As your company’s chief marketing officer, you’re responsible for your organization’s growth and reputation but you don’t have enough control. You’re not the only one who notices this but you’re the only one in the perfect position to do something about it.
In their new book, CMO to CRO, industry experts Brandi Starr, Mike Geller, and Rolly Keenan show you how to discover how to reach your potential and stand out as more than a marketing professional, and how to bring revenue to the forefront, making every team’s number one objective a seamless customer experience.
The book shows you how to create consistency by reorganizing your business, following the customer, prioritizing revenue, and using customer experience technology to succeed where your competition fails. It’s a revolutionary approach to not only unite the silos but position you as an innovative leader and finally uncovering what customer experience is really about–revenue growth.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Applebaum and I’m excited to be here today with Rolly Keenan and Brandi Starr, authors of CMO to CRO: The Revenue Takeover by the Next Generation Executive. Rolly, Brandi, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Brandi Starr: Thanks so much for having us, Drew.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, thanks for having us.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick it off, can you give us a brief rundown of your professional backgrounds, respectively?
Brandi Starr: I can start. I am a career marketer, I’ve been in marketing now for 21 years, I am totally dating myself. My sort of claim to fame is when I started in marketing, I was designing marketing collateral for a fax machine and now, I’ve got teams who I don’t think have ever even used a fax machine.
So, what that really means is I have been a part of the digital marketing boom from its inception, and the introduction of technology into marketing, and being able to see firsthand how technology has shaped my career and how it has shaped the industry. That is a huge part, the majority of my life has been spent focused and understanding how marketing works and how technology influences that.
Rolly Keenan: Brandi’s got such a beautiful linear career path. Mine is more like, “What’s he doing? What happened?” My background started in pro-amateur sports, volleyball to be specific, and I switched to business development in technology and software. In that first decade or that decade of work, I got my MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management in Chicago and went into management consulting as a lot of people do from there. I focused on marketing and market research.
My MBA was in marketing, I did leadership development work as well, and then starting in 2017 is when I focused my work on martech, which is kind of a combination of everything I’ve done before. That’s what brought me to Tegrita and martech now, which points a little bit to our book which is evolving into revtech. So, if there’s one thing that’s been consistent, once I got out of the sports world, it’s my focus on revenue.
Challenges in the Marketing Industry
Drew Appelbaum: Now, why was now the time to share the stories in the book? Was there something inspiring to everybody, was there an “aha moment” or is there something as simple as you had a lot of time on your hands because of COVID?
Brandi Starr: Really, this actually started as a light-hearted conversation during one of our executive leadership meetings. We were talking about the challenges that we see between Rolly and myself and Mike Geller, the third author and our CTO. We were talking about everything that we see in the industry, the challenges that our clients face, and how there’s a lot of similarities between the issues with customer experience and technology and all these things. We realized, “You know, between the three of us, we’ve got the collective knowledge and experience to solve these problems.”
I think it was Rolly who joked, “Yeah, we should write a book and put it all in there.” We all laughed like we actually had time to write a book. Then, the more that we talked about it, the more that it became a situation of not, “Do we have enough time to write a book?” but, “We have to write this book and we have to actually tell the story.”
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you three came together and said, “Okay, we are going to write this book, we are going to tell the story.” A lot of times, you’ll get together and say, “Okay, this is what it’s going to be about, and this is how we’re going to outline it.” But during the writing process and sometimes just by digging deeper into some of the subjects, you’ll come to some major breakthroughs and learnings. Did you have any of these major breakthroughs or learnings during your writing journey?
Brandi Starr: When we initially started on the book, we were really focused on revtech or revenue technology, and the role that technology plays because that’s the space that we operate in, we live and breathe technology day to day.
As we started getting into the brainstorming and outlining of what this was going to look like, we had an aha moment around all the reasons why you can’t focus just on the technology. We started to walk it backwards from there and that’s where we realized that it’s a shift in leadership and the mentality of leadership that needed to change and needed to really line up behind the technology and wrap its arms around the technology.
That really started to shift, for me at least, where we needed to focus our message–not just on the technology highlighting how that fits in but really focusing from the top down about how we completely unearth the way that it’s been done in order to be able to do it better.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, I would add to that. My experience when you start having these meetings to write the book and we’re all talking about a particular chapter or a topic, what I think the learning for me during that process was, we knew that we had something to say but I don’t think I appreciated it as much at the beginning as I did when got into it how much individually we were contributing from our own professional perspective.
