[Rebroadcast] What It Means To Be A Revenue-Driven CMO (With First Advantage's Katharine Mobley)

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This is a podcast episode titled, [Rebroadcast] What It Means To Be A Revenue-Driven CMO (With First Advantage's Katharine Mobley). The summary for this episode is: <p>This week, we’re throwing it back to one of our favorite episodes with First Advantage’s head of global marketing, Katharine Mobley. In this episode, Katharine talks about how she rebuilt the FADV brand (internally AND externally), redefined marketing's relationship with sales, and getting measured on what matters most – revenue. Her hard work has certainly paid off in a big way, as FADV's valuation tripled before it sold in 2020, and most recently IPO'd in June 2021. This episode is required listening for any marketer who wants to get a seat at the revenue table.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Katharine on Twitter @triciagellman @KatharineMobley @DriftPodcasts</p><p>​</p><p>Want even more CMO insights? Subscribe to Tricia's newsletter here: https://www.drift.com/chief-marketing-officer/</p>
Sit Back and Listen to People to Help Build a Better Marketing Plan
01:11 MIN
Kat's Role in the Employee Brand, and How She's Connected with Employees
04:11 MIN
Tips for Marketers Who Want to Drive Change
01:57 MIN
Utilizing Your Tech Stack to Drive Revenue
03:22 MIN
Kat's Number 1 Lesson As A Marketer
02:17 MIN

Tricia Gellman: Hey, everyone. It's Tricia Gellman. And I'm here with you in another episode of CMO Conversations. This week, we're rereleasing one of my favorite episodes. It's with Kat Mobley, the CMO of First Advantage. Kat and I only met in the past year, but fun fact, we knew each other by name and we were stalking each other in the past. That's because we used to compete in the same market in one of my previous roles. I've always respected her tenacity, so when we had the opportunity to get her onto the show, I couldn't wait to sit down and talk shop. Kat is a definition of a powerhouse marketer. She played a key role in transforming First Advantage, the brand, and their go- to market strategy, which helped triple the company's valuation prior to its sale in January, 2020. Not only that, but I'm rereleasing the episode today in part as a big congratulations to her and her team, they're also a Drift customer, because in June they went public and they had a very successful initial offering. Kat shares so many incredible lessons with me in this episode about building or rebuilding a marketing team from the ground up, forming a tight relationship with her CRO, and what it takes to really think about the business value that marketing is driving for the company. The results she's proven by partnering around revenue are outstanding. And I think you'll all learn something from this episode. Thanks for tuning in. Before I joined Drift, I had the fortune of working for a fast- growth startup called Checkr. Checkr was looking to disrupt the background check market. And I'm excited on this episode to have Kat Mobley, the CMO of First Advantage, the global leader in background checks and drug screening solutions. Like almost every industry and every market, Kat and her team were forced to pivot during COVID- 19 because as you can imagine, hiring and the HR space have been impacted. So there's a lot I want to talk to Kat about today. I'm really excited to have her here. One, because we were always going head to head when I was in my former role, but two, because I think she's had a really interesting approach to her career and approach to hiring, selling. The company she's at has been innovating a ton in the past six months. And so there is a lot for us to cover. But Kat, maybe you can start by just telling people a little bit more about yourself and about your marketing career, anything they should know about First Advantage.

Kat Mobley: I am an Atlanta native, which is a rare thing in this world. Atlanta is such a transit city, so I'm born and raised, which has given me a different perspective on a lot of things that are happening in the world today. I graduated from college on a Saturday and started my first job in marketing on Monday, with BBDO, the world's largest advertising agency, and ran the Dodger Move accounts. I like to say that I was the gen X that fought for the internet the way millennials fought for social media and marketing. So I was the one that had to go toe to toe with art directors from New York and all over the world about this new thing called the worldwide web, which led me down a path of being a marketer and technologist. So I got on board with pay- per- click ads very early, navigated all sorts of different things. I've beta tested Salesforce, believe it or not. So I got to see the marketing stack get developed. So for me, all of that has led to me being a strategic global marketer with a little bit of what I call technical DNA, because I honestly came into the industry as advertising was basically getting disrupted, but it's also given me an opportunity to have a really keen focus on revenue goals, which we're going to discuss, obviously, because I do think we need to be a sales enabled and revenue focused marketer these days. Business objectives, and I have a very strong financial acumen. We'll get to that at the end of this conversation as to where that came from. That's one of my strong suits and probably one of the biggest things I learned very early on in my life. And for First Advantage, I'm the head of marketing globally. So we have 26 offices around the globe. Obviously, we're all at home right now, but 26 offices around the globe, we operate with 4, 300 employees. And our focus is mainly on enterprise. We do do mid- market and small business, but we work with 55% of the Fortune 100 and 45% of the global 500. So we do have a very large footprint with very large clients.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. And I'm sure we can talk more about how that has really changed and, or enhanced your ability to continue to drive revenue in this time of COVID because I know at Drift, initially, we saw a huge impact to SMBs, and then they bounced back really fast, a lagging impact to enterprises. And at this point, everybody's where they're going to be, but I'm sure you've seen the same thing, and really also I think, across different industries. So we can talk about that a little bit more. You joined First Advantage in 2017, and I think when you joined the company, I don't know if it was exactly as it was panned out to you to be, which is often the case for us as taking CMO jobs. But maybe you can talk a little bit about that experience, what was the role that you thought you were going into? What did you find that you had to change when you showed up?

