Having a broad view of product and IT operations provides marketing leaders with critical insights, according to Marketo CMO, Sarah Kennedy.

Which-50 spoke with Kennedy during a recent visit down under about the path to her new role and what it takes to be an effective CMO — particularly given her past experience in product development.

“That specific experience, having a full broad view and empathy for what the product and IT organisations go through just to resource the plan, knowing how they think about their roadmap and how flexible or inflexible a lot of these decisions are, is very useful.”

Kennedy was appointed as Marketo’s CMO late last year following a successful stint at Sabre, a technology solutions provider for the travel industry — which Kennedy described as “the engine behind the travel machine that makes the world move”.

“[It’s] one of those biggest companies that no one’s ever heard of”, Kennedy said.

Marketo CMO Sarah Kennedy

While at Sabre, Kennedy saw first-hand how technology can transform the “historically challenging” travel experience to a “pleasure and a delight”.

“What I didn’t know at the time was that it was just as much of a technical leadership job as it was a marketing job. Because your customers always want to feel like you’re keeping them ahead of the curve. They want to be sure they understand every emerging technology, how it impacts their business.”

While Kennedy says she enjoyed growing Sabre’s hospitality arm as CMO, she had a “nagging feeling that your ability to lead a team effectively is only as rich as the diversity of experience you have behind you”.

“So, I always knew I needed to leave Sabre,” she said.

However, Kennedy says she will draw heavily on her product and technology knowledge in her current role at Marketo, and she says her hands-on product development experience has been “priceless”.

“I’ve got a very strong empathy for the product owner, and specifically the engineering group building and writing the code day in and day out,” Kennedy said.

“I know way too much about software QA,” Kennedy joked. “I know way too much about things that I probably wouldn’t want to know about. But I now appreciate the unique challenges they face, and the importance of the process and the cycle that brings customer insight into the product development prioritisation process.”

The Fearless Marketer

Kennedy says her broad experience helps her to conduct “fearless marketing” — the theme for Marketo’s 2018 Marketing Nation Summit.

According to Kennedy, the challenges facing marketers can at times seem overwhelming and it is important that marketers are honest about their concerns and work together to overcome them.

“Marketo is going through some of the same evolutionary challenges, and solving the same problems, that are new to all marketers. We haven’t solved it all just because we are Marketo,” she said.

Kennedy said it was important to understand that all companies face a new set of dynamics in the market — driven by everything from technology to customer behaviour and expectations.

“We want to empower marketers to tell their stories. We want to tell our own story and be open and honest about challenges we’re facing,” she said.

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