Podcast: Advice for a New VP of Marketing

Shahin Hoda 18  mins read Updated: March 15th, 2024

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Advice for New VP of Marketing

Episode’s topic: Advice for a New VP of Marketing

In this episode, host Shahin Hoda chats with Lisa Leight, VP of Marketing at Convoso, about how newly appointed marketing executives can build a new team from scratch and better leverage the existing resources at their organisations. 

Apart from sharing experience at Convoso, Lisa talks about the importance of staying close to the customer, aligning with sales, setting up scalable processes and leveraging data efficiently. She also advises new marketing executives to have the right people at the right places to drive results.

This episode’s guest:

Advice for New VP of Marketing

Lisa Leight, VP of Marketing at Convoso

Lisa is the VP of Marketing for Convoso, the leading innovator of call centre software for sales and lead generation teams. After many years, Lisa joined the Convoso team, successfully spearheading its marketing efforts in the software, aerospace, and technology industries. 

Earlier in her career, she worked as a consultant for both McKinsey and Ernst & Young. She also co-founded Stanton Associates, a boutique consultancy helping middle-market companies drive profitable growth. 

She received her BA from Stanford University, where she focused on Industrial Engineering and her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Conversation segments on this episode:

  • [01:30] Lisa’s experience with marketing at Convoso
  • [03:00] Focussing on foundational elements such as ideal customer profile, value proposition, messaging and competitor matrix.
  • [05:42] Get sales and marketing to commit to working together
  • [07:11] Set-up number of governance meetings between sales and marketing
  • [07:32] Have the mindset of sales being marketing’s internal customers
  • [08:58] First advice for new Marketing VPs: Get the right people at the right place!
  • [09:58] New Marketing leaders should focus on getting and analysing data 
  • [11:00] Focus on interviewing customers to create case studies for sales enablement
  • [12:12] Always have a mind for the process- think about how we can set up a scalable approach.
  • [13:11] Battle Cards for competitive analysis
  • [16:50] Find the balance between getting stuff done, generating leads and overall strategy
  • [19:57] Advice for B2B marketers - get close to sales and get close to customers 
  • [24:07] Exciting thing about B2B Marketing - tools and measurability for optimisation

Resources mentioned on this episode:

About the Growth Colony Podcast

On this podcast, you'll be hearing from B2B founders, CMOs, marketing & sales leaders about their successes, failures, what is working for them today in the B2B marketing world and everything in between.

Hosted by Shahin Hoda & Alexander Hipwell, from xGrowth

Get in touch!

We would love to get your questions, ideas and feedback about Growth Colony, email podcast@xgrowth.com.au


Episode Full Transcript:

[00:16] Shahin Hoda  Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Growth Colony. I'm Shahin Hoda with xGrowth. And today I'm talking to Lisa Leight, VP of Marketing at Convoso. About how should new VPs or directors of marketing approach their role, picking their team and creating a structure around marketing activities, when they're starting in their new role, especially if they're inheriting a young marketing team or even starting a team from scratch. On that note, let's dive in. Lisa, thanks for joining us.

[00:43] Lisa Leight  Thank you, Shahin, great to be with you.

[00:45] Shahin Hoda  Absolute pleasure. Absolute pleasure. So Lisa, I mean, this is a big topic. I feel like the startup scene is booming, there is a lot of money in the market, companies are raising capital left and right, and as part of that, you know, one of the first things, especially seed or a series A, even Series B companies, when they raise money is to further develop their marketing team and where a lot of marketing leaders end up is just like I said earlier, inheriting a young team, or they have to start a team from scratch, right? So, can you maybe paint us a little bit of a picture of when you started as a VP of marketing in Convoso, what was the marketing situation and the company like?

[01:31] Lisa Leight  Good question. So actually, you mentioned startup, we've actually been around for 14 years. But in many ways, our organisation level of sophistication of processes, and that sort of thing is more akin to a startup. 

[01:45] Shahin Hoda  Got it. 

[01:46] Lisa Leight  So I think we had had, and this is very common, I think the average tenure for CMOs or heads of marketing is like 23 months. And that was probably similar to what was happening at most or less, there's kind of a revolving door of, you know, people heading up the department. And when I inherited it, there was, you know, kind of a couple of things going on, but it felt like we really weren't firing on all cylinders in terms of being metrics-driven, and also strategic, and focused on strategic growth at the same time.

[02:23] Shahin Hoda  Right. Right. So I guess one of the main things that I definitely want to explore today is what are for some of the first initiatives that you took in the company to address some of these issues. 