Kat Mobley: I was originally hired to support the CRO of North America, and came on board with that, I have very strong opinions of different things. And I was supposed to also do global, not just North America, so I sat down with the CEO and basically said, " One, this brand is broken. It's not just a challenge, it's in pretty bad shape. And two, I'm having a struggle being able to manage all of this just in North America." So Scott pivoted and put me directly underneath him, so I report directly to the CEO, and basically said, " Build it." He likes to say, " Make it so." So, I really took a deep dive into everything. The company that we'd done previously, or had worked, had not. I have little bit of a weird thing I do when I start new jobs that's really helps me as a marketer, I'm not lying.

Tricia Gellman: Well, and this might be a good tip for our listeners. So everybody, pleas epay attentiona.

Kat Mobley: Marketers always tend to be extroverts. We tend to like to talk a lot, happen to be storytellers. So in the interview process, I'm just like I am right now. I tell everybody, when I get there, I'm going to be quiet, probably more quiet, so to make you a little unnerved for awhile, for about six weeks, because I'm here to listen so then I can then build a plan and implement. So for six weeks, I just listened to everybody, from all the key stakeholders and the leadership, to customer success and sales. I learned about all the different challenges that we had, dug into all the data. A lot of my team was asking me why I was asking for Google Analytics and all the log ins to our social media accounts and different things. And so it really allowed me to come up with a plan very quickly. Sitting and listening to people lets me build a better marketing plan more quickly. So once I did that, I was very quickly able to address it. My predecessor was a very strong product marketer, but we had not done a lot in digital or social almost at all.

Tricia Gellman: I think First Advantage was not really known, if I talked to other people I know who had worked in sales or others for marketing. Every person actually, before I met you told me, " No, no, no, First Advantage doesn't do marketing, it's like a non- existent function." So hearing you say that the person was a product marketer, yeah, that makes sense. Because you guys have very detailed information on the products and the services you offer, but at a brand level-

Kat Mobley: Had none. We didn't have one in Atlanta and last year we were an Inc. Titan in Atlanta as one of 1, 000 companies in North America that are the largest privately held companies. So we really had no presence. We also had a little bit of an issue with our executive team on having spent a lot of money and not made an impact. So there wasn't a lot of impact on sales and revenue as well as brand. We also had global disjunction between all the regions around the world including their P& Ls. And so I really had to gain all that trust and really get back to the basics. So after those first six weeks, very quickly, I was able to release every agency. I sat down with procurement and legal and looked at all of our spend, all the impact, where it had been. There were a lot of agencies that have been comfortable or at least all of them. I developed an organizational chart around the globe of what we needed in each region, how the teams are going to be cross functional, developed all the job descriptions, the localities of where those people would sit, and then really aligned it and started hiring it. That means that I also was managing our Twitter account, which really didn't have a lot of presence, but we do have people that go make comments. So I was managing to social media-

Tricia Gellman: Actually, the most positive comments come in from Twitter.

Kat Mobley: Oh yeah. So basically, I joked that I was head of marketing at a half a billion dollar startup. That really allowed me to put all that together and then really address the longer- term commitment of, " How do we get the brand aligned? How do we get the internal stakeholders to agree in it? And how do I build out types of programs and programs sprints then that regains the trust of the executive team and the board so that we don't go down that same rabbit hole?" So anytime I want to pilot something now, I typically have full control. But at that time, I'd go to the CFO and say, " I need X amount of spin out of the existing budget. I promise you I'll run it for 30 days, I'll analyze it. If it's not working, I'll shut it down." And so we really do a lot of small sprints that way in marketing.

Tricia Gellman: I love that you're talking about working with the CFO. I had a conversation with somebody previously and I was talking about who I believe are the key stakeholders for the CMO today. And I think the CFO is somebody that people don't talk about that much, but if you are really driving revenue and you're driving a high return for your company, the CFO is maybe one of the only other roles in the C suite that touches every single department the way that the CMO does. And so it makes for an amazing partnership when you're able to build that.

