1 Role, 100 Different Definitions: What It Really Means To Be A CMO In 2020 (With SEBA International’s Kate Bullis)

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This is a podcast episode titled, 1 Role, 100 Different Definitions: What It Really Means To Be A CMO In 2020 (With SEBA International’s Kate Bullis). The summary for this episode is: If you asked 100 people what a CMO does, chances are you’ll get 100 different answers. Kate Bullis knows this struggle all too well. Now Kate may not be a CMO, but as the co-founder and managing partner at SEBA International Executive Search, she dedicates a lot of her time working with clients to define what they need in a CMO – and then finding the right person for the job. Over the years she’s worked with companies ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands, and across digital, technology, CPG, professional, and financial services. Suffice to say, Kate knows what top companies are looking for in marketing leaders (and she knows the marketing leaders who can get the job done). In this episode, Kate and Tricia talk about everything a CMO is (and is not), plus why now is the time for CMOs to rally their companies around brand and experience. Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia on Twitter @triciagellman @HYPERGROWTH_Pod

Tricia Gellman: Welcome, everybody. Hi, it's Tricia Gellman. I'm the CMO of Drift. And here we are in another episode of CMO Conversations. Typically, I have another CMO leader or an SVP type senior leader in marketing to talk with me about the future of marketing and the trends and the challenges that they're seeing. But today, I have a special guest. I have Kate Bullis from SEBA International, and I feel like she is special because SEBA International, she is one of the co- founding partners. She's been doing recruiting for marketers and go- to- market leaders for over 20 years. And everybody wants to know, how do I get the best job? How do I land the next best job? And so we're going to have a great conversation today around really, what is it that it takes to be a marketing leader and what is it that people look for? So I want to turn it over to Kate. I gave a brief introduction, Kate, of who you are. We've known each other many years, and maybe you can help the audience understand a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Kate Bullis: Tricia, thank you so much for having me. I do feel quite special to be invited to the program, knowing that I am not a CMO. I appreciate the invitation. As you mentioned, I'm with SEBA International. We're an executive search firm and I lead the practice at SEBA that specializes exclusively in go- to- market leadership. And so for us, what that means is we focus on chief marketing officer and related engagement. So chief revenue officer would be another example of the search work we do. And we also do work in business development. We are at any given time, about seven or eight out of the searches inaudible that I'm working on, are marketing searches. And so we made the decision many years ago when we started the firm to focus functionally versus vertically. And so my clients really range on, we work with venture- backed startups and we work all the way to the Fortune 500 and we cut across industry as well. So we do a lot in tech and we do a lot in digital, but we also work in financial services, professional services, CPG, you name it.

Tricia Gellman: Excellent. Of course, people realize now that you have this special niche in the market, or it's not really a niche because you work with a lot of companies, but I think a firm that focuses so much on go- to- market and specifically on CMO. It's great for our audience. And I'm sure you have a lot to share. So question for you. I think we've had a lot of discussion about this, which is, what is the definition of a CMO?

Kate Bullis: How much time do you have? It shouldn't be a tricky question, should it? And it is. I think that part of the reason that seems to be such a tricky question or such maybe a tricky answer is because the definition of CMO has never really been standardized the way the definition of a CFO or CEO might be standardized. A dear friend of both of ours, Tricia, Christine Hecker, many years ago, pointed out to me and many of us in the circle of marketers that the root word in chief marketing officer is of course chief market officer. That word, that's a noun. And I think that part of the problem with CMO is if we refer to it as marketing officer, it's meant to sound like activity versus strategy. And the reality is every company has to have three things in order to exist. One, the product, one is a way to sell that product. And then another is a market to sell that product to. So chief market officer is the way I think about the role and how I define that is to say, who is identifying the market and if it isn't easily identified, how do we make that market? How do we invent it? How do we build that market? And then how do we engage that market? And then how do we engage them to the point where we're actually growing? So the features of a chief market officer are brand, engagement or experience and growth. That is at the core I think the definition of what all CMOs are ultimately responsible for. The departments that report to that CMO can be called many, many things. And you can organize in lots of different ways, but I think that those three features are key for all CMOs.