[02:34] Lisa Leight  Ah, good question. Well, it's, I kind of had a dual process, because, on the one hand, I had to trade shows happening, like my second month that I had to get developed, and we didn't really have, I mean, we had an old booth that we really didn't have the infrastructure. So that was, in a way even though it was crazy, that was a great forcing device. Because that also had me focused on the kind of foundational elements like, okay, what is the ideal customer profile? What is the brand platform? 

[02:34] Lisa Leight  Let's pull in together some documents that we either had or were missing to kind of really crystallize. Like, what is our value proposition? How do we communicate that competitor matrix? Can I get my arms around? This is a new industry for me, kind of get my arms around who the other key players are? What are the strengths and weaknesses? And so it was kind of like, the process of pulling all these foundational elements together, I mean, was key and what I what I'd recommend to anybody in a similar situation. 

[02:36] Shahin Hoda  Interesting. How did you maybe sell that to the leadership team, because I feel like some of the things that marketing leaders maybe have trouble with is when they start an organisation, and they're like, hey, we need to do this foundational stuff? And then the leadership team is like, no, no, we need leads, we need you to know, we need to see traction right away. How did you balance that?

[03:10] Lisa Leight  But it also directly fed into oh, what are we going to say? What's our messaging? What's our booth look like? How are we going to present ourselves at the trade show? And the other thing is, I mean, I did that based on a very limited time and pulling in, you know, other folks at the company. So I came up with like, an initial stab at some of those foundational things. But then the thing is that they need to be revisited. ongoingly as you get more traction, more insights on the market. 

[04:31] Lisa Leight  That's a good question. And the instant answer is that i i did balance it and I was I had to, like drive hard on okay, you know, are the numbers coming in at the same time we were doing that. With my leadership, I didn't have to sell them on the value of really fine-tuning what is our value prop because there was a lot of different answers on it. And you know, got a lot of people in the room. The people who had to have touch with the frontline, with the customers, with the prospects. So people from our customer success team, people, you know, our sales agents who, you know, had the experience of interacting with prospects and customers, I really wanted to draw from them. But the key points were but our leadership, my CEO was very receptive to the development of these things.

[05:21] Shahin Hoda  Got it? Okay, I want to touch on that you talked about kind of getting that information from the sales team. One of the things that I see quite often is marketing stays away from sales. Like you know, the bigger the organisation get the smaller silo the two departments are. I'd love it that you said that. How did you approach sales? 

[05:41] Lisa Leight  You know, that's a good question. Yeah, I would say it happens in big organisations, and it happens in small organisations as well. In terms of the silo, you know, marketing creates a bunch of stuff, throws it over the transom to sales, they never use it. You know, they're out, you know, shooting from the hip. And there's like, there's no communication. Marketing isn't learning from the sales team. In terms of how I approach sales, and as we formed our leadership team and got the, you know, all the key people in the head of sales roles in that, and other folks within the sales organisation, is my head of sales and I, we pledged to be joined at the hip. 

[06:23] Lisa Leight  And I think it really takes a commitment on both sides to say we, you know, we're on the same team, where we've got the same end goal, which is to drive up sales by a significant amount, how can we work together? In the previous companies that I've worked with, I've always moulded myself very close to the sales team, because they're my ears and the eyes. They're out there in the front lines interacting with the marketplace all the time. So I would set up structures where I could pull from them, what are the insights? What are they hearing? What do you think about this? 

[06:55] Lisa Leight  I'm oftentimes I would, you know, developing collateral and they're the guys or gals that I'm bouncing it off of. So I think that has to be, it has to be a two-way street. As our sales team has grown, we've set up a number of structures, like a bi-weekly sales and marketing meeting, where we present to them, hey, here are these new tools that we're developing, or here are some things that we're considering, what do you think? And tell us what are you hearing? What are you hearing about competitors? So, you know, we've got our customers, but I also view sales as our internal customers. And having that mindset, I think, really helps to build a business.

[07:38] Shahin Hoda  I love that. I love that phraseology of them being your internal customer. That's such an interesting way of putting it. Where in some organisations, they're looked at as an adversary. They're looked at, as we don't want them to take credit for it, you know, we want credit for that. And, and I've heard that from people that, you know, like, oh, the SDR team is getting a lot of credit, we would like to, you know, get more credit in terms of we're bringing opportunities and detrimental approach.

[08:09] Lisa Leight  That's right. And you're pursuing the account-based marketing approach. It really takes a fully integrated from, you know, all the different components within sales and marketing to take that over the finish line. So you got it, you got to have the right mindset.