Kat Mobley: I agree. And as marketers, a lot of times we... I say everyone's a marketer, because in the world now, you can take a picture with a phone and make it pretty and people like it. So that's marketing. I think that our CFO fairly had a lot of spin and he didn't agree with it because it had not made an impact. So we really worked well together. I built a really strong P& L out. Our focus is on EBITDA, and we're private equity owned. So I don't have the marketing budget that a lot of startups do in venture capital. I have to be very specific about what I spent and it has to fall down to the bottom line and make an impact. I agree with you, I think a lot of people overlook the CMO and you really have to value their opinion of where their stance is, because at the end of the day, you all have to be aligned to the common good of the company for revenue and EBITDA goals and you have to run a tight P& L to do that, and that's just the way business is run. And I think even through COVID, that is becoming a great conversation of the alignment of the CFO across the board.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think even more so after COVID, I think... One of the things I was impressed with so much, because I was only at the company less than six months when we started with COVID, was how quickly our CFO was able to run new numbers, scenario plan, etc, and help put us on the front foot versus the back foot in terms of what was happening, what are the signals we want to look for as a C suite to make decisions? What do we want to do as marketing, etc, and really the partnership across it.

Kat Mobley: Agreed. Absolutely. It's interesting because I earned David's respect so quickly that he actually submitted me for one of three women in the State of Georgia for a position for board seats, for public and privately traded board seats, and I was one of three women selected in the state in 2018. And this was early on of our tenure working together. But he knew that he could respect the impact that I was going to make on the business and the spin. And then also customer success and sales. " What do y'all need? What doesn't work? What do you hear?" Our resident division has very close personal relationships. They actually have each other's cell phone numbers and Facebook information. Our enterprise division is completely different. So how do you ebb and flow through that? So it was a lot of work, but it's also been a lot of fun. We have great people onboard. I can't take credit for all of it, it takes a village and we have a great village.

Tricia Gellman: It sounds like you inherited an organization where marketing had traditionally been viewed as not being valuable or worse, spending tons of money and achieving nothing.

Kat Mobley: Or both.

Tricia Gellman: Or both, or everything all together. And we'll get to the facts, but at the same time, maybe you had a burning brand challenge in the public market. Let's focus on internally for a minute. You started, it sounds like, rebuilding the trust through the CFO by recalibrating what was it that the programs were, what were the expectations, and really committing to him that you would show return. And then you mentioned as well, CS and CLs. Did you immediately rebuild the relationships with those people or was that built on the data that you provided with the CFO?

Kat Mobley: It was really built on conversations. We had such a strong focus on product, but we didn't have a lot of strong focus on how to get that information to market. So it was really heavily built on through customer success and sales. So I had to build almost a halo effect of, how do we build a stronger presence of that? And how do we get that information to market in channels we haven't looked at? So how do we look at what our competitors are doing? What are people doing on social media? Again, this industry is nuanced, so it doesn't have a huge, strong social media presence from a buyer's perspective, but it does from an influencer's perspective of those that influence the buying decision. So I had to figure out how to navigate that. And we had burned some bridges within that market. So I had to reestablish a lot of relationships. There was a lot of trust and crack the HR tech network. I found internal stakeholders and external stakeholders to do that, but really what was it that at the end of the day was going to help build pipeline and deliver on revenue and also turn the brand around. So really, we started with asking them what they needed, what worked, what didn't, how do we optimize it? What are the things that we need to focus on? And what needs to be thrown away?

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, it sounds like also a lot of what needs to be thrown away. And I think that's one thing that's interesting. I've had guests on this podcast series that have been in very, very small, aggressive startups and people who have been in companies that have gone through transition and change because they're 40, 50 years old. And I think that's something interesting from that First Advantage perspective, because I don't... I'm making up numbers for you, but how old is First Advantage?

Kat Mobley: Well, we've been known as First Advantage for about 14 years, but the legacy systems we're on were longer than that, so around 20, 30 years, depending on, at what point do you consider First Advantage interesting.

Tricia Gellman: And I think it's not a secret that when you joined also, First Advantage as a brand was going through a lot of challenge and change as well in terms of like the loyalty and the trust. And at this point it, it really feels like you guys have turned this around and are in an entirely new level where First Advantage is on the front foot, you're moving forward. People aren't really saying, " Wow, look at what they're doing. How would you say that you approached this, because maybe it was also something that was a little bit more of a surprise to you coming in as well?

Kat Mobley: It was. Really, I had to learn the market. HR is, like I said, it's a completely different industry. It's unlike anything I've ever seen. And the other thing about HR, which was really challenging from a cost perspective is, it's a very heavy pay- to-play space. You really don't get earned media until you do have the trust of those reporters and news anchors. And as you know, coming from your previous role, they also love to be investigative journalists and only put out the bad news. So it's a very nuanced market, specifically for a technology market. I really went and tried to find the key stakeholders externally that would be willing to understand what I was trying to do and helped me navigate that space. I had some failure at first because I was viewed as a woman that did not come from the industry. And a lot of people in this industry feel that you have to earn your right to be a part of it.