Tricia Gellman: I think some of the most fulfilling work that I've done in the past few years is really working cross- functionally with the executive leadership on this concept of what is our market and really refining the market. And I think that's one of the things that's exciting in my practice at Drift. I talk about the CMO 3.0, and I think the CMO is really in this role where they're unifying the rest of the executive team. And when you really think about who is the market, then you get to, what is it that we need to approach that market? And it really is a unifying factor. So I love the fact that you're defining it as chief market officer, because I think this is something that maybe is a little bit newer for CMOs, but is becoming a really big trend in what's needed from the CMO in order to really drive success. You can't be successful if these things aren't aligned in terms of building the product for the right market, selling to the right market, marketing to the right market. If everyone isn't going in the same direction, it becomes really challenging.

Kate Bullis: Absolutely. And I think that there's a lot of attention, especially here in the Bay area where you and I are based. There's a lot of attention to things like what's the difference between product marketing and demand gen and which one of these features report to the CMO and which ones don't and should they sit under the CMO or shouldn't they? I think company by company, that may vary. That doesn't mean that in one company, it is a CMO, and in one company, it is not. But I do think that ultimately, if you're a CMO and you're not contributing to growth, growth isn't necessarily revenue, by the way. I really do mean how do you grow your brand, how do you grow your awareness? How do you grow engagement? How do you grow revenue? All those things are growth, partnerships, everything. If you're not in it for growth, if you're not in it for the brand, you're why. And if the CMO is not responsible in any way for what that engagement, that brand's engagement and that product's engagement in the market, if the CMO has no involvement in that, I'm going to ask why we're calling it a CMO.

Tricia Gellman: I'm sure that you also find though, because you said that you work with early stage startups all the way up to Fortune 500 companies, that in some cases there isn't a CMO and instead there's a VP of marketing. Do you also work on VP crosstalk of marketing searches for smaller firms?

Kate Bullis: Yes, absolutely.

Tricia Gellman: Are there other differences that you see in terms of what the role of a CMO might be, let's say in a series A, series B company versus a Fortune 500 company?

Kate Bullis: Certainly. Absolutely. Yes. Look, I think that it is absolutely fair and appropriate to say that regardless of whether you're a VP marketing in a series A startup or a CMO king of the world at X, the reality is all heads of marketing are responsible for growth and all heads of marketing are going to be responsible for a certain amount of change. But I would say that if you put my back up against the wall and said, really, if you had to choose one thing, what's the biggest difference between the head of marketing for a startup and the head of marketing for a large corporation? I think the answer is in a large corporation, that CMO better be a fantastic change agent. They're very likely leading some form of major change in a startup. They better be really good at growth. Those things are going to be necessary in both environments, but the spikes happen that way. And I think it's probably for obvious reasons. Big corporations, they are typically going through massive amounts of change, whether it's modernization, transformation, merging the vestiture and CMOs have got to be fantastic change agents for that reason. Whereas in the startup space, you're a doer almost as much as you are a leader and you really have to be doubling down on that growth.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, that makes sense. I think the smaller you are, and we're seeing that right now in the current crisis, the more at risk you are with not having the growth as well. So I think that also becomes more important. Are there any other surprises that you think the listeners may be surprised for you to say is a difference or a key similarity that exists small to large?

Kate Bullis: I have seen something that might be surprising to some marketers. In the last couple of years, I've actually seen a shift and improvement in the way CEOs, regardless of whether they're a founder or just arrived CEO in a large corporation, I've seen a shift when it comes to marketing in the way they think. I'm seeing that five, certainly 10 years ago, the emphasis was very much on demand gen. Just bring me the leads. And I've really seen that shift in the last couple of years. I'm not educating CEOs like I was some time ago. There's an understanding or an evolution it seems toward the power of things like brand and storytelling, the necessity for fabulous experience, not just beautiful product. And that is something that I have not only seen, I started seeing it first in startups, ironically, and now I've absolutely been seeing it in large enterprise tech as well, again, here in the Bay area. And it's been great to see.

Tricia Gellman: That's really cool. And I definitely feel like the acceptance and understanding of what marketing is has changed. And I think is a little bit just about how noisy the world has become, and this idea that a brand stands out. People can really see the difference between brands a lot more. And I think just in the average American public, at least there's more conversation of what makes one company stand out from another, whether they use the terminology that a marketer would use or not. It is a conversation about brand and the differentiation around experience and really just what is it that is making one company worth working with versus another. And sometimes it is a really small startup competing against a really huge, huge player.