Me, more of a revenue side, Brandi, more marketing, and Mike, more tech. We were working out details of where we’re going in a particular part of the book. I was learning so much from Brandi and Mike along the way and understanding, “Okay, I know this part of it, I know the management part of it or the organizational development part of this,” but it’s interesting how that intertwines with what Mike is saying around tech and what Brandi’s talking about marketing operations or strategy.
For me, that was a big learning and I think that happening pretty early on when we started writing the book.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you sat down, you said, “Okay, we’re going to write the book,” and you actually start writing in your mind, who are you writing this book for? Is it for current CMOs or can any marketer have takeaways here?
Brandi Starr: We were writing the book for current CMOs and marketing leaders in mind first because these are the people that are in the role and are most positioned to really have a true change take place, to really take charge, and be the leader of a significant change within, not only their organization but within the space as well.
However, as we get into it, this really does become a roadmap for anyone who wants to one day be a marketing leader. The marketer that is very new in their career can read this book and really adapt or adopt some of the thoughts and processes and approaches that we share in the book as they are growing in their career, so that when they one day become the head of marketing or the CMO they really already have this experience of implementing as much of our process as they can.
It’s written for the current CMO but definitely, any marketer who has aspirations of being a CMO can get a lot from this book.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, I’ll just add to that, we also, somewhere in the middle of writing became pretty aware that there’s probably going to be a lot of entrepreneurs and CEOs that are going to see this and say, “I want my marketer or my head of sales or someone in the organization to take a look at this.”
Our primary was always the CMO and then as we got into it, we could definitely see situations where someone who is trying to change the way that they run their business, the way that they attack revenue growth, that this information could fall into a CEOs world or an entrepreneur’s world.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in the book, all three of you talk about the world of customer experience. Can you tell us, what exactly is customer experience and what does it actually mean to brands currently?
Brandi Starr: I can start there, and I’ll give a really brief definition and then I think Rolly does a better job at really diving into this, but customer experience is really every interaction that your prospects and customers have with your organization. A lot of times people focus on user experience and just the journeys. It’s literally every single interaction from digital to in-person, to how they interact with your sales and support, et cetera.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, it’s kind of a big answer, I’ll do my best to not ramble on too long here. The CX became an overlay–let’s throw some CX, a line right through the middle of two or three areas. There are some CX teams that are going to keep the customer in mind and work with retail, work with operations, work with inside sales, and they don’t have their own business, but they are almost an HR partner group that floats in and out of each function.
What we are trying to unearth here for everyone is sure, CX is a bit of a concept and not so much a function. We’re saying, to all these functions of which you might normally put this overlay in, we’re saying, this is what the CRO should be handling, this should all be aligned and together under one umbrella, versus, “Hey, we should try to get retail to pay attention a little bit to what this other function is doing, and we’ll do that through this glue group that we’re going to put together.”
That’s where we’re getting at with that this is CX, customer experience has just been kind of thrown in there without the difficult work of, “Hey, we need to rethink the way we’re organized here and not just throw in some corporate internal consultants that will jump into the middle of things and make sure that functions understand that there’s a customer perspective.”
Drew Appelbaum: Now, how big of a disconnect is this issue, and is it a big company problem, a small company problem, is this limited to any one industry?
Brandi Starr: I’d honestly say it’s an all-company problem. I do think that there are some organizations that do better than others at really weaving in the function of customer experience into everything. For the most part, it really is large, small, across all industries, B2B, B2C, it is a challenge in that a lot of companies really try to put customer experience as this separate thing that can be contained, so to speak, when in reality, it touches everything. It is a very common issue across all types of organizations.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, what’s interesting is that a lot of opinions from professionals and marketing and sales would probably answer it as more of a big company problem, teach your first small business to pay attention to their customers, that kind of thing.
What’s interesting is, if you look at startups and you look at a private equity fund that goes in and grabs a whole other company and is going to attempt to turn it around and sell it later, they basically put in big company thinking into these small companies.
They come in and say, “Here’s the head of sales, these guys work at these companies, and here is a head of marketing, they’ve done work at a bunch of similar companies,” and they basically divided it up as if it’s a big company. There’s a history, a momentum around how everybody thinks about these customer-facing functions, and so it really has no designation in terms of how big or small the company is that has this issue.