Tricia Gellman: It's a very old industry. I faced that when I was in my previous role, a company that was two years old saying like, " Hey, here we are, we're the third player." crosstalk go away.

Kat Mobley: Yeah, it's very dated and it has that stigma to it. And so I really went and found those people that I could associate myself with that would help make introductions. So really honestly, I could learn. Like I said, I do a lot of due diligence in my first few months. I try to take about a quarter to listen and learn internally and externally. I focus internally first while trying to build side resources. And once I had that and I had an understanding of what it was going to take to build the market out, then I was able to establish those relationships. Do small programs with them to build the trust with them that then would collaborate to another introduction to someone else outside the organization and in the industry to give us a little bit stronger foothold. And I learned what we'd done wrong. I think a lot of the times as a marketer, you come in and you think you know everything, but you really don't know how to fix the brand until you find out what the brand had done wrong previously.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, it's impossible to understand from the outside really.

Kat Mobley: Y. And so we've come through a lot of mergers and acquisitions. We had promised a lot of things and had a lot of challenges. We had a lot of technical debt that had to be updated. We didn't have great ways for customers to reach us and to communicate with them. So we had to really change all those channels and give them other options. We also had a lot of candidates that wanted a work around, " I don't want to listen on a phone number, I want an answer now." So we really have to build a technical infrastructure that had never been put in place here that was all by mergers and acquisitions. One of the things I joke about is, like I said, when I came on board, I was expecting one thing and got another. And what I really equate it to is, I stepped into a house that had been renovated, that was originally built in like 1950, and then renovated in 1975, and then renovated again in 1986, renovated again in 1992, renovated again in 2003, and never brought up code. So we really had to figure that out. And so we did that. We really looked under the hood and figured out what was going to solve our customer's problems and obviously, customer's success in sales problems as well, and make it a journey for everybody, not just fix one thing a silo.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I think that that makes sense. And I think the other thing that you shared with me previously is that you faced when you joined the company, not just a loyalty trust and retention challenge with your customers, but also with your employees. And I think this is something that is maybe newer for a lot of marketers, is to think about the employee brand, and, what is the employee brand. Not just, what is the relationship of marketing with other stakeholders, which we spoke about, but, what is the role of marketing in helping to define the employee brand? Because so much today, you said we're all marketers. Yeah, we can all tell a story through a picture, but guess what, we can also all bring down a company through our behavior with our customers or just out in the market and what we're saying in a tweet or something like that. So talk a little bit to me about how you view your role in the employee brand what you've done in your role to connect with employees.

Kat Mobley: Yeah. Like I said, we are very disjointed. Each region, it almost like its own separate company, and so there wasn't a lot of allegiance or alliance between the employees of one region and the employees of another. So immediately, I figured, if I could get my team on board with that and build a team and a cohesive team that could have a common value and a common belief in fixing that, we then could develop programs along with HR operations and others on how to drill it down throughout the organization and help people make proud of what we were doing. So how are we helping customers solve problems? What were we doing at the end of the day? Who was volunteering and doing something that no one else in the company knew we were doing as a company? And how do we share that? So we developed a lot of different things internally, but then we also developed a lot of things externally because I think you have to fix the employee engagement part first before you can get those employees to be proud to go outside of the company and tout about it. We started newsletters organizationally internally with our executives. Scott has a new series that goes out that's also a video series that he addresses every employee in the company. We got a lot more transparency built between the executive team and the employees. And then we really took it to, " These are the things that we're doing, these are the things you should be proud of. And if you're doing something that you're proud of, send us photos of it, send us what you're doing and use this hashtag." So we've developed# fabblife, that was our first hashtag ever. And it gave employees the opportunity to share what they were doing with their coworkers, whether they were at lunch or whether they were at a customer meeting or in a volunteer situation, and really gave people an external view of what we had as a culture. Then we also developed# fabbcares because what we realized is, we were doing a lot of volunteering around the globe that no one knew about, not only internally, but externally. So people would share that internally. During this time, we as marketers also developed our own marketing newsletters. We have two, one's called Hot Off the Press, which was anything and everything that was great, that was happening in the company, not just from marketing's perspective, but from customer success, big customer wins, a retention goal, an RFP that was one, etc. And then we also do Tuesday Tips, which is, here's all the things that you can share with your customers or prospects during the sales cycle to be able to know what's hot, new, and the greatest for First Advantage. We also developed most recently in the past year, FADVFIt because let's be honest, it was developed before COVID, but COVID has helped that. And our employees really built some comradery together. And we had teams of people that did a walking challenge. And each week, you had to log your miles and share how many miles you had walked. And I think the group that won walked like 125 miles a week and it was only five people. I think they were training for marathons or something. So I think there's ways to do it. I think from an employee brand perspective, being in HR has taught me a lot about employee brand. And you really have to get people to understand that if you want to hire the best talent, you want to retain the best talent, you have to put your best foot forward. Your employees put their best foot forward to your customers, but they also put their best foot forward to your prospective new hires and people that they want to recruit. So they've got to be able to articulate that behind closed doors and publicly, and really we developed all of this based upon the fact that people had just felt we had not been vocal enough, we had not shared all these things and we've not brought everybody together. And so we really focused on doing that. And so much of what marketing does sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. If you don't have a channel or a mechanism to share it, you're doing great things and no one knows about it, whether it's external you're internally. So we developed these channels to make sure we had mechanisms to share it. So when something happens in North America, it goes to all the regions around the world and they can share it. If something happens-