Kate Bullis: Without a doubt. I really think that consumerization and technology itself have been the major drivers of CEO and board thinking about the power of things like brand. There's got to be a why beyond just a beautiful what.

Tricia Gellman: It's fun to see it. Are there other things that you have seen in terms of changes and challenges for the CMO and what their responsibilities are in the past five years?

Kate Bullis: In terms of responsibility, I'll state what probably many will say is the obvious, but you have to say it. Data, data and analytics now are regularly part of the marketing department whereas in the past you might've found it in IT. You might've found it in finance. It might've been a shared function. Increasingly, I'm having conversations with a client right now, actually, about moving the data organization under the CMO. It's not like that right now. And data is everyone's sharing it as a department, but they're thinking it really needs to be in the marketing department. And so I think data and analytics, for sure. And I think technology itself, the marketing tech stack, as you well know, Tricia, CMOs have to be technologists now. And I'm not saying to the degree that a marketing technology person needs to be, but you got to know your way around. So if you only ever grown up in mar- com, you got to bone up on the tech or hire dang well in some of these areas.

Tricia Gellman: I think this change of this move to analytics and data and tech stack understanding, I'm a firm believer hire people smarter than you. So I think you can get by on some of these things by hiring people smarter than yourself, but at the end of the day, you still have to know how to bring it all together. And I think sometimes people think, oh, well, CMOs have the short life span. But I think part of the issue is that people who don't understand the tech stack, the data, can't do some of the analysis. Can't sit there and look at the metrics. That's a big change that's happened in the past five years. And so I think companies go through a transition of what they want from their CMO as well.

Kate Bullis: Absolutely. And this is an excellent point. One size does not fit all. We see it very regularly. The head of marketing that was right for the company from zero to five is not necessarily the same. That skillset, that's the set of super powers that you bring to the table when you're taking a company to 10 million or 25 million is not the same set of superpowers needed to take it to 500 or a billion. And that is a little bit of what I was trying to say earlier when I said the difference between growth and change. Because even the tech stack, the team, everything that was put in place, evolution and then there will be a moment where evolution isn't enough and we need a little bit more like a revolution, and that might be a different kind of CMO. And we see that very, very often. What I think increasingly I'm also seeing though, is that the CMO who has taken something from say 250 to 500, doesn't want to be known as the CMO who only knows how to do that. Now I want to try my hand at scaling to the next level as well. And those opportunities inaudible course. I do think that there's a set of skills that you can become expert in. You have got to hire for the rest. Look for a CEO who gets that. When I'm working with a CEO and the CEO says I want a purple unicorn, inaudible left- handed. So does everybody else. Get in line. Doesn't exist in nature. The greatest CMOs hire beautifully.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think hiring is a key skill for CMOs.

Kate Bullis: Absolutely.

Tricia Gellman: So that's great. Is there anything else you want to share about change in the past five years? We talked about data. We talked about tech stack. I personally, five years ago I was realizing, oh, I thought you just build a tech stack. And then all of a sudden I realized we don't even have names for the titles of people that need to work for me to help do the tech stack. That's how much things have changed I think.

Kate Bullis: I would like to make one mention before the answer to your question from me sounds too sciencey. Marketing, I really, really, really believe marketing is both art and science. And that's the point I was trying to make about the difference I'm starting to see in CEOs and the way boards are thinking about marketing. It's not just hand me the lead, science my way to the answer. Art has been heavily influenced and improved upon because of science's improvement. One has fed the other and made the other better. And I believe that the embracing of the stories, the embracing of experience and the need for brand, that is very real. I want to be sure to say part of the changes have definitely been advancements in technology, digitization and analytics, and others have just been advancements in the evolution of thinking on the art side, too.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. The mix of art and science, and really evolving both. And I think to your point, the CEO recognizing the evolution of both, not just being hung up in the numbers. So I think with this focus on analytics, I think it's also the challenge in terms of just the brand. Right now we're in a very strange time. We're doing this podcast over Zoom and we're doing that because we're both in our homes, obviously looking at our backgrounds. We're not in the office. And I'm wondering, what do you think is really the most important thing for a CMO to think about now? And how is that different from what the CMO would be thinking about in the normal, what we used to call normal?

