We’ve all heard the expression, “no man is an island.” Well, when it comes to successful product marketing, this is more true than ever. What do you get when departments are toiling away in their silos, never reaching out to each other? Your key metrics for success are gonna nose-dive! 📉

Just take it from the experts. Simon Hodgkins, CMO at Vistatec, led this vital discussion at the CMO Summit 2021. Here they discussed how collaboration between teams and the C-Suite can help smash through those silos and skyrocket your way to success! 👊 📈

Speakers included:

  • Amy Barzdukas, CMO, WiTricity
  • Jeff Boehm, CMO, Formlabs
  • Gaston Tourn, CMO, Appear Here

Main talking points included:

What are the main challenges when working with international teams?

Amy Barzdukas: In many ways, the international part of the business has gotten a little bit easier because of people becoming so accustomed to video conferencing.

During my five years at Polycom, where we worked in video conferencing, we became very aware of the fact that being able to observe body language, and seeing people’s eyes gives you a more complete picture of the people you're meeting with. And it really helps to build that connection between teams.  

I think one of the key things that recent events have taught me is just how important it is to build empathy with the people you’re working with at different cycles. I subscribe to a heart-first approach. Once you build that rapport, a lot of other crucial good practices will follow.

Jeff Boehm: We have an international organization, so we’re always using video technologies. But one of the things the past few years have taught us is that not everyone is entirely engaged when they show up for a video meeting. This really can be a significant barrier to collaboration when people aren’t engaged in the conversation.

The pandemic has demanded that we get better at engaging with people remotely. It's also really important to remember that when working with international teams, you’re going to be dealing with people who are at different levels in regards to how they're progressing with the pandemic.

You’re also going to be dealing with people who have very different cultural values and so having empathy is really relevant there as well. These are just really essential qualities to have as a leader in general.  

In the modern age, we can really utilize technology to ensure that we’re staying engaged and empathetic. Using a platform like Slack, there are many ways you can create a rapport between teams to overcome the fact that you’re not just bumping into each other in the office.

We have to make time to have these informal check-ins and chats. Slack provides great opportunities for creating communities and group chats where you can get together and have an informal chat. It’s these unscheduled interactions that build those relationships that lead to good work practices.

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Gaston Tourn: I think if there’s a positive to recent events globally, it’s that people have had to improve the way that they interact with their immediate teams, and that has had a positive impact on the way that we interact with global teams as well.  

Putting everyone in the same boat emphasizes the need to engage with people over long distances.

I think a major challenge that's arisen is that people might be working more efficiently but they’re  not necessarily being more creative or innovative. I do think that people gain creativity from in-person interactions, and that’s a major challenge that we have to be mindful of when working remotely.

What are the crucial tools or platforms for cross-functional work?

Jeff Boehm: Slack is a really key platform for us, as it really supports those asynchronous communications that happen throughout the day. This used to be accomplished by walking over to someone's desk and having and bringing up some pressing issue.

For example, Slack really helps to facilitate those little short-term issues that you're going to be dealing with throughout the day, problems that are difficult to address over email..

Google Meet is great for face-to-face casual interactions. For project management, we’ve found Asana to be really useful. It’s so good for maintaining communications in on-going projects. You can communicate the level of urgency and dependencies just through the use of tags, for example.

Amy Barzdukas: It's really easy to be overwhelmed by communications platforms. All the different inputs can create a threatening cloud of dichotomies. Some people like to communicate via Zoom using video conferencing, for example.

Then again, another person may want to communicate via text or email. The question is, how do you streamline communications whilst also being empathetic and mindful of people’s preferred modes of communication?

Luckily the modern age provides so many different tools to accommodate many people’s needs, and many of them, such as Slack, can accommodate many different needs at once.

Gaston Tourn: I think, more than platforms and tools, it’s all about the different rhythms you employ to enable cross-functional collaboration. In our case, we have a very specific meeting that really sets the essential goals for the week. That then cascades into a kickoff with my marketing team, where we make sure that we’re aligned.

We also just have frequent check-ins throughout the week, where we ensure that the goals we laid out are being followed and we’re on track to meeting our targets. Our communication platform is obviously important for ensuring this happens.

How has this post-pandemic way of working impacted your role as CMO?

Jeff Boehm: The role of the CMO has continued to evolve in organizations and I think it does evolve based on the stage the organization is at. In our organization, we’re at a very rapid growth stage in our development. In 2020, despite the pandemic, it was one of our best years yet.