Tricia Gellman: Well, I love that learning. I love the sharing of the learning, and I love as well, you started to talking about how everybody's a storyteller. But I think you're talking about here employee brand and the importance of telling the internal story to the internal teams. And I love the fact that you were sharing key wins and you're sharing things about what the company is doing to get people excited, especially, you're over 4, 000 people you're global, to try and share that. If you don't take a proactive approach on it, then it really is going to either be siloed or just tons of great things are going to be lost. And so thinking about that internal storytelling as a way to build employee brand, I think is a great takeaway for our listeners.

Kat Mobley: Yeah. Just to give you an example, we had great employee engagement activities in India that no one knew we were doing every year with 2, 000 people. So we had to share that internally, but also externally. So I think you have to look at it from that perspective. A lot of times as marketers, we assume everyone hears what we're doing, but we don't. You really almost have to hit them over the head and make sure that you have multiple channels. It's not a one- channel approach, email doesn't work, you've got to have intranet emails, Slack, or Teams or whatever.

Tricia Gellman: The multi- channel. I think multi- channel is so important because as a leader, you may think, " Oh, email's the best thing ever." But then a third of the population you're reaching doesn't read emails. So you need Slack or you need social or whatever it might be. I think the more channels you can have, the better.

Kat Mobley: Yeah. Agreed.

Tricia Gellman: We've talked about for a little bit now about brand, internal brand, building your brand, using this to impact your retention numbers, both for employees and for your customers. But at the end of the day, I think you're known, and the reason you were hired is because you have a relationship with a CEO and you're known for getting shit done with CEO. And also, you pride yourself on being a revenue leader not leads, not just brand, but revenue. And so it seems to me that you've had to drive a ton of change in the company in the past three years, re- establish that marketing does have a seat at the table for revenue. But maybe what you could share with the listeners is just one tip of as a newbie in a company that has historic things that they've been overcoming, how do you really drive that change?

Kat Mobley: There's a couple of ways to do it. One, the existing team members that I had, one of them had been here for 14 years, and I really leveraged her from like I said in the very beginning, what worked and what didn't work, but also, what are going to be my biggest challenges? So that was one of the probably the best questions I've ever asked in my career, and I will use it the rest of my career, where are going to be my roadblocks to get stuff done? Because like you said, I get shit done, but I need to know what's going to slow me down or stop me. Obviously, we brought up the financial team because they're going to want to make sure that I can do it. But two, the other ones, specifically in larger companies such as the size of ours, it's procurement and legal. I actually was supposed to speak at sales loss rev conference this year on how to close an enterprise deal because a lot of people don't realize the loopholes we have to go through just to get a flipping contract signed. And so I really sat down with legal and found out their job is to make sure that we don't get in lawsuits. So what are the claims I can make? What are the things I can say? What are the stories that can share? What clients are completely off limits? There's a large amount of our clients we cannot use their names. So I made sure that they were comfortable with that so that I could get content and press and creative to produce quickly. So because once it's done through the channel, it goes to legal because it doesn't go out the door, that is helpful to have a background in financial services because I did work for a MasterCard brand at one point. So I did that. And then procurement. So if I want to bring on new contractors, new agencies, what's the protocol? What is the timeline? That was really beneficial to me as well, because I had to be able to make sure all these parts and pieces were working. And then really, how do we tease out all the great things that we're doing and get it to market almost in a de- branded way? Because like I said, a lot of it can't be shared from our customers, which ultimately made other customers open to talking on our behalf.

Tricia Gellman: You always did, especially when you're in an industry that's as regulated as a background check industry, having somebody speak on their own words to the person directly is huge.

