, to say, okay,

Jen Pockell Dimas:

wait a minute, now I'm looking at this from a different perspective.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Uh, what's the story?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

How are things going?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And so I, I completely agree that it, and, and also you wanna use

Jen Pockell Dimas:

the Board for the guidance that they're good at giving you, right?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

You wanna be able to say, these are the things that are happening, and

Jen Pockell Dimas:

ask them for the guidance, um, in the places where you need it or, or buy in

Jen Pockell Dimas:

for the decisions that you're making.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

If they, you know, like, this is my strategy.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

This is something I learned, this is what I'm gonna do differently.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Is this something you're familiar with?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Is this, does this make sense?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

Like, use the Board for making good decisions too.

Erica Seidel:

Right.

Evan DeCorte:

And I think, you know, the, the more informed we are, the

Evan DeCorte:

better we are at providing support.

Evan DeCorte:

And that support is not in the form of, you know, this

Evan DeCorte:

marketing tactic versus that.

Evan DeCorte:

It's, hey Jen, like we have ten other portfolio companies

Evan DeCorte:

that face similar problems.

Evan DeCorte:

I have an idea about how they solve them.

Evan DeCorte:

I'm probably not the best person to describe them to you.

Evan DeCorte:

Why don't you talk to them?

Evan DeCorte:

Right?

Evan DeCorte:

So we, I think we can facilitate connections and conversations that

Evan DeCorte:

ultimately are useful, that help get to resolution, but without us being

Evan DeCorte:

the ones actually dictating the result.

Erica Seidel:

That's a great conversation.

Erica Seidel:

Thank you.

Erica Seidel:

So final question for each of you is just what one piece of final

Erica Seidel:

advice would you have for a new CMO or a CMO that's new to a role to

Erica Seidel:

optimize their Board relationship?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I think I'll just go back to the thing that I said before.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

One is ensure that the Board is included in your, in your interview process.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

I wouldn't allow it otherwise.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And then cultivate that relate, actively cultivate that relationship as someone

Jen Pockell Dimas:

who's their partner with you and the success of the business, and help you

Jen Pockell Dimas:

see things from a different direction.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And they have skills and abilities to help you be more successful at your job.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

So leverage them.

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And also they can help you in some very clear ways understand

Jen Pockell Dimas:

what is the Big V value?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What, why are you there?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

What is the outcome that you're really trying to drive?

Jen Pockell Dimas:

And, and have that perspective from, from a different, a different lens.

Erica Seidel:

Evan, anything to add?

Evan DeCorte:

Yeah, I mean, I think without, um, I'll just say just

Evan DeCorte:

transparency is, is, is absolutely key.

Evan DeCorte:

But I think maybe this, the specific thing I would recommend and something

Evan DeCorte:

we try and do though, though not always successfully, is to make sure

Evan DeCorte:

that we are sharing our view on how value gets created in these businesses

Evan DeCorte:

and being very specific about it.

Evan DeCorte:

And that's not necessarily to like prescribe a playbook, but I think, you

Evan DeCorte:

know, even very early on, you know, Jen, Jen and I sat down, you know, we

Evan DeCorte:

went through our deck, like how do we think value gets created at Telarus?

Evan DeCorte:

And how do we think the market will think about value?

Evan DeCorte:

How do we think that intersects with mark, intersects with marketing?

Evan DeCorte:

And here's some example numbers.

Evan DeCorte:

Like it's not, it's not as if it was the crystal ball where we

Evan DeCorte:

outline exactly what's gonna happen for the next couple of years.

Evan DeCorte:

But it allows us to align, I think, but Jen will tell me if it'll work

Evan DeCorte:

not, on the common vocabulary, so that when we talk about value, we are

Evan DeCorte:

actually talking about the same thing.

Evan DeCorte:

I think sometimes that step can get skipped because we assume that we're

Evan DeCorte:

all speaking the same language, when in fact we very rarely are.

Evan DeCorte:

Just because we come with different sets of experiences and different

Evan DeCorte:

priors, look doesn't mean we're gonna agree on everything.

Evan DeCorte:

But I think it's important that we understand each person's worldview so

Evan DeCorte:

that we can iterate quickly as we develop a relationship around what does value

Evan DeCorte:

creation mean in a, you know, private equity backed or venture-backed business.

Erica Seidel:

Well, this has been awesome.

Erica Seidel:

Thank you both for sharing these fabulous perspectives.

Erica Seidel:

I have this image in my mind of reptilian brains and, you know,

Erica Seidel:

awesome reptiles and, um, and also just a, just such a nice, uh,

Erica Seidel:

connection between the two of you.

Erica Seidel:

So, thank you so much, Jen Dimas and Evan DeCorte for joining The Get.

Erica Seidel:

That was Jen Dimas, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer from Telarus,

Erica Seidel:

and Evan DeCorte, one of her Board members from Columbia Capital.

Erica Seidel:

Maybe you have a Board member with a reptilian brain.

Erica Seidel:

Think about how you can translate marketing speak for them based

Erica Seidel:

on what you learned today.

Erica Seidel:

Next time on The Get, we will hear from two SaaS marketing leaders from

Erica Seidel:

PE-backed companies about their hard-won learnings on working with Boards,

Erica Seidel:

Alison Dancy and Madeline O'Phelan.

Erica Seidel:

You'll hear about the relative importance of the three Cs - context,

Erica Seidel:

content, and confidence when interacting with the Board.

Erica Seidel:

And we talk about how Boards have glommed onto some key marketing concepts like

Erica Seidel:

ABM and ICP, but not others, like brand.

Erica Seidel:

How do you leverage that in your Board interactions?

Erica Seidel:

Don't miss it.

Erica Seidel:

Thanks for listening to The Get.

Erica Seidel:

I'm your host, Erica Seidel.

Erica Seidel:

The Get is here to drive smart decisions around recruiting and

Erica Seidel:

leadership in B2B SaaS marketing.

Erica Seidel:

We explore the trends, tribulations, and triumphs of today's top

Erica Seidel:

marketing leaders in B2B SaaS.

Erica Seidel:

If you liked this episode, please share it.

Erica Seidel:

For more about The Get, visit thegetpodcast.com.

Erica Seidel:

To learn more about my executive search practice, which focuses on recruiting the

Erica Seidel:

make-money marketing leaders rather than the make-it-pretty ones, follow me on

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