[08:26] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, absolutely. Now, Lisa, what's your advice for a director or VP or even a CMO who is inheriting a small team or young marketing department? And we touched on a few things, but what would you say, you know, if you're going to turn back and give yourself advice for somebody who's starting in that role, what advice would you give them?

[08:49] Lisa Leight  I think it would be it'd be a couple of things would be data, customer's process and get the right people in the right seats. Let me start with the latter one. Jim Collins is the author of Good to Great, who was actually one of my professors when I was in business school at Stanford, and he wasn't even a no-name, the great you know, a business advisor that he is now. And so he was just, he had his books. I think he had built to last them. It was, he would share it with us and teach from it in his you know, basically the non-bound version at that time. 

[09:31] Lisa Leight  But one of the great tenants in his I think this is the second book, which is Good to Great gets the right people and get them you know, first who then what. Get the right people on board and then make sure they're in the right seat. So I think that was one of the important things in terms of building my team was identifying the right team members that I needed, who was in the right seats, what other people I needed to bring in and how I needed to set them up. 

[09:58] Lisa Leight  Let's see data. Data is a second one that and I think a lot of times when you're inheriting a small marketing organisation or in a startup environment, the data just isn't always there, or it can't be trusted, or it's not in the format that you need. And in our case, there was, you know, there was like a key report nine, I knew the number I knew what I needed and I kind of created this big Excel spreadsheet, and then had somebody feed in the data to really understand of the prospects that marketing is bringing in. How did they grow over time? Do they churn? You know, what sources did they come from? I need to see that at that level. 

[10:39] Lisa Leight  So I think that's a key, a key recommendation that you really need to get your arms around the data. And if you're not getting the data, you need to figure out what's the solution to get that whether it's getting outside help, outside consultants who okay, how do we pull this out of Salesforce or whoever your CRM is. And then I think the other one is around customers. One thing that, because we were a little lean on our case studies, I wanted to immediately create more of those as a sales enablement tool. So I was involved in interviewing a lot of customers and then had my marketing communications manager create the case study from that. But I loved being involved on those initial calls to really understand what their journey was like as a customer. 

[11:28] Lisa Leight  And I still, whenever there's a case study called, I've inserted myself I love being on those calls. What all can you draw from current customers? If they're a customer survey, you can do it, we just did another customer survey and got great insight, I should have done a customer surveys earlier in my tenure. That's one with the 2020 feedback. Look at other customer surveys that existed or are their customer recordings or interviews that I can listen to, and I go back and you know, I tried to listen to a lot of discovery calls that we had on file. Just immerse yourself, especially if it's a new industry for you. 

[12:11] Lisa Leight  And the fourth area, in terms of my advice always has a mind for the process. You know, in this a lot of times it's quick, just how quickly can we solve the problem and you know, drive more leads and that sort of thing. But it's, you need to think about how can we set up a process? So we're really developing a flywheel well, where it will, it's much more scalable if you have a process in place that's documented, followed by all, and that should always be your guide. So it's always good to just kind of do it yourself without studying the process. But that's 

[12:47] Shahin Hoda  Yeah. Yeah. I mean, scalability is such a big thing with marketing, because so many things we start doing at the beginning, they're not scalable, and they could generate really good results. But guess what, when you want to do more of it, and then the business says, we want more of it, it falls apart because there's no proper system around it. I love that. Lisa, I know I had a look at your battle cards, right? The competitor battle calls and there, I absolutely love them. Tell us a little bit about the process, how you create these and how what's been the impact of this for the organisation and for the sales team?

[13:26] Lisa Leight  Okay, it's interesting, because I went through a different process where originally, I hired an external consultant because I was kind of short on resources then. And what I learned, that kind of helped me with the kind of the template in the framework, but they couldn't, they really couldn't understand the industry like we couldn't run away. So I gathered, there are a couple of different resources. First of all, we gathered all that we could, for third party reviews. We can learn a lot from what other people are saying about your competitors, but also, you know, remembering that people tend to, you know, focus on the negative, so you always have to take things with a grain of salt. 

[14:05] Lisa Leight  But we compiled those as our summary of strengths and weaknesses on our competitors and created that as a sales tool. And then, you know, pulled from that kind of the key takeaways in the key area. Strengths, weaknesses, what are the questions that we can ask them? So we can say, ah, so you're, you know, you're using XYZ company right now, are you having problems with this? And, you know, how can we help our sales team, find those little entry questions that'll kind of get them to be able to tell how we can make a difference. I then bedded down with the folks in sales who had had the most experience in dealing with these competitors or coming across other prospects who had maybe had come from the competitors, because you can only gain so much from looking at these other websites.