And when you're growing this quickly, everybody must be aligned. And marketing and sales are quite often at the forefront of identifying where those market opportunities are, and how we execute and capitalize on them.

I think it's so critical for the CMO to be closely aligned with sales, but also to be providing frequent, regular feedback to the product side of the organization. They should be aligned with HR in regards to recruiting practices, etc.

The role of the CMO should be to shape and identify the markets that we're going after, but also to make sure that everyone’s in alignment with that goal.  

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Amy Barzdukas: Your employees are really just so critical to your business and it’s incredibly important to always be thinking about how you can keep employee morale up, and also how you can shape your customers into being brand ambassadors for you.

For example, if you’re launching a new website, your team might not necessarily think that’s something that’s got anything to do with them, so how do you get them excited about this new development?

How do we make it real for our employees? In the past couple of years, we haven’t been able to do this physically, with balloons in the lobby and streamers, etc. So, we’ve had to find ways to make things more exciting on a virtual level. We’re trying to achieve good alignment to drive our brand message out there and get everybody enthusiastic about our mission statement.

Gaston Tourn: The role of a CMO is incredibly important, now more than ever. We need to think of marketing as a growth driver, not a cost center for organizations.

Every department in an org has different goals and aims. HR wants to see the employer brand grow. Sales want to see marketing driving leads, product want to see the right type of users that are really going to drive up that conversion rate.

There are so many stakeholders and so much complexity, and as the CMO, you cannot deliver something for all of them. You need to know who you need to disappoint and why. You need to make sure that your team is focused.

When working remotely this became even more important because people were seriously burning out across the board. As a CMO, it’s just really important that you define what value you can contribute to the business.
You need to be quite ruthless about deprioritizing. Don’t assume you can handle everything, or nothing will get done well.

How has increased availability/accessibility affected workers?

Jeff Boehm: A key part of strategy in a leadership role is not just knowing when to say yes to things, but it’s also important to know when to say no. In the end, it’s all really about prioritization.

The point about increased accessibility is definitely true, but it’s not just a pandemic thing, it’s been building for years because we carry our computers in our pockets all the time, and that’s made us more connected to everyone.

Because of this, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries, to know when to sign off for the day. Of course, there are big issues where you need to have increased responsiveness, but it’s all about knowing what to give your immediate attention to.

If you can then model that behavior as a leader, you really set the precedent for good morale in your team.

Amy Barzdukas: I agree with Jeff on everything here. It’s up to you to decide where you draw your boundaries and limits. You decide whether you stay logged into your communication platform outside of work. You decide whether to have your work phone or not outside of work times. Being able to keep your morale up is really going to set that model for the rest of the team and create a healthy work culture.

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Why is it so important to build that connection with the C-suite and align with their goals?

Jeff Boehm: I do think that getting a seat at the table is critical. In a growth organization like Formlabs, where we are trying to continually improve our efficiency, we need to have our input in terms of what the company is doing on a broader scale.  

We must be providing input based on what we're seeing in the market. It's also really important for us to be hearing what other executives are talking about, and funneling that back and using it in our marketing decisions.

If we're hearing about a certain challenge that’s been put on the sales organization, how does marketing adapt to that? How do we adjust to that? How do we take that insight and act on it from a marketing perspective?

I do think that gaining a seat at the table is really critical to be part of the conversation and will help to shape the company strategy. We then need to use that to shape our marketing strategy.

Amy Barzdukas: If you're not at the table, hearing the conversations, understanding the broader business challenges, understanding how people are viewing the parts of the company, you're operating with one hand tied behind your back.

When you get this seat at the table, it’s super important to act as a business leader, and not just as the head of your function. You don’t just have to come at it from your department's perspective, you can take into account many different perspectives when offering your insight.

Gaston Tourn: I think it’s very easy in these meetings to blame any issue on an internal team when it can very often be a customer issue. What customer needs are we failing to meet? That’s always an issue to consider. That is the one goal that is everyone’s responsibility within any org.

People tend to get stuck in their silos and only be thinking about their own department’s KPIs, but marketing is unique in that they can think about, on a broader scale, whether we can actually  deliver on a product. Are we really delivering a valuable service to our customers?  

In the end, we want to bring the voice of the customer to the organization by making sure that we’re communicating back to that customer. We need to make sure that we’re highlighting what’s in it for them and not just what’s in it for us.

The voice of the customer should never be an external thing, it should be a key internal component within any organization. I think the CMO needs to represent that.

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