How To Scale Your Career (And Your Marketing Team) Really Fast With G2’s Ryan Bonnici – Part 1

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This is a podcast episode titled, How To Scale Your Career (And Your Marketing Team) Really Fast With G2’s Ryan Bonnici – Part 1 . The summary for this episode is: At the age of 10, Ryan Bonnici decided he wanted to be a CMO. By the age of 30, he’d joined G2 and turned that dream into reality. In this episode of CMO Conversations, Ryan shares lessons learned from previous roles at Microsoft, Salesforce, and HubSpot and how he applied those learnings to scaling the G2 marketing team. Plus, hear from Ryan on the three things a board wants the CMO to focus on, how to effectively do customer marketing, and the digital strategy his team used to grow traffic from 500,000 to 6 million buyers each month. Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Ryan on Twitter @triciagellman @ryanbonnici @HYPERGROWTH_Pod
The three things a board wants the CMO to focus on
02:48 MIN
How to effectively do customer marketing
04:22 MIN
How Ryan was able to scale his team so fast
01:52 MIN
Ryan's super power
03:54 MIN

Tricia Gellman: Hi, everybody. This is Tricia Gellman, the CMO of Drift. And I'm excited to be here today with you for a new episode of CMO Conversations. Today I have with me, Ryan Bonnici, the CMO of G2. Many of you probably use G2 to go and to see reviews, recommendations when you're building out your tech stacks. If you haven't, I don't know where you've been living, but either way, you should definitely start using G2 for hearing what it is other people are doing, and starting to get more information, as you do research tech stacks or your marketing practices. So, why do we have Ryan here? Ryan has a really exciting background as a CMO. He was even nominated last year for the Forbes 50 Most Influential CMOs in the world. And probably, that happens because he's worked for both big names and sort of medium names, and now G2. He's worked for Microsoft, he worked at ExactTarget, and then translated that into some time at Salesforce and HubSpot, prior to joining G2. So Ryan, we're really excited to have you here today. Why don't you talk to us a little bit about your role, and what you are doing in your position at G2?