Kate Bullis: I think that in some ways, what a CMO is thinking a lot about right now isn't wildly different necessarily from that of his or her peers. However, going back to those three pillars that I mentioned earlier of brand, experience and growth, I think that many can agree that most businesses right now are not necessarily in a moment of growth and they can't expect to be in that moment right now. Isn't this a fantastic moment for the CMO? A teaching moment, for the CMO to rally around experience and brand for the whole company to do so to recognize that, well, we can't hope to grow right now. We've got to stay in front of our customers of course, and continue to try to reach out to new customers. But if we can assume fairly safely that this last quarter probably isn't going to be a great big growth quarter, shouldn't it be the quarter that really rallied around the power of not only who we are and what we are, but how we are in the market to recognize the power of heart and mind in the market? And that the mind might pull the trigger. The heart was probably behind it. And if you don't in a moment that's quite emotional, let's face it, the pandemic, brand that experience. This is a very powerful moment for marketers to take advantage of this moment and double down on those things.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I totally agree. Have you seen any CMOs that you've worked with in the past that you've placed or just people you've interacted with because you have a huge network that have done amazing things around brand so far?

Kate Bullis: Oh, of course. Some brands that we're particularly proud of and that we really love to see some beautiful work, Elf cosmetics. The brand there since that chief marketing officer started has just pole- vaulted, skyrocketed. I love the work that Masterclass is doing in when it comes to their brand. So we're really proud of the CMOs in organizations like that. We loved the work that inaudible at FireEye. I think that it's not just about consumer brand. It's obviously about enterprise brands as well.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Those are excellent examples and also very different, which is nice. One of the things related to our current time that I think has been really interesting for me, is working with David Cancel, our CEO. He very quickly took on a totally different leadership style and he educated the entire company about the fact that he was no longer what he called peacetime CEO, but he's now wartime CEO. And so when you think about which is based on a podcast or a blog post, I guess that Ben Horowitz did back in the 2008 challenges that we went through, what are you seeing in terms of how this mentality or leadership demand is changing for CMOs or even just for your clients in terms of what it is they're asking you to do in this time?

Kate Bullis: Yeah. Wartime leadership. And how does that specifically translate to the marketer? I think based on what we just spoke about a moment ago, prioritization. Really getting clear on what is the difference between critical and important, what has to happen today, knowing that it would be nice for XYZ to happen tomorrow. This has to happen today. So I think prioritization is one. I think also communication. Communication is a given. You just assume. You expect the CMO to be an excellent communicator, but I think communication style, it should reflect the moment as well. I think there needs to be a focus on things like candor in a moment like this and not just charisma. And I think that being very straight and very clear in what is a priority. I think that communication style is another. And then a third I would say is the ability to really act, pivot. A CMO is a strategist, is a change agent. It's also very much a strategist. Strategies change with the times. You can't just be all in on something, no matter what. And in a moment like this, I'm actually seeing some of my most impressive clients shift and pivot to strategies that weren't going to be deployed for quite a while, but they were in their back pocket and they're bringing them to the foreground now in order to maybe change the go- to- market, maximize growth, because now we're going to go through partners instead, or now we're going to double down on direct. I think that the CMO has a front and center seat in that. That would be a third area that I would see something like the pandemic really shifting behaviors of the CMO.

Tricia Gellman: I think this idea of prioritization. And I think also working from home. Working from home, it sets a whole new level of prioritization because it doesn't matter how much people are saying that they can get done. It's just a different series of things that people are lifting every single day than going to the office and being in the like- minded environment of their colleagues and things like that. So you have to prioritize because there's no way that you're going to do all the things the way you were doing them before, or even in a volume and quantity of before. Okay. So it might be related to the current climate or maybe not. I think the evergreen question for you is what are some of the successful CMOs that you've worked with? What are the consistent traits that you see in these CMOs or traits or skills or things that you believe are consistent across the board independent size of company, etc?

