Sheridan Gaenger

AMA: Own VP of Growth Marketing, Sheridan Gaenger on Stakeholder Management

June 12 @ 10:00AM PST
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Own VP of Growth Marketing, Sheridan Gaenger on Stakeholder Management
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
Structure depends on the size of the organization, the GTM motion (sales-led or product-led, for example), and where the business is in its growth and maturity lifecycles. You can organize these roles in multiple ways, but it's crucial to avoid a bloated org; you don't want it too wide (+6 direct reports), and you should be cautious of having one manager with only one direct report. The core functions that run the demand engine must include integrated campaigns, digital demand, and event and field marketing. If you're a larger organization (over $50M in ARR), you'll likely build out an ABM and Customer Marketing function. The ABM arm can operate independently under your VP or Sr. Director of Demand or be nested within Integrated Campaigns or Digital. Customer Marketing typically sits with Demand or PMM, depending on the business goals. Integrated Campaigns: Works closely with Product Marketing on core business themes, leveraging them to build audience-first campaigns. Campaigns are not just eBooks or webinars but a collection of assets targeting a core audience across the entire account lifecycle. Measuring integrated campaigns can be tricky, so it’s important to measure signals via leading indicators like asset performance, audience engagement, lead creation, MQL conversions, and pipeline sourced and influenced. I spoke about this in detail at my 2023 SaaStr talk, check it out here. Digital Demand: Manages your inbound digital funnel; paid, organic, and owned properties. They activate, acquire, and convert leads across multiple channels, working closely with integrated campaigns, Product Marketing, Brand/Creative, and Content. This team often includes digital (paid and organic) associates and conversion rate optimization and analytics managers. They also manage key agency relationships. Monitoring leading metrics ensures efficiencies in ad spend, including impressions, CPL, CPMQL, first touch conversions, pipeline sourced, and pipeline influenced. Field and Event Sponsorships/Marketing: Manages in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, aligning with broader marketing goals. Event shapes vary based on GTM motion and core ICP. Efficient event spending requires field sales team enablement, clear objectives, audience targeting, and budget management. Key activities include logistics, content creation, and promotional campaigns. The golden thread principle comes to life here, as events reach your target ICP, and the team must work closely with PMM on positioning, campaigns on content and activations, digital on promotion, and customers on participation and engagement. Performance metrics, feedback collection, and data analysis measure event success. They track pre-event engagement, day-of metrics, and long-term pipeline and revenue metrics, ensuring new and the right audience engagement.
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
Navigating the pivot from collaboration and ideation to execution and accountability requires structure, project planning, swimlanes and clear communication. Simple frameworks will be your lifeline in this process. Here are some things to take into account and the seven checkboxes I have on my desk when beginning a new project: 1. Establish Clear Frameworks: Implement a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) or DACI (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) model to define roles and responsibilities. This clarity helps everyone understand their specific duties and the expectations placed on them as the project moves towards execution. Don’t move forward with a project without one. Full stop. 2. Create and Share a Project Plan: Develop a detailed project plan outlining tasks, deadlines, and responsible parties. Regularly update and share this plan with all team members (via email and Slack, some people love one while others not so much) to ensure everyone is aligned and aware of their responsibilities and timelines. 3. Don’t run a meeting with an agenda: For each meeting, prepare and distribute a clear agenda in advance. Include a pre-read when possible to ensure everyone is informed and ready to contribute. This helps keep meetings focused and productive, especially as you transition to the execution phase. If you are the driver, DRIVE these and be the voice commanding the room. 4. Maintain Engagement: During meetings, keep the room engaged and on point. Stick to the agenda and avoid deviations to ensure that discussions remain relevant and time is used efficiently. Encourage active participation and address any concerns promptly to maintain momentum. 5. Shift Focus to Execution: As deadlines approach, explicitly communicate the shift from brainstorming to execution. Up the communication cadence. Reinforce the importance of meeting deadlines and the need for accountability. Emphasize the specific tasks and milestones that need to be achieved and the impact of timely execution on the overall project success. 6. Monitor Progress and Accountability: Regularly review progress against the project plan. Hold team members accountable for their deliverables through check-ins and status updates. Use the RACI or DACI framework to ensure everyone understands their role in meeting deadlines. 7. Adapt and Stay Flexible: Trains can derail. Be prepared to adapt the plan as necessary while keeping the team focused on the end goals. Address any roadblocks or issues promptly and reassign tasks if needed to keep the project on track. By following these strategies, you can smoothly transition from brainstorming together to getting things done efficiently. This way, your team stays focused, responsible, and productive as deadlines get closer.