Ryan Bonnici: Sure thing. Thanks for having me, Tricia. And I just want to put it out there that I love your work, and it's fun to chat, because we always have really good chats when we chat. Yeah. I mean, background on me, I'm just one of those weird people that always knew what they wanted to be when I was like 10 years old. I have this really vivid memory of it, at the age of 10 knowing I wanted to be a CMO, and a CMO by 30. So I mean, I don't know what happened to me as a child that made me decide I want to go down that path, but it was really bizarre. So I think it's safe to say that I really live and breathe marketing. I'm constantly thinking about it. I just really love it, and so I've been really fortunate, as you mentioned, to work for some really innovative companies in the world. And I feel like I've been able to learn a real lot. So yeah, I was really excited when I joined G2 around, gosh, probably three years ago now. A little under three years, and it's been a wild ride. It's been by far, the most challenging and the most fulfilling job I've had to date. So yeah, happy to talk more with you about it.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think we do have great conversations. So I'm really looking forward to the recording of this podcast today. One of the things that I think would be interesting to talk about is, what did you learn from these bigger companies that you think has set you up to really have this role as a CMO of G2? And what are some of the learnings you took away to build your current success?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. So I started my career, gosh, over a decade ago at Microsoft. And when I started there, I was on B2C marketing. So first job kind of a thing, and was really kind of getting, I guess, just baseline understanding of digital marketing, how to support a sales team, how to run digital ads. And I feel like my time at Microsoft, while it was super valuable, it was also just a huge learning experience. And I didn't really know a whole lot, because I just genuinely don't think that colleges and universities do a great job at teaching marketing, because it's one of those fields that's just constantly changing and so it's hard for them to stay up to date. And so Microsoft was an amazing experience, but I guess if I think of pros and cons at Microsoft, what was really interesting was that the brand was so strong, and still is so strong today. And so we were really fortunate that the Microsoft brand helped us not only open up doors, but accelerate sales deals. And so, I think I was really fortunate to kind of understand the impact of brand, and how that really impacted the sales cycle. The flip side of that though, is that Microsoft, at the time that I was there, was a 100, 000 person company. And so when we wanted to send an email, for example, to our database in Australia and New Zealand, it would take a month of planning to send out an email. Right? And just looking back on that today, that's just gobsmacking to think that you would have people spending that much time planning, pulling lists, cleaning lists. It was just hell. And it was funny, because that's sort of then what led me to ExactTarget, because Microsoft was ExactTarget's biggest customer globally, at the time. And so I was using ExactTarget at Microsoft, and when ET launched in Australia, they brought me on board to build out their marketing and their inbound sales function. So I'd say I learned a lot there. When I then moved to ExactTarget and Salesforce, I think I started to get a little bit more familiar with what nimble businesses could do, because Salesforce at the time was, I want to say maybe only like 4, 000 people, 5, 000 people. It was a much smaller company than it is today. ExactTarget at that time was only 2, 000 people. And so, I felt like at that time we were really on the cutting edge of technology, we were on the cutting edge of agile working as a marketing team. And so, I think I learned a lot in that period about how to move quickly, how to drive impact. And I think I just learned a lot more of the fundamentals of B2B marketing in my time at ET and Salesforce. But that said, it was still enterprise oriented. And so, I think I've always been someone that's, I think, thought really carefully about their career, and made really thoughtful moves. And I remember really vividly having a moment where I realized that I know long- term, I want to own and start my own business. And I remember when I was at Salesforce, we were throwing the biggest... It's called the Salesforce World Tour, and I think we were throwing one of the biggest ones at the time that had happened outside of the US, and the budget was maybe$ 10 million or something. And I vividly remember being like," Gosh, Ryan, if you start your own company, you're not going to have a$ 10 million budget to throw a big event. So maybe you should learn some other tactics outside of the brand and the bars." Which, don't get me wrong, Salesforce are the masters at that, right? Their PR machine is incredible. Their events machine is incredible, but it's also crazy expensive. And the mechanics of those kinds of marketing attributional activities don't really work well for a lot of companies that don't have a platform that's really sort of fundamental for a business. And CRM is one of those things it's really hard to replace, right? Because everything connects into it. So their kind of life cycle, customer retention, sort of metrics, make them able to drive those kinds of, sort of spend on marketing. And so, long story short, I then, sort of at that time realized that I wanted to learn more about ROI driven marketing. And that was when I joined HubSpot, and really similar story. HubSpot was launching in Asia Pacific and brought me on board as the first marketer, and I built out our team across all of JPAC. And I think HubSpot was where I really learned a lot more about how to attract people to your brand, as opposed to just pushing out messages and buying their attention. And that was just a truly wonderful experience, I don't think I've ever worked with so many amazing marketers in my career up until that point. And so, I was able just to really learn all of these things from all of these remarkable people, and that really, I think, set me up for success when then joining G2. And G2 is really kind of interesting, because we're a marketplace, you sort of mentioned earlier. So we have 6 million buyers coming to our site every month, and that number has been growing at crazy multiples in the last few months, especially with so many companies having to really quickly digitize. But then on the flip side of our marketplace, we have that B2B side where we sell to hundreds of thousands of sellers, which are companies like Salesforce, like HubSpot, etc., around the world, but one of them better connect with those 6 million buyers each month. And so G2 was a really kind of fun, I guess, learning for me because it wasn't either B2B or B2C. It was this unique combination, and I hadn't ever learned how to balance those two things because I'd always worked for more traditional businesses that serve just one buyer. And so that was really what excited me, because I felt like I could keep my B2B muscle sharp, but then also learn the B2C side of the world a little bit better.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. I think it's really impressive, the volume of people that you have coming to the site. And obviously, in a marketplace, that's what you want, right? Because you're not going to get a lot of the B2B people that want to engage with viewers, and want to pay you to be in your marketplace, if you don't have a consistent, strong volume of people coming in. But I think when you got to G2, it was a totally different picture. So, what are some of the key lessons you could share with the audience, in terms of what you've done to dramatically increase this volume of people that are coming every single month, and the way that you use digital to do that?