Kate Bullis: I've probably said this a couple of times, but I have to say strategic thinking, vision and strategy, first and foremost, change agency. We've been seeing this for years because of technology, because of data and digitization, because of consumerization. Every head of marketing is a change agent. I would argue that the bigger the company gets, the more the change agency becomes a front and center skillset, but it is a truism across all great CMOs that you are a change agent and you are comfortable leading through change. You don't just know how to advocate for change. You know how to lead through it, rally and bring people to the cause. That's a gift. I would also say, I would say POV versus playbook. This is something that I have seen across the board when I look at greatness in heads of marketing. There was a time when playbook was what everybody wanted. Nobody wants a playbook anymore. Playbooks are scary. Playbooks mean that you assume, and given things like data and consumerization, heads of marketing should come into an organization or a situation perhaps with a point of view, not the answers. The right questions, but not all the answers. Every company, every situation is different. Come in with a set of tools and how to apply them, but not necessarily the blueprints for everything. So I would say point of view over playbook. And then last but not least for sure, be a fantastic hirer of people. We've talked about this already. There is just no way a head of marketing whether it's for a series A startup or a giant corporation, there is no way a head of marketing can be great at everything a head of marketing needs to be able to be responsible for today. There's just no way. And so this person has to be fantastic at identifying and attracting talent. Followership is a big one.

Tricia Gellman: The more that I interact with other CMOs, the more that I can see the volume of people you have to hire. It's basically 20% of your job is just being involved in hiring, coaching your team for hiring, building the organization, driving the change. Driving the change is probably another 20%. So all the things that you said, I can really see that. I love your comment about point of view over a playbook. I think the world is just changing too fast. We're living in a time right now that's changing exponentially fast, but the world as a whole is changing too fast and every company is different. To walk in with a playbook, I think it doesn't usually play out very well. It's a playbook that ends up-

Kate Bullis: Not at all.

Tricia Gellman: ...taking a very poor return or a poor ending, I would say in the story.

Kate Bullis: Agreed, agreed. And I think that it's not just the head of marketing that's wise to that. It's the rest of the organization that's wise to it too. And if you come in and just think that you're just going to bring in the last blueprint from the last place you worked, everybody's going to get real nervous, real fast. So let's come in here and figure it out. Have a point of view, have a set of questions, recognize that your past experiences are incredibly valuable and useful to you in that way, but not just in the duplication process.

Tricia Gellman: I think these two things go together, the hiring and the point of view versus playbook, because I think it's easier potentially to interview somebody and understand their playbook and how they've been successful and what plays they've run and have them tell you about those activities, outcomes and things like that. But interviewing for the mentality and ability for somebody to pivot, to listen and to then have a point of view versus applying a playbook is an art I think in itself, in the hiring component.

Kate Bullis: Playbook suggests your mind is not open. What is a CMO but a person with an open mind? Think about the market itself is ever- changing. How can the CMO who should represent the voice of that market ever think that we can stop now, we're down here, now we're in maintenance mode? It's just onslaught of change. And you got to be not just okay with it, in front of it more than probably anyone else in the whole company.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Interesting. Are there certain people that you think the CMO partners best with to drive that change or it's a variable of every company that different people become the... I just feel like you can't drive that change on your own. It's just, you're never, if you have that mentality that you're going to drive change on your own, then you know you're going to fail.

Kate Bullis: The short answer is every company is different. Influencers in companies range, so it really isn't any one title, but I would say that in general, without operating in lock step with product and sales, the three horsemen, marketing, sales and product, that is the trifecta. If you're not operating well with those other two functions in your organization, it's not a longterm win. And that's true of both internal transformation and market transformation and product transformation, all.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think they all go together. So what would you say, we've talked about some pretty sophisticated skills, like the point of view versus a playbook. We're talking about as CMOs. So it's someone who's had time in their career. What do you think are the important things for younger marketers to think about if they envision or maybe they're not sure, but they listen to this podcast and they think, okay, this sounds interesting to me, I want to move from point A to point B, what are some things younger marketers should think about in terms of their journey and what they should learn along the way?