Drew Appelbaum: Are there companies out there that you want to name, just to give people perspective, who are really doing it right currently in terms of customer experience?
Rolly Keenan: It’s hard, I know Brandi, she’s like me in thinking, I don’t really know of any, but I would say that the source of our book is a bit of the answer, which is, “Not really.” And yet, with all of our clients and all of our past professional experience, we know of a lot of companies that are doing one, two, or three things well.
Part of the motivation to get together and put this book together was we actually know what it would take to make this happen because we’ve seen it all in parts, and so we would love to combine all of these practices of different clients we have had and that would be someone that’s doing it right.
I think we would always have examples that they do this part right–the dev part right. Of course, we reference some of those stories in the book as well, but I can’t think of one right now that does a great job.
Drew Appelbaum: That’s totally fair. Now, in the book, you say that transactions that generate revenue are largely driven by customer experience and that a positive customer experience turns prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers, so I ask you this–Is this the end of the traditional sales department?
Brandi Starr: Not at all. Sales is a part of customer experience. I’ll use a common consumer example, if you walk into a big box retailer, you’re looking at a particular product, you see something that you may like, and this happens a lot in car sales, and then you meet and talk to the salesperson and they totally rub you the wrong way or give you a poor experience. You no longer want to do business with that brand even though you may have come in the door planning to make a purchase.
The traditional sales function very much is a key part of customer experience because as I said before, it really is every single touch point, and the key is all of these things have to be aligned. You can’t have an amazing web experience, great nurture campaigns, and then go to this hardcore sleazy used car salesperson or sales team that’s going to try to say anything and be unethical, that’s a disconnected experience.
Likewise, sometimes I see the opposite. I see some people who have horrible marketing on the front end but actually have a really great sales team on the backend who cares, who listens, who’s really focused on the customer needs and that’s the key.
The experience needs to be consistent and effective end to end and even after they have made a purchase that’s the other point where customer experience often falls off, like, “Okay, we got your money now. We don’t have to keep treating you nicely.” Your customer marketing and advocacy efforts need to also stay consistent and be effective.
Rolly Keenan: There is a way to look at what Brandi is saying and that you can almost say yeah, it’s the end of sales as we know it in some ways. Because quite often, even some of the big companies that people would recognize as big software companies who are so successful, they still very much silo their sales team and they expect sort of the same old things from them that we’ve seen in sales for decades, versus something that is very much under the umbrella of a customer-facing function, a modern front office, a structured customer experience.
There’s, in software, ongoing renewal and all of this is taken into account from that sales, that traditional sales team who now isn’t saying, “Gosh, I wish marketing would stop what they’re doing. They’re getting in my way,” or, “I don’t care if they renew, I just got to hit my number.” In some ways, it is an end to that but Brandi’s point of you still need them and they’re still very critical and the things that someone in sales that is very talented and gifted at doing, those elements are still necessary, but no longer would they be in isolation from other things.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, let’s take this and move it to the higher level and to the executive level. What would the benefits and especially the transition look like if a CMO moved to a CRO or a hybrid role with marketing effectively leading the charge for company revenue?
Rolly Keenan: The way that you worded it, I would pick apart a little bit, which is our thinking is that from an experience and skill and talent framework of what some of the best CMOs look like, they would be the right candidate for a CRO. But I wouldn’t say that now marketing is leading the revenue. I would say that talent and person are now taking on a broader role that’s basically handling all revenue-related functions that include marketing, sales, customer support, things like that.
That kind of transition takes time, and it takes a series of events or projects or efforts that go in sequence to set it up so that when that CMO does make a transition into the role, they’ve already laid all the groundwork from the tech groundwork to some organizational shifting, and taking control of teams that are spread out and separated into functions that are now bringing those together. By the time the CMO–as an example, it doesn’t have to be the CMO but if the CMO transitions to the CRO–there’s already been three, four business cycles of work of slowly building that foundation for them to make that transition.
Cohesiveness and Velocity of Growth
Drew Appelbaum: Realistically, it is not an overnight fix. It is not just a title change and then everything is good but after the transition happens, after the groundwork is done, what really are the results a company can expect to see when the revenue takeover has happened?
Brandi Starr: If I were to summarize that, I would say cohesiveness and velocity of growth. There’s a level of cohesiveness within all functions that touch revenue that exists once you’ve gone through this process in where everything just works like a well-oiled machine and as a result of that, you are able to take advantage of the velocity to be able to really accelerate revenue growth.