Ryan Bonnici: There were a few things. I mean, on the traffic piece, you're right. I think the monthly kind of average, when I joined, I want to say we were generating maybe 500 to 800, 000 monthly sessions. I don't remember the exact number now. So to kind of go from 500, 000 to 6 million every month, obviously crazy growth in two and a half years. I think the thing that really helped us get there was from the get- go, and you and I have talked a little bit about this before on another webinar I think, is that I was really fortunate to have a really strong board of directors. And they really helped me kind of narrow my focus when I joined G2, and they gave it to me really simple. They were like," Ryan, we need you to really grow traffic. We need you to really grow revenue. We need to really grow the brand so that it's much more lovable, it's much more trusted, and people really feel an affinity to it." And out of those three things, I naturally focused on one and two in year one, because I really felt like they were the two things that were really objective, and I could really objectively show my input there. Whereas that third one, building a lovable, trusted brand, don't get me wrong, it's so important. And it's a long- term strategy that will set us up for success, but it's one of those things that I think is still a lot more subjective. And, if I would have done a great job on that thing and forgotten about one and two, I think the board could have still fired me realistically, right? Because if they didn't like the look and feel of the brand, because again, as I mentioned, that's a little more subjective. And so I think really quickly, I just doubled down and did a content audit with the existing team that I inherited. So I inherited around, I think, five marketers, and they were all incredibly talented, and wonderful people. Just the reality was, we were a much bigger business, and there wasn't really a marketing leader at the time that was advocating for the marketing team. And so the team had gotten a little bit forgotten, ultimately. And when I joined, I really quickly started to see some of those gaps. And so with that existing team, we initially did a bit of a content mapping activity, where we had a look at all of the content that we had on our site. And if you think of sort of, a really simplistic buyer funnel of awareness, consideration, and decision, we had a lot of consideration and decision content. So let's use conversational marketing, right? Your space, as an example. If someone's considering that space, they might search for conversational marketing software. For those sorts of topics, we ranked typically, number one for all of them, these kind of category terms. When someone comes then into that category, they'll typically look at who are the leaders in that space. And then they might say," Oh, Drift is a leader in that space. Let's click on Drift's profile, and then let's request a demo with Drift." And so we had a lot of traffic in those bottom two, kind of stages of the funnel, but the reality is that those two stages of the funnel are the smallest, typically, in volume. There's typically always a lot more people at the top of the funnel in the awareness stage, that don't realize they need conversational marketing, but that are searching for things that might indicate that they do. So they might be searching for things like, how to optimize my chat bot, or how to A/ B test chat bot landing pages, things like that. And so we just had zero content at the top of the funnel, and so I worked really hard in those first six months to really build up a lot more content around all of the awareness stages of the funnel. And look, don't get me wrong, that kind of content and that kind of traffic converts at a much lower rate. But when you think about kind of long- term success, the more links and the more traffic you can get at the top of the funnel, the more then you can power the middle and the bottom of the funnel to rank in Google. As you know, software related terms like CRM software, conversational software, insert, it doesn't really matter. Anything in relation to software is a really competitive term, because you've got lots of software companies that are competing on it, right? We're competing with you essentially, on conversational marketing strategy as a topic. We're competing with Salesforce around CRM software, and CRM as a category. And so by going further up the funnel, it allows us to get a lot more links, a lot more traffic, which then tells Google that our site is more authoritative in those spaces. And then, that has then helped us really increase our rankings for those bottom of funnel terms. So I think when I started, we probably ranked maybe in the 20th position on average, on Google for CRM software, which is one of the most competitive software terms in the world. Just because of kind of what I mentioned earlier, the lifetime value of those customers is so large, that companies can spend so much money to acquire them and to create content to acquire them. And so, I think when we started, we weren't on the first few pages of Google, and now I think we're in the second spot. Which is pretty impressive, considering we're competing with HubSpot, we're competing with Salesforce, and so many companies for those kinds of terms. So, I'd say really kind of understanding the buyer's journey, for buyers, was really, really key for the traffic side of the house. On the revenue side of the house, it was really about spending time with customers, ultimately. Spending time with prospects, and spending time even with customers that may be churned, or customers that never closed with us in the first place, and understanding why that was the case. And then feeding that information back to the product marketing team that I was building at that point in time, which was just one person back then. Feeding that feedback back to our product teams so that they could kind of innovate on the product, and then feeding that back to the senior leadership team as well, so that they could have a bit more of a pulse on what customers were saying.