Kate Bullis: The answer is, think about everything we've already talked about from the beginning of your career and say, okay, exposure is key. So I mean that in terms of people and I mean that in terms of experience. Identify greatness and run to it. Run to the great marketer, not just the person who's doing great marketing, but a great leader. Look for the things that we've already talked about. Open- mindedness, nimbleness, flexibility, agility, change. The person who embraces it and runs with it and the person who says yes to a lot of things. Not no, we can't do that or no, I won't do that. Be the person who says yes, identify greatness and work with that. And look for opportunities to go side to side inside the marketing organization. Not just up. I think if I had any concerns about today's marketing departments, it's that there are so many facets to the marketing department now. I worry about young people being siloed too soon in their careers, gaining expertise in one area of a marketing function. And they become Superman in that one area. I'm the SEM SEO guy in the company. Well, that's great, but I don't want you to stop there. And the SEM SEO guy doesn't become the CMO. I want to see marketers move across. Look for leaders who will develop their people. Look for people if you're a young marketer who you see allowing people move side to side, as they also move up. Gaining that larger exposure across all the different functions of marketing will prepare you for the CMO. They are the most valued. In the market when I look at a CMO resume that has multiple moments, product marketing, brand, demand gen, it doesn't have to be equal like three years here, three years there. I just want to see exposures. That's going to help a lot on your journey to CMO.

Tricia Gellman: Do you think that people, exposures, it gives the connotation that you can see it or be near it versus doing it so I think sometimes people get hung up on their resume and their titles versus actually having that exposure. I've seen young marketers, oh, I'm the expert in this, or, oh, I don't want to do that because it's not interesting to me. I'm like, what is your problem? You don't have to be the director of blah, blah, blah, in order to actually grow your career. And so I'm wondering, do you think people can call things out, let's say in their bullets of their resume versus in the titles that they have to demonstrate that exposure or how do people best articulate that so people like yourself or just hiring managers in general, see that exposure?

Kate Bullis: You bring up an excellent point. Titles do not a person make. You are a culmination of all of your experiences, regardless of what somebody calls you. A good friend of both of ours, Tricia, Maria Pergellino, I think. And Maria just articulates this idea so beautifully around stop worrying about titles, start thinking about what marketing is responsible for and where have you lend a hand in each of those areas. Or in your role, how do you affect change in each of those three pockets every day, just in your one role? So I think there's a lot of ways to think about it, but don't let yourself just get down into the weeds, especially not too early in your career. Look for people who will give you those exposures.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. I published a newsletter specifically about how growth in your career, it's not a ladder, it's a jungle gym. And that's what I would say that you're describing. It's the jungle gym, which I think sometimes to Maria's point of view crosstalk

Kate Bullis: I think that was Sheryl Sandberg, wasn't it? I remember hearing her say that a million years ago when she first started. I love that. That's exactly right. And deliberately go. Don't just take advantage of it because someone hands it to you. Seek it out. That's my point. Be deliberate in those exposures.

Tricia Gellman: I think that's great advice. And I think that the people who, in my opinion, have grown their careers the best, definitely bring that to the table. And it also helps, like we said, you don't have to be the expert in everything, but having the exposure to things, you know the right questions to ask, it allows you to take accountability and be responsible for a broader swath of things that maybe in the past, you wouldn't have been able to even be associated with because you're just in the dark about them.

Kate Bullis: Absolutely. I'm not suggesting again, it's not about being equal parts all things. It's about knowing enough to be dangerous. And then you'll have your superpowers. We all do. Play to those strengths and always, always make one of your superpower's great hiring and never apologize. Never apologize for not being the expert in every single thing because I think that there's still a class of company. There's a class of CEO that just assumes that every CMO except for his or her own CMO because the grass is always greener, there's this assumption that, oh, well you must be equally good at all of those things. And the reality is that is never the case, never. The greatest marketers don't apologize for that. They embrace their superpowers and hire against the other stuff.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. What would you say is your superpower?

Kate Bullis: A long time ago, I realize I've been in executive search for over 25 years, I realized that search is not fetch. It's solution identification. That's one of the reasons why I think I gravitate so much to the function marketing because marketing is not just a straightforward get in line, easy to define thing. And so I so enjoy figuring out the solution and sharing with my clients that just because you thought it was going to look like this doesn't mean that's the only answer, that there's a lot of ways to skin a cat and you have goals. I'm going to help you find lots of different people who can get you to those goals. But that doesn't mean they all look the same. I think maybe my superpower is in my very strong belief that executive search is solution identification, not fetch.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. So we've come to the end of our time. And I usually close the show by asking people what the one lesson they've learned in marketing is. And since you deal a lot with marketers, that might be a good question, but maybe it's just, what is the number one lesson you've learned in your career that you would share and you think would help the listeners?