[14:53] Lisa Leight  And then I think the other thing is just, I mean, it's it can't be static, you got to keep updating them. That's part of our sales and our regular sales, marketing meetings, what can we learn that we can incorporate into those battle cards, and I liked them because they're nice and succinct. And, you know, one slide. But there's so much ongoing data, we're now building another system where we can capture ongoing feedback that we have, that we learn here and there. So it's got to be a living breathing document.

[15:27] Shahin Hoda  Yeah, it's a time-consuming piece. Because your competitors are not going to sit still, right? And, but it's also extremely valuable when your team is on the phone, say I use those guys. 

[15:39] Lisa Leight  Right, right, 

[15:40] Shahin Hoda  Through some of the things that we think about them and why we think you shouldn't use them.

[15:44] Lisa Leight  Yeah. And, you know, in thinking, you know, we know exactly who the competitors are in our space. But going back to Michael Porter five forces analysis, there's all these, you know, either substitutes or new entrants, you need to not just look at your competitors with blinders. But with new technology, and we're getting into new areas, and there are also new ways of solving the problem that our product may solve. So it's kind of making sure that you are looking at, you know, the, like I said, the, you know, the substitutes or new entrants or other people that could be looking away at your market.

[16:24] Shahin Hoda  Got it. Got it. Okay. Now, Lisa, I have a few rapid questions that I want to ask you. But before I kind of get there, is there anything else on the topic of in terms of advice, or anything that you think I didn't ask with regards to take taking on a new team, new marketing team, or young marketing team or starting one from scratch that you think we should share with the listeners.

[16:47] Lisa Leight  I would say is to find that balance between getting stuff done, generating demand generating leads, and strategy. And always, you know, in the end, it's tough because it's like, Stephen Covey, where the urgent overcomes the important longer-term. And that's a discipline that I think is important for a leadership team, as well as for marketing leaders, but to always have the scheduled time on your calendar. So I'm thinking about marketing strategy, and also growth strategy and where we're, you know, where we're going to go beyond our current markets.

[17:26] Shahin Hoda  Interesting. Okay, I want to ask about that. Right now, if somebody looks at your schedule, right? What does it say in terms of strategy? Like what, or maybe it's not in your calendar? Maybe it just says, you know, this is a strategy block? What would you be thinking about these days in terms of strategy?

[17:45] Lisa Leight  So that's a very good question. We actually just completed a strategic planning process, where we look 10 to 20 years out in the future. And this is also something that Jim Collins, we kind of use his approach to developing what is your vision? And what is your mission and what's going to drive you there? And it's also yeah, and this really takes commitment from the leadership team. And then I'm pleased to say that, you know, my CEO is definitely focused on you know, we need to hit our quarterly goals, but we also need to understand where we're going in the future. 

[18:20] Lisa Leight  And it also is great because I get to use my background because, for several years, I was with McKinsey doing strategy as well as marketing consulting. So to be able to bring that discipline in here as well. So if you looked at my calendar, you would see that for the past couple of Wednesday's I had a huge block of time that I always winced at taking away from getting stuff done, but it's the importance of that long term importance over the day to day week to week urgencies.

[18:48] Shahin Hoda  Got it. I needed a little bit of that was a little bit of those Wednesday's for sure. Okay. Okay. I have four rapid questions for you. Okay, that I want to go through. So the first thing and we touched on this, I don't know if it's we've already touched on it, or there's something else, but the first question that I have is, what is one resource, it could be a book or a blog or a podcast or video, whatever it is, that fundamentally changed the way you work or live. 

[19:14] Lisa Leight  In addition to Jim Collins, I follow up with Peter Cohen, who's a SAAS marketing strategy expert. You know, I like his things. One of the things that he says is that there's no magic bullet there's all a lot of people it's like oh, what's this it's that his words measure measure measure. And that also my other background, which I don't share I'm a former CPA and spent five years with Ernst and Young so I bring that I think I've got a creative side but I also bring that you know, measuring the effectiveness of marketing down to the dollars and cents that you have to bring to the table especially in today's world.

[19:55] Shahin Hoda  Got it. Okay, next question is, if you could give one advice to B2B marketers, and salespeople or salespeople but in this case, probably more B2B marketers, what would it be?