Kat Mobley: Yep. So there were a lot of different pieces to it, but I do think if you can ever ask that question... Everyone asks like, what type of advertising do we do? If you ask the question of, where's my biggest roadblocks? What are going to be the bottlenecks? And how do I work with them to get it accomplished? It's hugely beneficial.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I would say probably very insightful, but also saves a lot of time.

Kat Mobley: It saves a lot of time because otherwise, I just would have sent it and had I not gotten their buy- in, then it wouldn't have worked. And now I can call legal at any point and say, " Hey, I want to be able to make the statement. I'll reword it however I need to, but we need to be able to get the gist of it, what are you comfortable with?" And so I can have access to the legal team for anything from trademarks, etc, because I gained their trust.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I love that. And whether it's legal or procurement or others, I love that as an approach to building that trust and using that trust, and using the larger organization to help to drive the change because it's a lot to drive change on your own and probably not effective. Now, the other thing about being revenue focused leader is that you, I think have been a catalyst and/ or there's probably other people in the team that you've now built this trust with in repositioning First Advantage. And congratulations, because pre- COVID, you guys had a very, very, very positive financial event. Walk us through what your role was in aligning the team around the customer, maybe new go- to market. I'm not sure, but whatever you're willing to speak about.

Kat Mobley: When I was brought onboard, I was hired four months after the CEO was hired. And as we all know, most CMOs have a tenure of 14 months. I'm happy to say I'm on month 37. So I've done something right. And we sold the company during that timeframe, which is crazy. I really came in and took a look at... I knew the long- term goal of the sell of the company. It was projected to be longer than obviously we achieved it, but we knew that was the goal. We also knew we had a lot of work to do. We had a brand new CEO, brand new vision. How do you get the company around that? For me, it was the first small win for me was, how do we take this brand that I was told I couldn't get rid of, that was completely tarnished-

Tricia Gellman: I heard you asked if you could change the name of the company.

Kat Mobley: I asked prior to that. Three weeks in, I walked into Scott's office and said, " This is beyond broke, I can't fix it. I want to scrap it." And he said, " You can't." He said, " Make it so." Like, " Okay." So I really took the brand components, so the logo, imagery, typography, colors, the palette, all the creative that was out there and broke it apart. We had had an agency create the brand previously. They had fusion green in the color palette. Our color palette is arch blip. So really streamlined it, got my team together on, how do we get Scott's brand story of the vision that everyone has to get behind to sell this company from all the executives all the way down to contract employees so that we can get across the finish line? And what does that story mean, and how do we convey it to our internal stakeholders and our external stakeholders? And so within the first, probably six months, we did a brand new, wasn't a brand launch, it was a brand refresh with video content, collateral, all new PowerPoint templates, all new creatives, really positioned ourselves in market differently than we've been positioned previously, layered that with customer stories, rebuilt our customer annual event that had always been more in my opinion, like a sales kickoff to have customers to talk. How do we get our customers to tell our stories for us because it's in a confined environment, so they actually can do that because it's not streamed anywhere? And how do we give them the benefit of conversations between themselves so that they can learn in their retail vertical or a financial vertical? And once those started taking hold and people felt proud to share what they were sharing, and the brand had cohesion, it was easier to get the content produced and get people onboard and push it out. I also had to make sure that the metrics were impactful at the board level. So, how do we ensure that we have the right metrics for NPS scores for customer success so that we have indicators of anything that might be at risk? How do we ensure that different ideas such as how we tell our stories and QPRs and what we maybe should pitch or talk about that's upcoming? What is the product roadmap and timeline? And how do we ensure that that's timely? So there was a lot of pieces to that, but honestly, the person that did the true turnaround was Scott. It was his vision, and he really has a vision when it comes to things. It was all of us that executed. And it was a complete alliance of customer success, sales, marketing, operations, IT, HR. Without the team and the leadership team that we had, one, we wouldn't have never been able to sell the company as fast as we did, and for the valuation we did and the close in January. Only to have it close and COVID to hit, I took the first call for COVID on, I took the first call for COVID three days before the company actually sold from China. And then we entered this whole transition. So I think we as a leadership team had come together strategically so well that we were able to pivot very quickly. And we had a new board that had different metrics, and with their guidance, we've really been able to align and brace for impact, cut costs, streamline, and really pivot into a great success story right now. But it was all pieces working together. There's no I in this whole component because it was a lot of stuff. We just had to find the stories to tell.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah, I love that. There's no I in the story of building success and building the company, which is great. But one of the things I think that is really important is that you really have toted this line, which I think during COVID and the pressures that are across different industries, etc, of being a sales driven marketer. And so why do you think that right now that's really critical?