Tricia Gellman: I think one of the things that we've talked about before, which you're just starting to bring up, is this idea of balancing yourself on, not your message, but on what you're hearing from the customers. And I think you have a unique perspective there, because you are bringing information back to the product and the product team. You're bringing information back to your product marketing team, but then at the same time, the ideal customer is a customer who's coming, and then they're also using the research to learn about what other customers are saying through, where technologies end up in the magic quadrant. So this double sided part of your marketplace is really interesting. I think it also gives you even more reason to invest to build the viewership, because as I mentioned before, you're not going to have the B2B component of your business if you don't have the viewership. So, can you talk a little bit more about how you infuse customer messaging, customer marketing, into what you're doing?

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. I think what you mentioned is a good point. So early on, when I started speaking with sales in those first few months, to better understand what they felt like marketing should be doing... Because I was trying to kind of connect the feedback I was getting from the board at the highest level, to then the feedback on the ground, at maybe the most junior level. And what was really interesting is they aligned really nicely, and that the sales team was telling me," Hey, obviously we would love for you to do product marketing, and generate MQLs, and build pipeline for us. But to be honest, we know you can't do all the things immediately, your team is still small right now. If you could only do one thing, grow traffic for us." And I was kind of blown away that sales was saying that, because I had never worked with a sales team in my career before that was like," Don't generate leads or MQLs for me, grow the front end of the marketplace." And that made a lot of sense, because essentially what sellers are buying when they buy packages on G2, is they're trying to buy some of that audience. Right? And influence that audience. And so part of... Kind of what that looked like was, it really meant that we needed to infuse a lot of our messaging, and drink our own champagne, ultimately, right? And I think one of the things I noticed when I joined, and still today, I don't think we do the best job at this, we could be doing a better job, is leaning more into our own customer stories of what our customers say about us on g2. com, and building that out. And so, a few months ago we launched our MVP on MVP campaign. And essentially, it was every MVP has an MVP. So it's like every most valuable person at your companies, and your employees, has a most valued product. And so we basically reached out to all of our customers and users and said," Hey, you're a marketer, you're a salesperson, you're a financial person. What is the product that you can't live without in your job?" And so, we really then infused quotes from our customers and our users, their faces infused into our marketing, and this... If you look at our homepage, and a lot of our content over the last few months, it's really been infused with the customer voice, the customer face. And we didn't just do that because it aligns with our messaging at G2, we did it because what we were seeing was our customers. So companies like LinkedIn, and Salesforce, and IBM, they were telling us like," Hey, Ryan, when we license your content from G2 that shows that we are a leader in this space, and shows how we compare to our competitors, we see a much higher conversion rate on our landing pages." And so they were telling us, they were like," Hey, licensing your content and using it on our landing pages, using it in our social media ads, we're seeing high click through rates, which is then leading to more leads, and then more marketing source pipeline." And so we were like," Gosh, our customers are telling us how good this is. Why aren't we using this ourselves?" And I think it's always funny, having been at so many software companies today, HubSpot's probably the only company I've ever been at that uses HubSpot as good, if not better, than every other of their customer. But however, when I was at Salesforce, when I was at ExactTarget, when I was at Microsoft, I don't think actually we ever really used the full suite of products that we had. And I always thought that was funny. And so I think having that kind of memory muscle of what that was like at those previous companies, I was able to kind of recognize the pattern and drive some change there. And it's worked really well for us, and so naturally, we're obviously going to keep infusing more customer voice into all of our marketing.

