Markforged’s top marketer on making the leap from martech leader to CMO
Cynthia Gumbert will be a panelist for the MarTech Boston session “Making the Leap from Chief Martech to Chief of Marketing.”
Cynthia Gumbert has been managing marketing technology before the martech industry was even a thing. Beginning her career as a field marketing engineer in the semi-conducter industry, Gumbert was drawn to the marketing functions of her job.
“I was taking equipment to different sites like Intel, and AMD, and all these chip manufacturers, and loved the marketing aspect of that role,” says Gumbert, “I eventually morphed into a product marketing manager, defining new products that we should introduce. I saw some big successes there, and morphed more and more into marketing, and I went back and got my MBA.”
She spent nearly six years at Dell running its global demand center. After implementing Dell’s first go at marketing automation on the B2B side, Gumbert accepted a role at CA leading its martech team. While at CA, she over saw analytics, as well as setting up the entire process to measure marketing’s impact on the business.
Last year, Gumbert made the leap from her martech leadership roles to head of marketing for Markforged, an industrial 3D printing company.
“I love smaller companies. I love watching things grow very quickly,” says Gumbert about her new role leading Markforged’s entire marketing organization.
She says leading marketing strategy for a growing company — and the opportunity to make a big impact — was very appealing to her.
Gumbert will share her story about making the leap from chief of martech to chief of marketing at this year’s MarTech Boston Conference, and offer suggestions for marketing technologist wanting to make similar career moves.
Is it fair to say you’ve been managing marketing technology before there was a martech industry?
Gumbert: It [martech] wasn’t even a word. I’ve been using Salesforce since 2000 when it was very new, before even lead generation was a word. It has all evolved with the whole martech industry.
Because I have an engineering background, I love the quantifiable and technical aspect of marketing. I love seeing this industry explode. It’s fun to run fast, and keep up with all of the developments in martech and stay on top of what’s emerging, how to use and harness these tools to make an impact on the business.
There was sales force automation which has been around a long time, and ad tech on the extreme other end, and everything has filled in in-between to create a whole portfolio. Email tools have been around forever, but the weren’t called martech back then.
As a marketing leader who started on the martech side, where do you see the biggest challenge for martech leaders aiming to transition from a tech-centered role into an over-arching marketing role?
Gumbert: The interesting thing you see when you get further and further away from just being martech-focused is that the old school immeasurable components of marketing still play a bigger role than most “martechies” want to believe.
We’re almost two, three, five, ten-steps ahead of other functions that still see marketing as we need new t-shirts for everybody because our t-shirts have been around for six months. Or, things that give people a feeling or emotion that are much less measurable, or, this is how I want to word things even though the test shows that another way is actually getting better results.
Sometimes the data doesn’t matter, and it’s hard. That’s been my biggest challenge making the leap — that the data shows this, but that’s not really what we want even if it’s a better result. Holding people’s hands to take them along that data-analytic-driven marketing path — not everybody’s there yet.
One of my favorite marketing books is Chris Goward’s “You Should Test That.” I saw him speak at the first MarTech Conference in Boston a couple of years ago, and then got his book. I keep going back to that book, and recommending it to people.
It really left a big impression. It wasn’t just him describing the fact that we have tools that do A/B testing on everything — most marketers know that — but his point was that you shouldn’t come into any situation thinking you know it all. That the best way to do things, even if you’ve done it effectively in the past, is to leave your ego behind and let the tests speak for themselves, and let the data speak for itself.
You may end up a website or landing page that looks a lot uglier than you want it to, but it’s working really well. I really do love that book because he talks about not assuming anything. I do this with all of our marketing programs — we’re always testing everything to see what’s coming back better, and then trying to show, and share, the data.
Do you think the CMO role will eventually evolve into a CMTO position?
Gumbert: I think they’ll converge eventually. You need two things. One, a CMTO type who is very good at communicating outwards to the business how the technology strategy is completely integral and part of the overall corporate strategy.
That sounds like a no-brainer, but you don’t always have those two skill sets in the same person. Somebody who grew up completely immersed in tech needs to gain an outward-facing communication skill in order to bridge that gap.
On the other side, you need CEOs, and especially board of directors, who are committed to being a digital-first, data-first, technology-driven organization to understand why that CMTO role, maybe as the head of marketing, is critically important.
If you don’t have the entire leadership of the company and investors right there with you, then it’s always going to be a separate function. I think more and more companies, especially startups that are born in technology, are starting to see this — I think that’s going to trickle its way into bigger and bigger companies.
What do you believe is the quickest path for a marketing technologist to move into a marketing leadership position?
Gumbert: A martech professional needs either to sit in on an executive meeting, even outside of marketing, and understand what makes that team tick — what are the biggest things on the mind of the leadership of the company?
There’s always stresses and pressures coming from leadership directed towards the CMO, and that gets directed downwards. Understanding a company’s biggest challenges is important, and it’s different everywhere.
It could be the sales pipeline isn’t enough, and that’s directly impacted by having a martech strategy that’s demand driven. It could be, we have a competitor that’s making a big splash. Or the cost cutting initiative, or a customer challenge.
Get to know what those biggest issues are, and then tie the martech strategy into being part of the solution so it is connected to what’s going to drive the company forward. There’s always a solution. There’s always a martech answer to every company problem, not just marketing.
I think speaking in terms of what’s the biggest pressure on the CMO? Or, what’s the biggest pressure on the CEO? Bridge that gap and adjust strategy — be agile. Rethink your strategy often in martech so it matches what the company needs, but also, don’t rethink it so often you never get anything done.