Kat Mobley: I've always been... I was part of the marketing tech stack like I said early on. And so I've always been metric driven, and I don't believe in vanity metrics. I just really have always been focused on the bottom line. I think right now, because like I said, CMOs have a tenure of about 14 months, if you don't make an impact quickly and not just an impact on the brand positioning, revenue sales, but the bottom line, you're going to be replaced or you're going to be out. And so I really think you have to do it very, very fast. Right now, I think the marketing tech stacks, I'll give Drift a plug. I think in the marketing tech stacks with what used to be just a CRM and then became marketing automation with different marketing automation platforms into some sales enablement tools, to some extent, to really a full- fledged from CRM, all the way to sales enablement, into marketing customer success, and even handling inbound and outbound traffic, I think now is the time for you to figure out how that stack works for you to drive revenue.

Tricia Gellman: I think now is a unique time that you can actually, and I think we both have been through this growth where... I was a graphic designer who moved into design as a full- time job at a time when the whole industry was going digital. And then I ended up in marketing and I went home and I cried because I thought there was no measurable value to marketing and it's just a fluffy thing. And since that time, now we're in a place where you can bring this whole stack together and you can measure the value of marketing, not just for leads, but all the way to revenue.

Kat Mobley: Yeah. It requires an investment obviously, which not everyone has. And I get that, but there are work arounds. And I don't think that fluffy metrics really work anymore. I think you do have to be able to say, " I delivered this to the revenue bottom line or cost savings or whatever your KPIs are." So for me, we really needed a lift and pipeline. And for me, the MQL, SQL, it wasn't working. It was like, " I want to be measured on what converts to actual revenue." So we build a massive pipeline, but we need to shorten that sales cycle and we need to make the conversion rate higher. And we need to make sure that content is generating as much impact as it can. So that's really where we've been sitting with sales for the last probably six months to really think of what are your problems? And I also went through last November actually, I went through where sales deals were stalling. I didn't do that in a vacuum, I didn't do it with, " Oh, this piece of content went here." I went and looked at the actual sales cycle and tried to figure out, where are things stalling and how can I build content or help sales build content, or ask the right questions to make that process flow more? Or is it that the market's changed and we have more buyers at the table, so we need to penetrate more people, which means I need more people in that funnel for that one account? I just think that it's imperative that moving forward, all those marketers that have always been measured on flaws are going to go away, because you really have to be measured on the bottom line and your impact. That's not to say that... It's very hard to measure employee brand, but you can measure it with Glassdoor scores and you can measure it with employee engagement scores. So there are ways to work with HR to find out what are you doing as a marketing team along with these counterparts to measure that impact? You can measure customer success with NPS scores and attrition. You can measure sales, obviously from pipeline and revenue. I just feel like at the end of the day, all of those have to be pointing to the benefit of the company to support revenue objectives, otherwise, you're just trying to somewhat be creative with no measurement. And that is a really bad place to be as a marketer right now.

Tricia Gellman: Well, honestly, my opinion is that that's why you get to the 14 months CMO, because if you can't align to revenue and you can't show the value for what you're doing, whether it's in the cost savings, the ROI of the programs, etc, then I think unfortunately there are still a lot of CMOs in that boat and it does bring down the average for, I hope my tenure will be much longer at Drift, and it's great that you've had a great tenure at First Advantage. But I think the more that you can define your value, the more you can ask for that seat at the table with the CEO as your boss, the more you can have that time in front of the board and demonstrating the value of what you're doing for the company, the longer tenure I think you can have in your role.

Kat Mobley: Agree. Totally agree. And I really think it's imperative that you get everyone to buy in as much as you can, not everyone's going to buy into it, but if you can... I worked with operations on a trend report, because operations does all these cool things, but no one knows about it. So I have a five- part series now that comes out every year, all upon analyzing our own data, so that it showcases the work that we do. So you've got to find those wins that gets everyone onboard to make an impact on the bottom line. And that trends report is revenue generating because I know who've used it, who downloads it and what lead or revenue opportunity comes out and how it converts at the end of every year. So I don't do anything in the company that really does not have some type of KPI measure to it. When revenue is not an objective, I find some way to align with that org to make sure that there is a measurement so that we know impact, whether it's working or not. Because I don't have a huge team, I've got to use the best resources I can, where I can have them.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. Well, we're coming towards the end of our time and you probably have other things you want to share, but before we close, I want to close with my signature question, which is the number one lesson that you feel you've learned as a marketer and that you would share with other people.

Kat Mobley: One of the things that I knew I had a little bit of, so I actually learned very early on in my life that has truly helped to be a great marketer from a cost perspective, as well as an impact perspective is, about 10 years ago I had a business coach and we were going through personality traits, masculine and feminine traits. And she said I was very high skewed on the masculine traits. And one of the traits that I was highest skewed on is negotiation skills. And I negotiate like man, and we dove into that. I grew up in the automobile industry. So I grew up in the showroom floor.