Rolly Keenan: To be really specific or grounded down to simple stories of the overall velocity of revenue and cohesiveness, is right now, if someone in sales is supposed to have a deal size of a certain amount, say they’re supposed to average a million dollars for each contract that they sell in enterprise software and I’ll just keep sticking to that industry for this. But say they are half of that–$500,000 contracts are all they can do.
When you’re running a revenue function versus separated into support and marketing and sales, the idea here is that that salesperson doesn’t throw their hands up and say, “I can’t get a bigger deal size, so I am going to maybe do some things that aren’t great for the company and great for the client and inflate cost or add on things that the client doesn’t need.” But instead of doing that, now at a CRO with function, now that person is going to say, “Well, you know this is all of us, so let me go talk to upstream here and where marketing is basically in touch with these prospects before I am. How are we marketing to them because they seem to not be thinking this is a million-dollar contract?”
So, this becomes teamwork around this and this is all of our revenue issue, not just a sales issue, and not just a marketing issue or some other function. In a snapshot of what to expect from this kind of change, it’s those moments that are so historically common that we all can tell stories about them from past work and companies that we worked with, that’s just common. That’s just how it goes, and this is a way to change that story.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, in terms of reading the book itself, do you suggest that readers come in and they really follow the chapter structure and build a foundation, or is this something where they can open it up and really learn about a lot about one specific chapter without building that foundation and having that build up?
Brandi Starr: This is definitely a book that you want to read cover to cover. It’s organized into three sections. The first section is really the problem, and this is the section where we really show how much we empathize with our audience, and we talk a lot of the challenges that we see. Our readers should really see themselves and their organizations in that first section and we lay a lot of foundational groundwork there.
Section two is really where we give everyone hope and we paint the picture of the future and so, the second section is really focused on if we’re able to solve all of the problems, here is how glorious the future can be.
Then section three is the how and this is, “How do we get there?” That’s where we walk through our four steps. Those four steps are meant to be sequential and done over a period of time.
You know, there are some chapters that you can definitely get some value out of by just popping open the book and reading, but in order to really get the full essence and the full message, you would want to start right from page one and continue on to the end.
Big Picture Goals
Drew Appelbaum: What is the end goal of the book for readers? What takeaways do you hope they’ll have and what changes do you hope they’ll bring to their company?
Brandi Starr: I can start by giving what I would want to see as the immediate change and then Rolly, I’ll let you elaborate on the bigger picture. My goal for readers in the immediate–so you get to the end of the book and what you do next, there should be some ideas and steps that you take away from that book that you can implement in your organization as quickly as possible. I won’t jump into all of the steps.
You’ve got to get in there and read, but there are some takeaways that we articulate throughout the book that can give you some measurable growth in the short term. So, my goal would be that reading the book would spark a commitment to make a change, to do what you can right out of the gate, and then really make the organizational change to move the needle within your team. Then it grows outside of the marketing team into the organization as a whole.
Rolly Keenan: Yeah, my big picture goal would be to attract and motivate leaders and future leaders to do what is not very often done, which is to solve a very big issue that everyone has. You have to go outside of your comfort zone, have some courage. You are going to change the way that this is played. I hope I don’t sound too cliché about it because I actually think it’s a very big deal and very difficult to do because everything around you supports the old way of doing things.
You know, to get a new head of sales, you get the search firm that has all of the best sales leaders on speed dial, and you know that is separate from the marketing person who works at the competitor and I am just going to go take them. Everything is structurally in business, it in itself creates the problem that we’re trying to solve in this book, and showing people how to solve it. I’m hoping that the book itself will reach those motivated courageous leaders that really want to make a move into solving the revenue problem.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Rolly and Brandi, I just want to say that we just touched on the surface of the book here but writing a book that really educates on the importance of customer experience and the power of the marketing department and the CMO role is no small feat, so congratulations on publishing your book.
Brandi Starr: Thank you.
Rolly Keenan: Thanks.
Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure and I’m really excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, CMO to CRO, and you can find it on Amazon. Rolly, Brandi, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Brandi Starr: You could always visit the website at revenuetakeover.com. We are both on LinkedIn and our main company website is tegrita.com, which is Tegrita.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, I want to thank both of you for coming on the podcast today, and best of luck with your new book.
Brandi Starr: Thank you so much, we appreciate it.
Rolly Keenan: Thank you.