[20:06] Lisa Leight  I would say, get close to customers and get close to sales. Customers, you know that, whether it's ongoing customer interviews, whether it's setting up a user group, whether it's kind of having your own little panel where you can bounce ideas off of, I've got informal relationships with folks, I can just pick up the phone and say, hey, I'm thinking about two different approaches, or I'm thinking about, you know, what do you think about this, whether it's a conference or whatever. I think having those relationships and a lot of times in marketing, you don't, it's you know, sales on to relationships, or customer success on some of those relationships, but making sure that you can set up structures where you can hear directly from the customers. And then similar, similar to, you know, the latest that is, I know, you said one thing, but I'm gonna do this, he was like,

[20:54] Shahin Hoda  Go on, give it to us.

[20:55] Lisa Leight  Yeah, getting close to these other parts of the organisation, who have that the higher volume of that interaction with the customer base. So customer success, as well as sales. It's funny, I used to, you know, work with the pandemic of most of the office is working from home. Now, I used to love to walk down to our customer success area and just listen. Just listen to the conversations that they were having and understanding, you know, what was the interaction? Or what would they talk about? A lot of times I, you know, after the words, I'd be like, hey, what did you teach, and what are you saying, what was the issue and I, there's all this great learning that can be had that when

[21:38] Shahin Hoda  I love that, that's it. That's great advice to anyone really. I love how you're hands-on with so many things that you do. I mean, there are so many marketing leaders that we come across, the kind of delegate tasks to some of the other people and they're, you know, they're hands-off. I'd love you, you know, you being part of the strategy, but also being in trenches with the team I love that. Okay, the last third question is you kind of answered this, what are the influencers that you follow in the marketing and sales space?

[22:13] Lisa Leight  Yeah, so I mentioned Peter Coe. And I also there's a couple of other blogs that I follow. There's one staff brief I like in terms of marketing, but I also kind of like going, going one level up to understand like, you know, what are the, whether it's a private equity, or those other people that invest in SAAS companies, what are they looking for? And, you know, it comes down to relationships between what's your CAC, and your LTV, and you know, things like that, and making sure that I'm always focused on, you know, the higher level stuff, in addition to, to the detailed things. It's a challenging thing to do, though, because, you know, you're focusing on that, but then I'm, I also, I love a copy. I love looking at, oh, why did this email get this something? And this one, okay, wait, we need to you know, so sometimes, like, I get involved in the details of that as well. So I kind of straddle the road.

[23:09] Shahin Hoda  It's really hard. I feel like once you start thinking about, thinking, for example, high level, it's really hard to start thinking about some of the smaller details. And once you get into the details, it's really hard to think about some of the higher-level things and I have that challenge with our agency, I get involved in delivery, but then I got to think about, you know, the bigger components of it. And, or you got to think about sales. So when you kind of shift between these different departments, sometimes it takes, I found that it takes a little bit of time for you to adjust your mindset in order to kind of for it to click, and then you're, you know, you're kind of on that trajectory. Do you find that or you're pretty easy in terms of switching?

[23:53] Lisa Leight  Yeah, it does take a little bit of a shift, but I don't know maybe that's, I'm, I've got a little bit of ADHD in me so I can get a jump between one or the others. So

[24:05] Shahin Hoda  Alright, last question, Lisa. Last question, what is something that excites you about B2B today?

[24:10] Lisa Leight  I'd have to say, just the measurability and all the tools that are coming out to be able to you know, optimise different elements of that it seems like they're you know, I'm always amazed at the ingenuity of these you know, other small tech companies and how they're really helping with the martech space. So, um, but it's tough, you know, I mean, I get inundated with all this stuff into my inbox. And I like looking at it because I say okay, what breaks through to me and what can I learn from that? 

[24:46] Lisa Leight  I have a folder of good email examples, but I think that's also part of the challenge is there's something that's always building a better mousetrap. And right now, I just, you know, I don't have time to focus on, oh, is there something else out there? I've gotten certainly one of my team members to focus on that. But there are so many great tools out there that my team is great at ferreting out and coming to me and saying, hey, we need this kindly put the budget. And I will always find a way if we think it's going to help us better measure our success or increase our success.

[25:22] Shahin Hoda  I love it. I love it. Lisa, this has been great. I actually enjoyed our conversation. And thank you very much for your time for jumping on the podcast.

[25:31] Lisa Leight  All right. Well, thank you so much, Shahin, it was a pleasure.

[25:34] Shahin Hoda  Absolutely. No, I'm looking forward to the next one.

[25:37] Lisa Leight  All right. Okay. Sounds good.

[25:39] Shahin Hoda  Sounds good. Lisa, have a great day. And we'll chat to you soon.

[25:43] Lisa Leight  Okay, thank you. Bye, bye.

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