Tricia Gellman: The worst place that anyone ever wants to be in negotiations. So good training around that.

Kat Mobley: I went and negotiate ground pony show between the GM and the sales manager at the age of nine. So it's really been able to help me when I came into First Advantage to get rid of those agencies that were dead weight. There was no negotiation at that point. It was, what is the process? What's the contract say? How do I give them a cease and desist and get them off my payroll? And then when it came to building our annual event, yes, this is a beautiful venue, I agree. It's brand new. I understand you want this money for it, but the other thing is it's brand new and it's in Vegas, it's not well known. What kind of deal can you give me if you want me to bring 400 people here? So I really have done that my whole life, not just in business or marketing, but also like you said, you never want to buy a car with me, although you will get what you want and you will pay what you want, but I will walk out of the dealership. And I walk away from vendors and different things when I'm negotiating, not everything's negotiable, but I do that and I do it well. And I think it's key as a marketer. Just because somebody comes to you with something doesn't mean that you just have to pay it. You can ask, are there different types of benefits, values, managed services, things you can get, so that you don't just take for what it's worth and negotiate. It's also really good for your career. So I teach my staff how to negotiate things that they want and need. And I think it's a skill that has been invaluable in my career, specifically as a marketer, because you have to make sure every dollar counts. So every dollar is going to count, I'm going to get the best dollar I can get out of it.

Tricia Gellman: I love that. And I think that's something that's really interesting, especially because we've been talking about this relationship between marketing and sales, and it is critical in sales that you're able to negotiate like your life and your pay depends on it, but typically for marketers, that's not the case. And so it's an interesting skill that you learned early on at the age of nine that you've been able to carry forward. And I'm sure beyond just helping you negotiate with your vendors, it's also helped you to align with sales.

Kat Mobley: Absolutely.

Tricia Gellman: Well, great. Is there anything else that you would like to share? I think we didn't even get to talk about all the innovation that First Advantage has been doing in the past six months. So if you wanted to talk about that, we can talk about that for the next, like five to 10 minutes.

Kat Mobley: Yeah. We took COVID as an opportunity to really be empathetic to our clients and find out what they needed. And so we were able to pivot and build a 90- day plan, launched 14 products, solves a lot of customers' needs and helps get three million people back to work.

Tricia Gellman: I would like to know how, three million people back to work.

Kat Mobley: Yeah, 90 days. And that was huge. A lot of our competitors really came out aggressively from a sales tactic and we really used empathy as, " Hey, there isn't a single person in the world is not affected by this right now. What do you need? And how can we solve a problem?" And that really built these innovations and products. And it's really created stickiness for us with our clients, which has been huge. So don't de- value that layer right now, we're going to be in this for probably at least another year, if not longer. So try to figure out ways to figure it out. Virtual events are huge right now, it's a lot of fun. Just don't let COVID be the thing that makes you feel that you can't market, figure out a way to market through it. And it was something that we've done strategically and it's really been beneficial to the company.

Tricia Gellman: I love that because I think we talked about how you've been bringing the C- suite together to really pivot around the customer, and then now also from a product standpoint, pivot to the customer. And in a time when everybody's seeing headlines of the amount of unemployment, to talk about three million people getting back to work, to talk about creating products within 90 days that are really impacting people's ability to hire, I love that, it's a great story. And hopefully, we can do the podcast, help more people hear about that because it's definitely a benefit and a great thing for your brand.

Kat Mobley: Great. And I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Tricia Gellman: We're so grateful to have you on the show. And is it appropriate to tell people that they can reach out to you on LinkedIn? I feel like that's a great place typically to connect.

Kat Mobley: Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: And then I also, as you started your career at First Advantage being the person managing Twitter for everybody, Twitter is Katharine Mobley. So you can definitely find her there. She's very astute at managing the Twitter handles. Thank you everyone for joining us. Thank you for continuing to pay attention to CMO Conversations. I think we've had a great chat today about not only the importance of the marketing to drive brand internally, but also externally. And how when you bring that together as Kat did, that you have the ability to triple the valuation of a company and really help you one of the leaders at the seat at the table through whether it's an IPO or a sale to a new PE firm, whatever it might be, Kat is a true example of the impact that you can have for a company and really live to talk about. So thank you so much for joining us, Kat.

Kat Mobley: Thank you.


This week, we’re throwing it back to one of our favorite episodes with First Advantage’s head of global marketing, Katharine Mobley. In this episode, Katharine talks about how she rebuilt the FADV brand (internally AND externally), redefined marketing's relationship with sales, and getting measured on what matters most – revenue. Her hard work has certainly paid off in a big way, as FADV's valuation tripled before it sold in 2020, and most recently IPO'd in June 2021. This episode is required listening for any marketer who wants to get a seat at the revenue table.