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Overcoming CMO Burnout W/ Kathleen Booth - SVP of Marketing and Growth at Pavilion


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What if you could be surrounded and supported by an international community of sales, marketing, success, and RevOps leaders from the world's fastest growing companies? How could you grow? What would you learn? What would you contribute?


In this episode of Innovate Marketing by MyPodcast.Media, your host Shawn P Neal sits down to talk marketing, community, growth, and overcoming CMO burnout with Kathleen Booth. Kathleen Booth joined Pavilion as a member in 2019, and later went on to become a founding co-chair of the Washington DC chapter, a Pavilion Ambassador, and today, SVP of Marketing and Growth. In that capacity, she leads marketing and sales for the 10,000+ member global community of go-to-market executives.


LINKS


Shawn P Neal

You spent the first 10 years of your career as an international development consultant. And that is not what I expected to jump out at me. So can you just tell me a little bit about what that was and what sets the stage for where you are today?


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Yeah, absolutely. It's been an interesting career arc, certainly not traditional for a marketer. I went to college and studied political science and went on to graduate school. I was very passionate about the state of the world at the time and went on to graduate school and studied international affairs and got my master's degree. And halfway through that graduate program, the school that I was at, which was George Washington University, introduced an option for us to do a second graduate degree without having to take the GMATs, the GREs, whatever entrance exam you had to take. And a lot of your credits could kind of count for both. And so I had this opportunity and took it and decided to do my MBA and focus that on marketing, which I really, really enjoyed.


And it just so happened that following graduate school, the first 10 years of my career, I had this choice of paths to go and I kind of wound up going down this international development consulting path, which was more tied to my work in political science, international politics. I specialized in working with developing country governments to help them contract out the management of their water and wastewater systems to the private sector with the ultimate goal of delivering cleaner water 24-7 in countries that really, really needed it.


I was very passionate about it and it was a great job to have in my 20s because I got to travel to 54 countries in the developing world. Tough job to have when you get married and want to start having children or a family and also tough in the sense that these projects are not small and everybody wants to see the product of their work and they want to feel like they've accomplished something.


One of the challenges we ran into when I worked in that career was that there are definitely people within this world who are philosophically opposed to having the private sector involved in the delivery of essential services like water. And it's particularly an issue in the developing world where there's a history of colonialism and most of the big private water companies are British, American, and French. And when you're in a post-colonial society, these are the nationalities that people feel the most resentment towards. And so kind of what led me back to marketing was I was working in the country of Ghana on a project to bring in private management of the water system in the entire country. And it was desperately needed because people only got water a few hours a day, not seven days a week. You can imagine the impact that has on people's lives. And so I was really invested in making this happen and poured a lot of my heart and soul into it.


And the project really kind of fell apart because there were some groups that came in from overseas to oppose it. They didn't want the private sector involved. And it stalled the project. Long story short, I think it was about a decade later that project came to fruition, but I was gone at that point. And, that project was the thing that led me to start looking into how can I use the skills I learned in marketing to help? initially it was to help these governments communicate better and earlier about the projects- why they were doing them, what the benefits would be to sort of head these problems off at the pass and really get to the outcomes, which in this case was the delivery of really good water, faster. And so the latter half of my career in international development was all focused on training government officials on how to use strategic communications and marketing to lay a better, more solid foundation for these projects.


And then what really happened was about 10 years into my career, which was about five years into this shift, I met my husband and wanted to have kids and really had to reevaluate my career becauseI couldn't travel the way I used to and for the amount of time I used to and have the family I wanted. So he said, “Hey, what do you think about starting a marketing agency?” And that's, that's how that second chapter in my career began.


Shawn P Neal

To your point here, and what's really fascinating to me is that when you look at the different phases- you know, I'm not gonna say my age, I'm 50- But you know, it's like you look at these different phases of life, and you realize that, you know, every one of them existed for a purpose.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Oh, 100%. Yeah.


Shawn P Neal

Yeah, so I hear that I hear that passion. And, as you well know, those lessons that we learn, you know, especially when you're doing that kind of work. I have nothing like that on my resume to compare to. That is impressive. But when you're doing that kind of work, my goodness the life lessons that you take with you. I can't imagine how incredibly valuable those are when you say go start a business with your husband. What was that process like to go into business together?



Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Well, I mean, I will say you're right. I learned a ton, everything from an appreciation for the lot in life I was born into and how privileged we are as honestly, like, white Americans in this world. But also I learned a lot about myself. And what I learned was that I need, at least for me to be happy, I need faster outcomes. I wanna see the product of my work make an impact quicker. And that's actually part of what led me to marketing and part of why I am happy that we started that agency because, you know, people do sometimes ask me like, how did you go from working on this mission driven, like delivering water to I'm doing marketing for B2B companies? And for me, there's still a mission to it. I look at so few businesses succeed in this world that the statistics around how many startups are successful are just shocking when you really look at them and, and having been a business owner, I do recognize that when businesses are successful, not only are their owners successful, but it's good for the employees who work there. And I think in this past year, people can appreciate that more than ever with all the layoffs we've had. Like when companies do well, employees do well. And by the way, their families do well because, you know, your family depends on you to make money. And so I look at helping businesses as this trickle down effect that helps society (kind of) in general. And maybe that's very Pollyanna of me. But thats kind of what fills my cup. But yeah, my husband and I started a marketing agency and we ran that business for 11 years and we're still married. So huge, huge success on that front. But we started it small. It was really gonna be a local agency. You know, we did that for a few years and then the recession of, what was it- Like 2008, 2009, hit and everybody stopped spending money on marketing. Like...right away. It was this like, almost like a light switch that got turned off. And our revenue took a huge hit. And I'll never forget, I was at a conference and somebody was talking about social media, which at the time like this makes me sound like a thousand years old, but at the time it was really new. And we decided to just throw ourselves into social media for ourselves to promote our own business. And we started blogging and using Facebook and Twitter and et cetera. And we were successful at it and we were very early adopters, which sounds really odd to say, you know, in the B2B space. And so people started asking us to help them. And long story short, we wound up affiliating with HubSpot at one point at very early in their partner program and adopting the kind of inbound marketing methodology and going all in on what I would now call like “content driven demand generation, organic SEO” and that took us from being a local agency to being a national agency. And we had customers all over the U.S. We won HubSpot's first ever client campaign of the year award. And that was a really meaningful thing for us. We sold the agency in 2017. And that was at a time when I think it's almost like we were a victim of our own success. Inbound marketing became kind of the table stakes- everybody was doing it, everybody was blogging and doing content. And it wasn't really a differentiator anymore. And I didn't ever want to be in a business where we were commoditized and doing what everyone else was doing. And so for me, it was about finding the next adventure and the next challenge. And I think it was a great 11 years of business ownership. Being an entrepreneur taught me a lot. It's so hard. Honestly, my hat is off to anyone who starts their own business. It's one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can do. And someday I'd love to do it again. But for me right now, the season of life is such that I'm enjoying being in-house. But yeah, so we sold that and I've been in-house. And now I really enjoy helping the entrepreneurs that have started their own businesses to try to find success. And I've done a lot of early stage work, I think because that's the entrepreneur in me that can't quite kick the habit. But I really enjoy it.


Shawn P Neal

Sure.


Shawn P Neal

Yeah, you know, I have this conversation with other entrepreneurs and it's, we're a different breed. And sometimes our family, I think, looks at us, at least mine does, like, you know, what are you doing? But in that same breath, I'm also a musician and you know, there is like this inherent need to play music. There's this inherent need to take that entrepreneurial path and to your point, it will beat you up along the way, but you're always a better person because of it.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Oh, I learned more in my 11 years of business ownership than I've ever learned in my life. It was incredible.


Shawn P Neal

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. By the way, I hear the thread that ties everything together. You know, I have the same issue. I started out in professional audio years ago, went into doing business leadership coaching and consulting, which was a bizarre transition for people to wrap their head around and then ended up back here in the audio world doing podcasting. So I get it.


So, as you look at what we originally connected with was this idea of CMO burnout, because now you're in this more rounded space where you're hearing what's going on in the lives of CMOs there at Pavilion I’m really am kind of interested to touch base with you on this, because the post that you had put on LinkedIn was what caught my attention.


You said that you'd spoken to several who are looking to get out of B2B SaaS or get off the VC and PE backed grind. Now let's talk about that for a minute, because I think that one thing that you're hitting on here is very specifically SaaS, VC backed.


Can you tell me a little bit about what you feel the difference is between a CMO operating in that space and maybe one operating in the service industry?



Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Yeah, and it's interesting because I had a lot of responses to that post, many of which said this isn't specific to B2B SaaS or VC or PE backed. I clarified that because I wanted to really make sure I was speaking from my own experience and not making broad generalizations. So probably this is much wider. I just didn't want to presume to speak for others. And so I think what I've observed within Pavilion - for anybody who hasn't heard of it, professional community - our members are mostly executive level, VP level and above, Go To Market leaders. So the heads of marketing, sales, customer success, revenue operations, and then CEOs and founders. They tend to be either PE or VC backed because they're serious about growth; they're not lifestyle businesses.