Tricia Gellman: I think it's interesting, too. And I don't know if this is one of the secondary benefits, and why you're doing it, but there seem to be more sites where people are making recommendations. And not as much into the magic quadrant space, but really there seems to be a growth. I remember working with the co- founders of G2 way back when, when the whole thing started, and it was a whole new trend, but now today, there are other companies doing it. But having the face of the people who are giving the reviews, and having the comments directly from them, sort of in your marketing, it almost changes the way that you think about, what kind of a website are you on? And it doesn't just feel like the counting of the numbers, and average ranking of four, or five, or top in category, or whatever, but it really reinforces that there are humans that are driving the information that you're supplying to people.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, you're absolutely right. And if you look at kind of all the metrics, to your point, there's dozens of sites like ours. If you look at traffic, and number of reviews, and number of buyers to the site, we are number one across all those metrics, but I think once you start to dig deeper, yeah. You start to realize that the way we've built our business model is really set up for long- term success. Whereas some of our competitors have built their websites as lead machines, where they're essentially changing their rankings based on which software company bids most to be in the first position. And what we find is that works well for them in the short- term, and works well for seller software companies in the short- term, because they're like," Wow, I'm getting all of these leads." And then what ultimately happens is, as those software companies start to increase their attributional understanding of what those leads do in terms of driving revenue, they start to realize that they're really low quality leads. And those buyers, once they're burned by one of those other companies that changes their orders every single day based on who's bidding there, they then stop using those sites because they realize over time that they were pay to play. And so we see a lot of buyers, more and more coming to G2. And I think that's how we've been able to grow to 6 million monthly buyers, is because of the fact that they know they're always getting a purely objective opinion from G2, based on real users like themselves.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Which I think then, adding that human face to it, it just helps people reflect themself. One of the things that we've talked about consistently now here, is the growth, right? The growth in the visitors, the growth in the number of companies you guys are working with. When you started almost three years ago, it was... You had a team of five people. So tell me a little bit about the size of your team now, and how you've been to scale your team so fast.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. I think it was... This is probably what... When I mentioned earlier that my time at G2 has been the most challenging while also the most rewarding, I think it was probably well in part due to this, I think. I'd never... I'd grown teams of that size before, but never so quickly. And I vividly remember when I joined, and I put together my plan of what heads I thought I needed to reach the goals. So essentially the CEO, my boss Godard said," Hey, Ryan, these are the goals that they want me to hit. You tell me what you need to hit those goals, and then I'll hold you accountable to getting those goals," which I love about him. And so I put together a plan. I think the initial plan had, maybe, us growing the marketing team from maybe five people to about 20 people in that first year. And I remember vividly sitting down with the CFO and him just laughing and being like," No chance getting 15 new heads, buddy. Good luck." And I think we immediately got those approved, because I was able to show what the different heads would be doing, and how they would drive impact, and started to connect the dots between each head and the incremental impact that they could add to our company. And then I think within a first few months, we started to see traffic growing, we started to see revenue growing from what we were doing. And so that gave me, it gave Godard, our CEO, and it gave the board, faith that, okay, maybe Ryan has an idea of what he's doing. Maybe not, who knows, we'll see in the long, but indicationally right now, it looks like it's working. So let's double down. And so, yeah. I think in that, by the end of the first year, I want to say we were at about 50 marketers. And then by the end of-

Tricia Gellman: Five- zero?

Ryan Bonnici: Five- zero, yeah. By the end of this second year, we were at about 70. And some of those weren't net new hires, we also brought some teams that weren't in marketing into marketing. So I guess what was also really unique for me joining a marketplace, which I think is really important for any CMO, any marketing leader that joins the marketplace to understand, is that the things that traditionally sit in marketing in a B2B SAS company, don't often always sit naturally in there, in a marketplace. Just typically, because... So for example, SEO sat in our product team because our product is the team that really keeps the site up and running, right? And builds the infrastructure there. And they were doing the best job that they could, but they didn't really know how to infuse some of that SEO technical offsite work with the offsite SEO work. Right? And to be honest, I feel like SEO is like 30% of the impact comes from onsite, and 70% of the impact comes from offsite. Offsite content, offsite links. And so they really were only addressing sort of 30% of what SEO was capable of. And so, we moved a bunch of these other teams into marketing, and some of those changes were a little bit hard for some people to swallow, ultimately. Not in the teams that were joining, but I think more so just when a company grows really organically, and really quickly as G2 did, we had certain leaders on different teams that had built their functions, and they had almost... They'd done such amazing jobs at building out their functions, but then they kind of didn't continue growing with the function, and weren't able to take it to the next level. And I don't say that in a sense of putting them down, because I absolutely know that there will reach a point in time where I'm potentially not qualified for what I'm doing, and maybe I'll need to move on. Right? And that's okay, I think. Not everyone, I think, is fit for every stage of growth in a company, and that's okay. So I hope that answers your question. But I mean, in terms of going from 5 to 50 in that first year, I mean, I think that sort of tells you a little bit about maybe one of my superpowers. And that sounds like such a douchey thing to say," My superpower,", but-

Tricia Gellman: It's one of my questions. It's one of my questions.

