Going. Ahead. With Gage: Interview with Angela Arnold, CMO of Victory

“A marketer’s job is to serve your market, and at the end of the day, people are people, no matter what channels they’re using.”

It’s time for another #GAWG and my next guest is Angela Arnold, the CMO of Victory!

You’re the CMO of Victory and you say half of your role is being a “Marketing Therapist.” How does Victory help companies and how does being a “Marketing Therapist” help you achieve your goals?

Victory helps companies find and fix what’s really going on – not just the surface-level problem, but the real issues impacting their business. We use our deep expertise in Technology, Operations, and Marketing to take a cross-functional approach that fixes it for good and sets the company up for success at the next level.

Marketing Therapist means I help brands get to the real root of what they need – not just a new SEO tactic or a product discount band-aid. I making sure their strategy aligns with what they’re doing as a business and always check that they’re meeting a need in the market. This requires a lot of listening on my part and a lot of trust on theirs. The answers are usually inside them the whole time, but need outside perspective to bring it out. From there, I take off the Therapist glasses and put on my Strategist hat to map out how we get to their awesome new reality.

What’s your favorite part about working in Marketing?

It’s so expansive, yet so simple! From new technology to tried-and-true tactics, activities from market research to analytics, products from B2B SaaS to a deli sandwich, it’s so broad and dynamic. 

But everything all comes down to one simple question – are you serving people? It’s the true North Star for success. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world, but if it’s for a product people don’t need or understand, it won’t truly work. People can be lining up to give you their money for something great your team built, but if you don’t take care of them post-purchase, they won’t come back. The customer’s needs must be the center of everything you do.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see in Marketing today?

Marketing has become so broad that it’s starting to suffer from its own weight. Most job descriptions for marketing leadership positions ask too much from one person. 

The Harvard Business Review article “The Trouble with CMOs” explains it much better than I can, but expecting marketing to do an increasingly varied amount of work can easily set a person or department up for failure.We also assume that the newest and latest also means it’s the greatest. After all, we’re marketers! We love flash! Older marketers have confessed to me that they’re worried about their skills being relevant in today’s age – this is only true on a tactician level. 

A marketer’s job is to serve your market, and at the end of the day, people are people, no matter what channels they’re using. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it will really resonate with someone. Behind each impression or site session is a real person.

Who are the Marketers that you look up to?

Kevan Lee of Buffer – He really piloted content marketing and is always doing new things; and their content delivers true value. They are also doing some radical things with salary and revenue transparency.  

Mandy McEwen of Mod Girl Marketing – The best part about her brand is ENTHUSIASM! It shines through in everything they do. So many brands either ignore the emotional aspects of marketing, go too far and manipulate emotions, or act “too cool for school.” It’s refreshing to see someone who’s simply excited about what they do and why they do it, and you can’t help but get caught up in it.

Will Straughn of Focus Lab – Their service/product mix is on the cutting edge of where other firms like theirs will be in the future. They do a great job of showing not just their finished work but the process it took to get there. It’s impactful, it shows how they think, and it’s always interesting to look at.

And this will be a little cheesy, but there are some fantastic small businesses here in Austin that just nail it. Their marketing isn’t slick, polished, or have the “Wow!” factor, but they put in the daily work to truly connect with their community and as a result, have a rabidly loyal fan base of customers. I’m humbled and inspired by what they do and it always reminds me to get back to that North Star question.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Slow down.” I was initially told this when I started a new job and was worried about making a great first impression. They told me to lean back and listen, take time to learn, and get a solid understanding of the foundations and factors at play before jumping in. It’s led to a much better and smoother start at other companies and I’ve never had anyone say “you started three weeks ago, where’s our complete strategy overhaul?”
I’ve since applied it to everything I do – it’s so easy to get caught up in new projects, the immediate fire, or the million directions I’m pulled in. I have a retrospective with myself once a month, where I take a step back and evaluate if what I’m doing on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis has a true impact on what I truly need to be doing.

How do you encourage creative and innovative thinking?

It’s about time, space, and environment – It’s nearly impossible to come up with creative ideas in the same physical place and mindset as where you do tactical work. Your brain will be primed to think about the details. Consider using a different conference room or getting out of the office.

Time matters too – Switching up the time of day in which I do brainstorming with my team can yield incredible changes in results. Leaving slack in people’s calendars for flexibility and unstructured time is HUGE! And sometimes, leaning in to the silly conversation that’s happening in the break-room gives you better results than an all-day offsite.

What advice do you have for young individuals wanting to be in leadership roles in the future?

Shut up and serve! 

Shutting up means listening to how other people work and think. Let them contribute their thoughts without always having to contribute yours, and then guiding the disparate voices and perspectives toward one outcome. Leadership is not about you – it’s about enabling your teams to do their best work.

Serving means pitching in, particularly when it’s not strictly “your job.” Doing what needs to get done, for the good of the whole, will get you a lot farther than being territorial about your job’s boundaries. Even if it means extra work in the short term. As they say, a rising tide…

What is one of the most difficult decisions you’ve made in your career and what did you learn from it?

Sometimes I fight too hard for my team. A basis of trust means they give me real, honest feedback about what they think is right, and that doesn’t always jive with what’s going on behind-the-scenes in the higher levels of the company. There have been a few times where I didn’t balance my responsibility to my people and to the company as a whole. Sometimes you have to make the hard calls and do the things you (or your team) may not want to do. Resisting too long causes greater friction later. 

I love book recommendations to help me grow in my career and challenge my thinking – What books would you recommend as a must-read for career growth and/or just fictional fun?

One of my all-time favorite marketing books is Why We Buy” by Paco Underhill. This is also an example of how an ‘older’ marketing book (in this case, published in 1999) can still be relevant today.

Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish and The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber are foundational. 

Currently, I’m reading Actionable Gamification” by Yu-kai Chou – It explores what truly motivates behavior and how you can incorporate that into your campaigns, services, and products to make them more engaging. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another #GAWG next month!

— Gage Grammer

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