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Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Bethany Hale

Introducing Leadership Insights… A new series of content from Breezy Hill Marketing where we explore topics relevant to CMOs, Directors, and leaders of marketing teams. We’re jumping in with a brief interview with Bethany Hale, one of our favorite CMOs.

I recently met with Bethany Hale, a 20+ year marketing veteran known to push creative boundaries and exceed revenue goals at both global enterprises like IBM, American Express, and Samsung Electrons, as well as at high-growth tech and healthcare start-ups.

When you join a healthtech company as a CMO, what are some of the first things that you think about in your first 90 days?

Whether acting as a fractional CMO or marketing leader, my first move is to sit with the team and get to know them better. This also helps me understand how our marketing efforts run and where we can improve. I use a framework I developed called a Marketing Maturity Map to get a level set on the current state of the marketing program. When I start exploring the market, I really do a deep dive into an organization’s competitors; I check out what products they’re offering, how they’re talking to customers, and so on. By understanding how others are positioning themselves, I can help our organization differentiate itself through branding and value propositions to highlight what makes us unique. I usually craft key personas and establish a clear Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) because it’s essential for organizations, especially in B2B, to understand their buyers and influencers deeply.

You mentioned that you have done fractional work. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and how that works with an organization?

Fractional CMOs are fantastic. I say that because a fractional CMO was in place when I joined one of the organizations in the health tech space years ago. They brought someone in to begin moving the organization in a strategic direction before hiring their first marketing leader—me.

The benefit of hiring a fractional CMO for organizations is that you get the significant experience of a Chief Marketing Officer, but you do it in a flexible way. You get access to a temporary or part-time consultant without committing to an executive full-time role and the huge financial investment that could go with that. Fractional CMOs typically assess your organization, help you build a plan and a budget, provide resourcing recommendations, or even do project work. Organizations get the full breadth and depth of experience that a full-time CMO would bring but at a more affordable price. It allows companies to “try before they buy” to some degree.

When a high-growth, pre-IPO organization is ready to hire a CMO, what do you recommend they look for?

Most CMOs should have a balance across the three main functional areas of product, brand, and demand generation, but past experiences and innate passions and skill sets create strengths and leanings for all CMOs. The type of CMO you should hire comes down to the type of organization you’re running and the stage of growth that you’re in.

Early-stage companies looking for product-market fit need a marketing leader who deeply understands product marketing. If a company has already found its fit and needs to show early scalability, a demand gen or growth-leaning expert is key. And then, finally, when you’re nearing IPO, brand building and executive communications typically become the most critical skill sets. It really depends on the stage a company’s in, what they’re trying to do, and what strength they might be looking for in a CMO.

Can you talk a little bit about your Marketing Maturity Map and what that takes into account? Does that cover the stage you’re in and what you need at a certain time?

The marketing maturity map is a functional assessment of a marketing team. It allows you to visually represent a marketing team’s capabilities at the current time and plan for where you want to evolve in the future. I collaborated with my teams to develop a model to evaluate our program’s strengths and weaknesses, especially as we expanded and prioritized investment in less developed areas.

Marketing is a multi-disciplined function with many interdependencies between functional areas, so it makes sense to grow the team or invest in technology in a balanced way. First, you crawl, then you walk, then you run. For instance, you need a well-functioning website before you start driving traffic to that website with advanced paid ads or email strategies. You need a way to track lead progression and follow up before investing huge amounts of money in an event strategy. Before you launch Super Bowl ads, you should invest in having a clear, consistent, and differentiated brand.

You’d be surprised how many organizations I’ve worked with have over-invested in some areas and drastically under-invested in others. The marketing maturity map helps visualize this and identify opportunities. I’ve used it to communicate not just to my own marketing team but also to company leadership. It lets everyone know where they are on that map and where to invest to grow to the next stage of maturity.

Over the course of your career and advisory work, where do you see companies under-investing?What areas are they overlooking that really deserve their attention?

The trends I’ve seen while working with dozens of companies are interesting. Almost every client I’ve worked with has under-invested in the alignment between marketing and sales. Marketing is ultimately responsible for lead generation, sales enablement, and revenue growth, so marketing and sales in B2B organizations should be treated as the same team. However, many companies keep them too siloed, which is a mistake. The sooner companies integrate those two functions properly, the better their revenue generation and pipeline predictability will be. I’ve never seen organizations integrate those two functions early enough.

Sales Marketing Alignment

Where do you see companies over-investing?

There are a lot of spaces that companies invest in that they can’t actually track the outcome. One example that I’ve seen recently is conference sponsorships. Companies spend tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands on these events, and there’s really no way to track ROI effectively when it comes to those kinds of brand awareness plays. That’s one of the areas where, at an early stage, you don’t want to see companies investing, but I see it all the time.

What is the top trend that you’re paying attention to for 2024?

This is not an original answer, but the trend that I’m paying attention to is AI. There seem to be some efficiency plays using AI for content generation. And, while it’s definitely not a replacement for experienced copywriters or designers at this point, it could make their work go a lot further.

As an example, you could teach generative AI your brand messaging, voice, and tone and then feed it various personas and their pain points. So, if you’re running a multi-channel campaign across several different user groups or market segments, you can use AI to build and customize those messages. We still need humans for quality of content, creativity, and strategy, but AI can do some of the heavy lifting on a “shitty first draft,” as my creative writing teacher would call it.

Laura Hill

Owner / CSO
With over twenty years experience in sales and marketing, Laura Hill is an accomplished marketing and business development strategist.

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