Ryan Bonnici: Okay, cool. Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: crosstalk ahead.

Ryan Bonnici: Perfect.

Tricia Gellman: It's like,"What are your superpowers?"

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. I think I have really good judge of character when it comes to marketers. I think I've been fortunate to have interviewed over 1, 000 for sure, marketers in my career. And so, it's been drilled into me what to look for, and I've worked with so many great marketers, that I think I can just see kind of a diamond in the rough before the person maybe even realizes it, sometimes. And so, I think out of those 45 additional hires that I made in that year, I want to say that maybe three of them probably weren't the best fit. So I was really proud with that kind of success rate, ultimately, because I thought that my hiring success rate at a year on, wouldn't have been as high given that I had to hire those people so quickly, and also in a market that I didn't really know. Right? I'd only been living in the US for six months at the time when I joined G2. And that was the other thing that I completely misjudged for myself was, I have such a strong market in Europe, I have such a strong market in Asia Pacific. I know all the really great companies, I know all the really great marketers, so it's really... I don't really need a recruiter to help me in those regions. But in the US, I really needed help. And I was really fortunate to kind of partner myself with a really strong inaudible partner, both internally at G2, as well as using a firm externally. And that really helped me grow the top of the pipeline for candidates, and then I could start to weed through those folks. And I think I really always try and get the recruiter that's working for me on those calls with me, so they can see the questions that I am asking, and they can start to learn how do I interview, and what are the things that are good responses to the questions that I ask? And what are the answers that aren't good responses? So they can then start to help me, so that I don't have to spend all my time doing those sorts of first screens. So that's kind of how, I guess, I went about it ultimately. And in terms of the values of the things that I look for in people, which people might be curious about, I really... It's pretty simple. I kind of think about... I really care about, obviously intelligence, people that can be agile, but they can think differently, that are self- starters, that will go to Google and search something. Nothing frustrates me more than when someone asks me a question on my team, and then I go and Google the answer, and then I send them a link to the thing that I just found for them. That is... I find that really frustrating. And fortunately, my team never does that. They're an amazing team, and they're super proactive, and self- starters is really key to me. But I think the other big piece is, I love bringing on people that have a growth mindset. And I think the way I assess a growth mindset, is I really want to see what they have grown in the past. So they might've grown their LinkedIn followers, they might've grown their Instagram followers, they may have grown blog subscribers at a previous company. They may have grown college newsletter subscribers, I don't really care. I just want to see a story, or stories in their past where they have grown something. And then, I want to kind of dig in to how they went about growing it. And that tells me typically all I need to know about them, and whether or not will be a high performance marketer on my team.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. That's really great advice. Is there anything... So you go from 5 people, to now, 60 to 70 people. Was there any idea that you had of how you divided the roles, or departments, or teams that you were going to build, that it just didn't work out? And looking back on it, you were like-

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. Yeah, you know what? I think-

Tricia Gellman: ..."Thatwas a mistake. And for everybody out there, I want to tell you, don't try and do that."

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah. That's a great question. And one of the mistakes that I learned, really recently actually, and I was really lucky how I learned this, but... So I essentially, for the first... In the first year I had essentially built three core teams, and I had three direct reports. So I built a buyer team, so this was essentially my content and SEO team focused on attracting buyers to the site. I then built a more traditional demand generation team, so this this was my seller team that did everything with regard to field marketing, marketing operations, lead scoring, account based marketing, all of that stuff. And then I built a brand and product marketing and comms team, that was kind of more of the infrastructure for the whole marketing team. So that team had a creative arm, it had comms, it had product marketing, and it had brand campaigns. In that first year, in the first year and a half, I love that format because it really helped me focus. I had three really phenomenal leaders under me. It made my time really efficient because I could spend time with just these three people, and they would kind of cascade down the feedback and things like that to the broader team. I think about a year and a half in though, I started, full transparency, to become a little bit frustrated, because what I found was it was taking a lot of time for things to happen after I would ask them to happen. And I think it was a little bit of kind of musical chairs, of me communicating to the VP, the VP communicating to the director, or the director communicating to a manager, and it just became really slow. And I also think I wanted to kind of respect the boundaries of those teams, because I've worked for leaders in the past where they would go kind of past me and speak to direct people on my team. And I'm philosophically totally cool with that, but it can sometimes be problematic if what that person is asking isn't the best thing for that team. And then it just kind of creates noise, and then you don't end up hitting your goals. And so, long story short, one of my VPs got a CMO job earlier this year, which I was super proud of them to get. And I totally understood it when they spoke to me about it, this was like a dream for them. But then that sort of then made me have to... They had, I think, three direct reports under them, so three sub- teams that then now I was managing. And I guess the lesson here for me is that, sometimes what you think will be better for you, in terms of having less direct reports so you can focus, maybe means that you are now a little bit too far away from kind of the bottom line of things. And I've really enjoyed actually not having so many kind of senior leaders, and having more mid- level leaders, because I feel like A, they can all be more specialist in their areas, and B, I can get shit done through them a lot faster because there's less layers, essentially. So I'd say that was probably a big lesson that I had. And I think it really depends on each org's structure, because I was essentially rebuilding what I had seen work really well at HubSpot, those sorts of three core direct reports. And I think maybe that made more sense when the marketing team at HubSpot was 250 people, but I was dealing with like 70 people, and so I probably didn't need just three reports at that point in time.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. Or maybe not so many layers given the size of the organization.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Tricia Gellman: More so, or something.