So yeah, that's the audience. Not only where I've worked. in all companies like that. But that is all the people that are in the community that I am the head of marketing for. And what is interesting about it is, as soon as you take funding, right, as soon as you accept venture capital, or as soon as you're bought by a private equity firm, there are expectations because those investors need a return. And of course, as an owner or a founder, you want to return too. But you are your own taskmaster. When you have another taskmaster who wants to return and who holds the purse strings and who holds votes on your board, it's a different situation. And PE firms usually want an exit within three to five years and they need to exit at a certain multiple. So there is a tremendous amount of pressure within PE. Venture Capital firms generally either want an exit or they want you to take another round and be growing so that the value of their investment increases.


It's so funny, coincidentally, I have this book on my desk.T2D3, which is the “Tripple-Tripple-Double-Double-Double,” which is the kind of industry term for what is generally expected that you will, in your first year, you'll triple revenue. In your second year, you'll triple revenue. And in each of the subsequent three years, you'll double revenue. That is a massive expectation. And that is the kind of expectation set by today's unicorns. The companies that have really grown and been smashing successes have all had, kind of, trajectories like that. But let's be honest, like that is the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. And so,


Shawn P Neal

Right.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

It's tough because the expectation coming in is that we're all going to do that. But the reality is really that we're all not going to do that. And I think the tough thing for marketing leaders, there are many tough things, but I'll start with this first one, which is especially true if you're coming in at early stages. Which many of us are. Many of the Pavilion community- I mean, it's by and large pre IPO, right? And so we're all in that growth stage where we're on the grind, we're on the treadmill. looking to get that growth. It's not a hundred percent in your control as a marketing leader. There's a lot you do control, but you don't control the product, right? And the best marketing in the world can't make up for a poor product or product that has problems. You don't control the sales team unless you are a marketer who's been given oversight of that. And there are some marketers who have, but by and large, you don't control the sales team. And so you can tee up a lot for the sales team. You can enable them and empower them, but you don't control the outcomes that they drive. And you don't control the company culture and how it's run.


And having been a CEO and a Founder, I understand CEOs aren't perfect either, and they're fallible, but you can only do what you can do. And so I think that there is a sense of frustration amongst CMOs that very often they are scapegoated for what are truly problems in either the product, lack of product market fit, or sales not being able to effectively work the deals that marketing sources, or at a higher level with the CEO / Founder not able to run the company in a way that is truly scalable or to build a culture that is healthy.



Shawn P Neal

Yeah. And I think that speaks a lot because when you look at the expectation that marketing has on its shoulders, marketers tend to be kind of that be all end all- if you're not producing the bottom line, then it must be a problem with marketing.


And one of the interesting things I recently heard, and I love this perspective, is that back in (I'll just say back in the day 20 years ago) marketing- it had this creative edge to it. I've got a friend who was an agency owner and they handled several large accounts. And he talks often about the good old days where it was all creativity and the teams came together. And now it's strategy. Now it's numbers. And so I think that in itself really lends to what you're talking about here. What are some of the things that these CMOs are saying to you that they're feeling like is that breaking point?


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

That’s a great question. And I think you just raised something also that's interesting to cite as background for this, which is that this transition from the art of marketing to the science of it - from being more creatively focused to being more kind of numerically focused. And I think in many ways that's a good shift. Like, it's good that we're getting more data driven and we have more tools in our arsenal now with data to understand what's working and what isn't. But along the way, I do think that there's been a loss of an appreciation for the creative side of marketing and the value of brand. And I do think this is the source of a lot of marketers frustration is that we know particularly now, by the way, more than ever, when there are so many tools at our disposal to automate things. When there's so much AI. When marketers can do outreach at scale with email broadcasting tools and text broadcasting and social broadcasting- like everything can be automated. And what gets lost in all of that automation is the sense of personalization and the emotional connection that people feel with brands. And what I'm seeing is that today, the brands that are really winning are the ones that are successful at leveraging all those automation tools and do all that strategy right, and are very data driven, but that also have a true appreciation for the need to invest in brand. Because that is the X factor that is your competitive moat, right? Like anybody can replicate your automation stack and your messaging and all that, but what they can't replicate is that intangible, which is the love that somebody has for your brand and the loyalty that you develop within them.