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
Start by establishing swimlanes with all key stakeholders and leaders, not just within Demand Gen. Map out the teams and define distinct areas of responsibility and roles within the wider organization to ensure that each team knows what they are accountable for. This involves creating boundaries around tasks, projects, and functions to minimize overlap and confusion. Document these roles and review them at least once a quarter, adjusting as needed. Additionally, don’t be afraid of conflict. By embracing disagreement and talking through it, you can build more trust with your internal partners and gain new perspectives that may lead to shifts in organizational planning or responsibilities, ultimately benefiting everyone.
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
I approach every discussion with every stakeholder from the perspective that we’re partners. We’re working towards the same goals and have respect for each other and our respective functions. We’re all in the same boat and want to row in the same direction. For every conversation, it’s important to enter with confidence and subject matter expertise, but with the grounding knowledge that everyone is on the same team, supporting each other as partners. Some of the best feedback I’ve received in my career is to leave any defensive mechanisms at the door, always go in with an open mind, and embrace the concept of partnership for swifter progress. Partnerships and conversations vary, so it’s crucial to tailor your stakeholder management approach accordingly.
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
Conflict results when trust has been broken. As leaders, part of our job is to pioneer change and drive culture forward, often stepping into roles where historical conflict has been present. However, being present doesn't mean the conflict has to be constant. Resolution is a path, not a switch, and most cross-team conflicts resolve when trust is re-established. To regain that trust, you need to eliminate silos as much as possible, starting in the planning cycle. Involve people in this process. One of my personal philosophies is "no surprises." None of your stakeholders should be shocked when a program is launched or an event is secured. If you plan together, you carry the accountability bag together. You win together. To improve a historically tense relationship between functions, establish regular, structured communication forums such as joint meetings, cross-functional workshops, or team-building activities. This helps break down barriers and fosters open dialogue. Align both functions around shared objectives, clearly articulating how each contributes to the organization's overall success, emphasizing mutual benefits. Ensure that leaders from both functions are committed to resolving tensions and modeling collaborative behavior. Their buy-in is crucial for driving cultural change. Conduct a thorough analysis to understand the underlying issues causing the tension, possibly involving confidential surveys, interviews, or facilitated discussions. Encourage team members to understand each other's roles, challenges, and pressures through job shadowing or role-swapping, which can build empathy. Implement clear, agreed-upon processes and workflows to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts, documenting roles, responsibilities, and expectations to clarify ambiguities. Acknowledge and reward collaborative efforts publicly, as recognizing successes can motivate continued cooperation and reinforce positive behavior. Equip team members with conflict resolution and communication skills, empowering them to handle disagreements constructively and professionally. Create channels for continuous feedback and improvement, regularly soliciting input on what's working and what needs adjustment to keep the relationship on track. If tensions are particularly high, consider bringing in a neutral third party to facilitate discussions and mediate conflicts, helping to reach fair and unbiased resolutions. By taking these steps, you can transform a historically tense relationship into a productive and collaborative partnership, ultimately enhancing overall organizational performance.
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Sheridan Gaenger
Sheridan Gaenger
Own VP of Growth MarketingJune 12
Here are three key approaches I use to build successful partnerships: 1. Stay Open-Minded and Humble: You can take your work seriously without always taking yourself too seriously. At Own, this is one of our core values. We spend over 40 hours a week at our desks, grinding, performing, and striving for outcomes – and it's hard work. Acknowledging that "work is hard!" is okay. Bringing humility and laughter to your work and your partnerships can foster successful relationships. While dedication and commitment to your professional responsibilities are crucial, maintaining a sense of humor and not being overly serious helps you stay grounded, approachable, and resilient. It promotes a positive work environment, encourages creativity, and prevents burnout by reminding you to enjoy the journey and not be overly critical of yourself or your teammates. 2. Adopt a One-Team Mentality: To drive successful and lucrative partnerships and advance your career, you need people in your court. Align your efforts with the broader mission and vision of your organization, maintain open and transparent communication, and share accountability for outcomes. This creates a sense of ownership and responsibility. Mutual respect and support enable leveraging diverse skills to innovate and solve problems together. Flexibility and adaptability ensure that the team can meet objectives in changing circumstances. Fostering a positive work environment built on trust, encouragement, and recognition keeps everyone motivated to contribute their best. 3. Embrace the Golden Thread Principle: Adopting and living by the golden thread principle (my personal philosophy!) means embracing a unified approach to work. It starts with a shared vision and goals, where everyone understands the "why" behind their tasks and how they contribute to overall success. Open communication ensures that regular updates, challenges, and decisions are shared, keeping everyone connected. As we scale and develop new programs, we document our processes to maintain operational rigor. A customer-first focus drives everyone to deliver maximum value. Departmental alignment ensures that cross-functional teams work towards common goals with no surprises. Lastly, accountability and ROI are crucial—if we can’t measure an initiative and determine its impact, we won’t pursue it. By incorporating these approaches, you can build stronger partnerships, drive success, and create a positive and productive work environment.
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