Ryan Bonnici: Yeah, exactly.

Tricia Gellman: Thank you for such a great conversation. It's really been enlightening. I think you have so many different things that you've done to build your career. It's so impressive that you've been able to make it to your goal of being a CMO by the age of 30.

Ryan Bonnici: Silly goal, but yeah.

Tricia Gellman: I mean, I'm impressed that you even had that goal, because I think when I deal with most people, they don't really have their goal of what it is that they want to do in three to five years. I think the majority of people are in that place, and that's okay too. But I think both you and I have had very purposeful moves in our career, and that's the one thing that I advise people all the time. Think about what you're doing now, what are you learning in that? And then what are you going to get if you go to take something else?

Ryan Bonnici: And I've made mistakes in my path, where I've made moves to companies that... And this was before LinkedIn, stuff that's not even on my LinkedIn, before Microsoft, where I made moves that were purely based on monetary incentives, like getting paid more. And I left really quickly after a few months, because I didn't realize... I didn't do due diligence and understand the company. And so I'm really similar in that, I really try and help my team understand that it's not just about money. Which I think sometimes early on in your career, feels like it's about that a lot more, until you have maybe a higher baseline where you don't need to worry about that as much.

Tricia Gellman: Yeah. So I think you've grown your career, I'm sure people could ask you tons more questions about that. We didn't even get to dive into it, but where should people reach out to you, if they do want to have more questions? Is it LinkedIn? Do you monitor Twitter? What's the best place to find you?

Ryan Bonnici: You know what? I think LinkedIn, I've maxed out my followers, or connections, or something. So I can't accept any more people there. So the best is probably Instagram DM, or Twitter, to be honest. Yeah. And my handle is just my name, Ryan Bonnici.

Tricia Gellman: Thank you for being on the episode here. Thank you for joining us. I think CMO Conversations, it's growing in popularity, and if people that are listening have CMOs, or other people they would love for me to connect with, please, you can send me notes in Twitter. Or a lot of people reach out to me in LinkedIn, and we're just excited to get different perspectives. Everybody brings different superpowers to the table, and every CMO has different challenges that they're facing, because every business is so different. And so I'd love to hear from you, as listeners, what it is that you want to learn about from my future guests. But in the meantime, you can get CMO Conversations from any podcast listening platform, whether it's Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, and please give us heavy likes so we can reach more people. Thanks so much, Ryan. And thank you to the listeners for joining us.( silence)


At the age of 10, Ryan Bonnici decided he wanted to be a CMO. By the age of 30, he’d joined G2 and turned that dream into reality. In this episode of CMO Conversations, Ryan shares lessons learned from previous roles at Microsoft, Salesforce, and HubSpot and how he applied those learnings to scaling the G2 marketing team. Plus, hear from Ryan on the three things a board wants the CMO to focus on, how to effectively do customer marketing, and the digital strategy his team used to grow traffic from 500,000 to 6 million buyers each month. Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Tricia and Ryan on Twitter @triciagellman @ryanbonnici @HYPERGROWTH_Pod