And the problem, and I think this is part of why many marketers as you say reach that moment of burnout is that, when we over index on being so data driven, often what that can lead to is a very short term mentality within the company where they're looking constantly at matching their investment to what produces short term results. So pressure on the marketer to direct the vast majority or all of their marketing budget into what is going to produce pipeline in the next three to six months, or even 12 months, when the kinds of investments that are necessary to truly build a great brand often don't have that sort of short-term payoff. And frankly, some of the investments that are necessary to produce pipeline don't have that short-term payoff. Like I think a lot of companies now, you see them pursuing these media strategies, these audience building strategies- that doesn't happen overnight. You don't build a massive podcast audience in the first three months, generally. You don't build a massive newsletter following that fast. These are long term plays and the unwillingness of companies to put resources behind longer term plays is incredibly frustrating for marketers. Because they can be doing all the other things right that drive short-term results, but if you can't invest in the stuff that drives long-term results, it's exhausting. It's like you're a hamster on a treadmill and you're constantly having to be in sprint mode because the things that would allow you to slow down and take a breath, you're not being allowed to make an investment in. And it's a short-sightedness on the part of companies. So I do think that that's causing a lot of frustration with marketers, but I think it's that plus a combination of coming in and feeling like they've never been set up for success. Like being asked to hit these huge targets, these like triple, triple, double,double, double targets and not having budgets to match. So expecting to be a miracle worker. Having your hands tied as far as your team. I know a lot of marketers who've come in and taken roles and been given marketing teams and they know within the first few weeks, these certain people on the team aren't going to cut it. They're not doing a good job. But especially in early stage companies, you do see a lot of people whose jobs are considered "off limits” because they're friends with the founder or “no, she's been here since the beginning. We can't let her go. We got to make it work.” Right? That's handicapping your marketing leader. Or having a sales leader who you know, undercuts the marketing leader. I've seen this a lot where companies say, "is that lead marketing-sourced or sales-sourced?" And when I take a job I'm very adamant about, like, we're not going to use that language because that pits us against each other. It's very binary. And I've had at least one job where I have gotten into arguments with the sales leader over like - marketing pays to sponsor a huge event and sales attends it and we get a ton of business as a company from the event. And the sales leader is telling me like, "No, we should get all the credit for these because the sales team worked them." And the truth is, yes, the sales team did work them, but the marketing team also paid for the whole event. So like, why are we having this argument? Why don't we call it an “Event-Sourced” lead and, and say, let's invest more in events, not should we invest more in sales or marketing? Like this is the kind of thing that I think marketing leaders find exhausting. And it's why you see so many people now who've worked their whole career to get to the VP or CMO stage. And now they're like, did I really want this? This is thankless.


Shawn P Neal

Right. Yeah. And so as you get to that stage, and I think what you're kind of alluding to here, is that we can leave that position. We can find another Company X to go to, but if we're not addressing the core issue that we're struggling with, we're taking that baggage with us. We're continuing to build and build and build regardless of who we work with.


I had heard someone talking about in between jobs, taking that time to take a little time for yourself. And the particular person, and I wish I could remember who it was that I'm thinking of, had said if you say I'm going to take one month off before I actively look for another job to work, it's probably not enough. What are your thoughts about this kind of holistic self care for marketers who are stuck in that hamster wheel right now who are feeling that pressure.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Yeah. You know, I guess I would say, look, being able to take time off is a tremendous privilege, not everybody's in a financial position to do it. And I think if you can do it, I applaud anyone who makes the decision to do that because I do think stepping out of things and giving yourself headspace is one of the most restorative things. But look, I'll be honest. I mean, I've had a couple of moments in my career when I've taken time off, whether that was my choice or not, and I haven't had the luxury of being able to say I'm going to do this and not look for a job, right? Like I can't afford to not work for more than a few months at a time. And even when I've been able to do that, it's been because I've gotten severance that has paid for me to not work for at least a few months. Right. And so there's real financial considerations. And I just want to caveat everything with that.


