Kathy O'Donnell

AMA: Gong Director, EMEA Marketing, Kathy O'Donnell on Stakeholder Management

December 20 @ 10:00AM PST
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Gong Director, EMEA Marketing, Kathy O'Donnell on Stakeholder Management
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Kathy O'Donnell
Kathy O'Donnell
Gong EMEA Marketing DirectorDecember 20
As an EMEA-based marketer working for a US-based company, building successful partnerships across the wider marketing org has always been critical to my success and that of my team. Whether that be partnering with the centralised paid search team to drive successful search campaigns, influencing content creation to ensure it resonates in our region or partnering with the social team to post EMEA-relevant content on our corporate social channels. Here are a few of my tips for building those partnerships: 1. Explain the why - help your stakeholders/partners understand why your ask/project is important. Maybe it's revenue potential (and therefore will benefit the company overall). Maybe you're streamlining a cumbersome process that will make the marketing team more efficient. 2. Shared KPIs are a great driver. And aligning your project/ask to a strategic priority helps people understand this is something they need to care about. 3. Don't underestimate in-person contact! Building a deeper connection with a person, knowing something about them outside the realms of the project you're working on together, can help you overcome challenges if they arise and generally make working together more fun and engaging. If the opportunity arises for face-to-face, take it! 4. Successful partnerships, whether they are personal or professional, are built on trust. Check out my answer to the question "How to establish credibility and trust in people around you?" on my perspectives on how to build trust and credibility.
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Kathy O'Donnell
Kathy O'Donnell
Gong EMEA Marketing DirectorDecember 20
Thinking of this through a project lens, I have seen DACI or RAPID frameworks help by assigning clearer roles and decision-making responsibilities. The project owner then knows who they need to involve to gather input from, who they need to keep informed, who can contribute to the decision, and who can block it. I've seen this approach work well with a product launch, for example, which is a huge cross-functional effort. It allows demand gen teams, product marketers, content teams, PR and others to be clearer about their role, provide input, and share the dependencies and deadlines that need to be adhered to in order to execute their part of the project. My second tip is to avoid decisions by committee -- it's paralysing! I would try to limit the number of people who approve/sign off on a project. Finally, to manage stakeholder input, be conscious of people's time - it's a finite resource. Large group meetings going through status updates are generally not valuable to anyone. Gather the updates in advance and use the time together to review blockers and agree on the next steps.
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Kathy O'Donnell
Kathy O'Donnell
Gong EMEA Marketing DirectorDecember 20
From my perspective, there are four absolutely crucial things to establishing credibility and trust; 1. Act with integrity at all times. This means keeping your word, and doing what you say you will. You must consider fully what it will take to keep that word because if you don't, you end up providing reasons and not results. 2. Open communication and transparency are key to building trust. The best leaders I've ever worked with demonstrate this trait. 3. Thirdly, if you own a project, take ownership! If you're seen as leading a project well, you will build respect and credibility. 4. Finally, know your business. As a demand gen marketer, you need to understand the data and should expect to spend as much time in dashboards and spreadsheets as developing creative campaigns (as any of my direct reports can attest, I love a pivot table!). To be credible, being able to talk data is table stakes. 
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Kathy O'Donnell
Kathy O'Donnell
Gong EMEA Marketing DirectorDecember 20
Honing your craft and being able to share insights and recommendations (based on data) is a great start. Managers often don't have time to get into the weeds, but if they get insights they don't know or recommendations on how to do something differently, this is a good first step in becoming influential. Being concise in your delivery is also important. If you're putting together a written proposal, it's always recommended to start with a brief summary of the expected outcomes/key findings at the start. More generally, the more you understand the business, the better. For example, if you're aiming to be more influential with sales, understanding their challenges, having shared KPIs, talking their language and really knowing the customer will help you gain respect and become more influential. Finally, being a good person to work with naturally drives this. Being a good listener, giving others a voice, taking ownership, avoiding blame, and keeping everyone focussed on what matters.
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Kathy O'Donnell
Kathy O'Donnell
Gong EMEA Marketing DirectorDecember 20
1. Communication! Shared Slack channels, meet regularly and ask your sales team for input so they feel engaged and involved in decisions. Be transparent about how the marketing budget is spent and what is working and what isn't. 2. Shared KPIs. The biggest mistake is disconnected goals. Having a marketing goal of driving leads and a sales goal of driving revenue rarely works out, in my experience. At a minimum, Demand Gen/Marketing needs a sales-qualified pipeline target to fill the top of the funnel. At best, it's a shared revenue target. 3. Having marketing champions on the sales team can make a big difference. A sales leader who advocates for and voices their appreciation for marketing sets the tone for the rest of the sales organisation. Invest time in building those relationships. 4. Listen back to sales calls and hear the types of objections and discussions they are having. It can often give you ideas for new pieces of content that will resonate well and that your sales team will appreciate. 5. Avoid jumping in to fulfil every request of the sales teams. In all likelihood, you will become much more tactical than strategic and ultimately deprioritise things from your plan that may have had a greater impact. It's always better to provide a rational explanation as to why you believe their suggestion isn't the right thing to do. For example, with event suggestions, I usually find that the target ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) isn't quite right. 6. Have fun! Lunch chats, socialising together, connecting over the coffee machine, finding shared interests. All help build up a more personal relationship that ultimately builds a deeper connection and better working relationship.
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