Kate Bullis: My major is advocacy. The best marketing is the marketing that you don't do at all. It's the marketing that others do on your behalf. And when your customer or your client advocates for you, game over. The trick is, how do you get there? How do you get to that? That's the Mecca. That never happens because of just your beautiful product, just because of your beautiful process, just because of your brand or just because of engagement. It's all three of those things acting in beautiful concert. I don't know if I answered the question, but my word has to be advocacy.

Tricia Gellman: I love that because I think that's something that has actually been growing as a part of what I see as the CMO 3.0, which is really this whole idea of customer experience and customer marketing. It seems weird that it's a newer thing that I see CMOs taking on, but it's definitely something that I'm a true believer in. And you can't really fill the funnel at the top if you don't have people advocating on your behalf, especially in today's day and age, it's noisy. People would rather hear from the people they respect, which is not you, the company and the brand. It's actually their peers and others who are basically spreading that word of mouth. But I think in the noisy world of today, it's even more important that you have that as a feather in your cap.

Kate Bullis: We can call it sponsorship, advocacy, whatever the game may be, whether you make toothpaste or a marketing department. Who's advocating for you? Those fans, that's the best marketing of all.

Tricia Gellman: That's excellent. Well, thank you so much for joining us. Do you have any other things that you-

Kate Bullis: You're welcome.

Tricia Gellman: ...want to share with the audience before we go?

Kate Bullis: No, I just, I want to say thank you again. It's really been a delight to be invited. I do have to say what I do for a living is executive search, but I have felt for years like my true community is marketers. And I think that's part of the reason why I enjoy what I do so much. I feel very much a part of marketing's community and I feel very much like an advocate for the function and the craft of marketing as well. I feel like it's very much my job, not just to bring great, talented people to my clients, but to educate my clients on how powerful marketing can be on their behalf. And together between the marketers that I work with and my own advocacy, I like to think that we're going to educate and elevate all executives on the power and hopefully we will standardize the definition of CMO in short order.

Tricia Gellman: Well, I think the advocacy that you're doing on behalf of all of us in marketing, whether CMO or even the entire department is really helping. I think you touch a lot of CEOs. You touch a lot of leaders. You're very involved in the community. So, we can't thank you enough for that. I think after listening to this podcast, a lot of people are going to want to ask you even more questions or maybe be in touch with you. How would you recommend that people reach out to you if they have questions or want to be in touch?

Kate Bullis: Number one is absolutely LinkedIn. That app is open all day for me. And you can also find me on Twitter. I'm very open, happy to be in touch with everyone.

Tricia Gellman: Well, thank you everybody for joining this episode of CMO Conversations. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me in LinkedIn, send questions, send me lists of other guests that you would love to hear from in the podcast series. And of course, if you love the series, give it high ranks, five stars, whatever it is that you're able to do in your platform of choice for podcasts, whether that be Spotify, Apple Music, whatever it might be of where you get this podcast. We are trying to be everywhere, make it easy for you. And we're really happy to have you as our guest. We will be releasing new podcasts every two weeks. And so just continuing to line up great marketers and influencers in the marketing aspect of the world. And thank you for listening.


If you asked 100 people what a CMO does, chances are you’ll get 100 different answers. Kate Bullis knows this struggle all too well. Now Kate may not be a CMO, but as the co-founder and managing partner at SEBA International Executive Search, she dedicates a lot of her time working with clients to define what they need in a CMO – and then finding the right person for the job.  

Over the years she’s worked with companies ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands, and across digital, technology, CPG, professional, and financial services. Suffice to say, Kate knows what top companies are looking for in marketing leaders (and she knows the marketing leaders who can get the job done). 

In this episode, Kate and Tricia talk about everything a CMO is (and is not), plus why now is the time for CMOs to rally their companies around brand and experience.