Shawn P Neal

Yeah, absolutely.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

But if you are able to build in some time, and the people I talk to, even if they can't take a few months off and not think about work, what I would say to them is when you're looking for your next job, build your schedule such that you have at least one or two days a week during the week when you're not doing it. You know, like I remember I was laid off one summer and I had to look for a job while I was laid off, which I did, but I made sure at least one day of the week I would like go to the pool and bring a good book and not think about work for one day. And maybe that meant I had to spend more time another day, like looking for jobs. And I treat looking for jobs like a job. So I have, I'm that nerd that has like a Trello board, a Kanban board where I'm tracking applications and you know, and so I think, yeah, be organized and be business like about your job search, but give yourself time because it is tough. But, and this is going to sound super self centered, but this is where I'd say find a community. Because the truth is, 90 some odd percent of us can't just be like, I'm not going to work for the next six months. I need a break. I'm going to do self care. But what we can do, and it doesn't have to be Pavilion, although I think Pavilion is a pretty great place for this, but what we can do is find a community of our peers where it's safe for us to go in and post something like, "you know what? I'm just, I'm pissed today. The CEO did this and, and I'm really angry about it” or “My head of sales said that and I'm, it's so frustrating. Has anybody else ever experienced it?" Cause like the reality of being a head of marketing, and the same is true for all these other jobs, by the way, because CROs, I can tell you from Pavilion have similar frustrations as do CCOs. Like this is not exclusive to marketers. I just speaking as a marketer, it's lonely because there's only one of us in our company and when there's only one of you. Like if I was a Director of Marketing and there were four other directors in the marketing team, I could probably go to the other director and be like, "Ah, I'm really frustrated about this thing that our CMO did." But when you're the CMO, there's no one else to go to. And the CEO doesn't want to hear you complain. And so having a community where you can just complain and have people say, you know what, I feel that too. That is so validating to know that you're not the only one and to have people who can express empathy and to get support. You know, sometimes you want advice but sometimes you just want people saying, yeah, you're right. I hear you. You know, that can help too for self care.


Shawn P Neal

Exactly. Yeah.


Yeah. And I think that is an incredibly great place to kind of start to land this plane. And by the way, you picked up exactly what I was throwing out there, because that is kind of what Pavilion provides is a community for this group of executives, of professionals, who are looking to connect. I know you've explained a little bit, but I would love if you could kind of go into a little bit more detail about how Pavilion works and what kind of things people can expect when they visit the site and check it out.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Yeah, it's so funny. So one of our members who is actually a CMO who's been a member for a long time, refers to it as ‘group therapy for Go-To-Market leaders.’ And I totally agree. So yes, writ large, I think that's the thing that a lot of people come to us for is they feel the need to enter into group therapy and get the support and the empathy and the familiarity of others who've been there and done that. That's a big piece of it. And that's how it started. You know, Sam Jacobs founded Pavilion back in 2016 because he had been fired a couple of times as a CRO and he was burnt out and frustrated and at the end and he was getting together for dinner with friends of his who were in similar roles and hearing similar frustrations. And that dinner group was the first little group therapy for in this case CROs and it's grown over the years. We've grown tremendously. Today there are over 10,000 members around the world.


And what you get when you join, first and foremost, is a community of your peers who are there to help you. And Pavilion's mission literally is to help our members achieve and unlock their full professional potential. But we do that in a very mission driven way. And in fact, it's funny because Sam's book is sitting behind me. It's called “Kind Folks Finish First”. And our mission, our values that underpin Pavilion, are all around kindness and helpfulness and having a give-to-get mentality. And so that is, I think, the big thing that really differentiates us from a lot of other communities out there is that when you join Pavilion, the expectation is set from day one that you will be a person who contributes and who helps others. And in doing so, you will receive so much in return.

And I think that our members that truly embody what Pavilion is all about have really experienced that. And so it's community first and foremost. So you're put into peer groups. We have a CMO group within Pavilion. We have local groups that are chapters. We also have Pavilion University, which is a structured learning program, all taught by people who are in executive roles today. So I like to say it is where those who do, teach. So we have, for example, CMO school. All taught by people who are veteran CMOs.


It's the stuff you can't honestly learn anywhere else. And I think most importantly, the way I experienced it was it taught me that my biggest fear prior to CMO school is that I didn't know what I didn't know, right? Like that's what fuels my imposter syndrome is like, I don't even know what I should be working on or doing. I took CMO school and then I did know. And that was tremendously reassuring.


And then we have events. So we have a CMO summit every year. We have GTM 2023 coming up in one week from today. We'll have over 700 people joining us in Nashville. We have local salon dinners where you can get together in a private room and have dinner and talk about your most intimate challenges with your peers.


And then we have insights. So we survey our members and we publish an executive compensation study. We publish monthly benchmarking studies on how companies are doing so that you have a sense of how you compare to others in the industry. So there's a lot out there.


There's probably more I could talk about, but it really, it all boils down to group therapy.


Shawn P Neal

Well said. And this is the quality of people that you get behind the scenes. Kathleen Booth, you are a testament to what makes a place like Pavilion operate and be successful for all of its members. Thank you for joining me today. I really appreciate your insights.


Kathleen Booth | Pavilion

Thank you, Shawn. That's very kind of you to say. I appreciate your invitation to come on.







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