Cindy Zhou brings more than 20 years of practitioner experience in corporate marketing, product marketing, product management, sales development, and revenue operations to SecurityScorecard as their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). A recognized industry influencer and award-winning revenue marketing executive, Cindy is a frequent speaker, writer, and media contributor quoted in over 100 articles on marketing, sales, and customer experience technology, best practices, and trends.
Cindy is known as a bright, approachable, and results-oriented marketer, so we were delighted to spend some time with her recently. Here are highlights from our conversation with Cindy.
CT: What are three top things you think contributed most to your rise to CMO?
CZ: First is being a lifelong learner. Marketing changes so much – every four or five years it could be a completely different field. I think back to the early parts of my career, and marketing was all about doing a big, beautiful billboard or an ad in the Wall Street Journal. Now it’s all digital, and even that changes. For example, in video, we have gone from five-minute to 2-minute to 30-second TikTok-style videos. It’s so important to any marketer out there to have that continuous curiosity and be eager to see what’s coming next.
The second thing is really focusing on delivering results. Execution does matter even when you are more junior in your career. If you have a project or initiative, are you looking at it from end-to-end or just your piece of it? Executing on projects doesn’t mean completing your set of tasks. See the project through to completion, and you start to build a reputation for being a person who can deliver results.
The third one is to have genuine care for people. Do you really care about them or is it just lip service? I care for my customers, my teammates, and my peers, and I think that is something that’s really helped me in my career. Back when I was early in my career, a former CEO said, “we are a no jerks allowed company”. I think that’s so important for corporate culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re a top performer, you can’t just bulldoze everyone in the company. “No jerks allowed” has always resonated with me. I think it comes through in the corporate DNA because it’s how you treat customers, how you treat each other -no one is better than someone else.
CT: If you were building a marketing team from scratch, who would be your first three hires?
CZ: What immediately comes to mind are these three team members:
- Digital marketer. Someone who knows SEO, gets social media, understands digital advertising, how to make sure we rank on Google search engines. A true, digital-savvy marketer.
- Content marketer. A great writer. Someone who can write thought-leadership pieces and blogs, help interview customers, and get testimonials. Content marketing is how you engage your audience, so it has to be there.
- Go-to-market expert. Especially in the B2B world, a great product marketing manager or a marketing strategist is important.
I’d also add that demand is a subset of the others. If you have those three nailed, you’d have a great demand gen machine. If you were building from scratch, that demand gen person is going to fall into one of these three categories, if you hire someone who is only doing email marketing, you aren’t going to win. You still need a content marketer.
CT: What is one skill that you want every marketer on your team to have?
CZ: What’s non-negotiable this day and age is a marketer who understands metrics and KPIs. Whether putting together emails or blogs or a digital ad, what is the measure of success? Engagement, pipeline generated, leads to sales closed/won? Being really crystal clear in those metrics and KPIs is something that shifts the perception of marketers from “Hey, you’re the arts and crafts people who give me swag at events” to seeing true business partners that drive sales and success.
CT: What’s your favorite “One Day We’ll Laugh About This” marketing disaster story?
CZ: Everyone has an automation failure story. One challenge in having a global team is that everyone’s has their hands in the automation system putting campaigns together. I learned that a solid QA process is vital – one person puts together a campaign and then a person on another team reviews it, because it’s too easy to just hit the button and let it go. We had a campaign where the workflow wasn’t done correctly, and emails that were intended to alert the sales development reps (SDRs) only after the customer had engaged accidentally alerted the team when the emails went out. It was pretty late in the evening, and we had to scramble to go in and hit the kill switch to stop the campaign. We made a lot of apologies. The good news is that the error wasn’t exposed to customers, but our SDRs were getting 10,000 alerts on their phones at night. We apologized – a lot – to that team.
Ever since then, a QA process is a must-have. No one hits the execute button without it.
CT: What’s the best business advice you ever received?
CZ: During a financial crisis and recession early in my career, a VP at MCI said “I’ll give everyone here one piece of advice. If you can do your job and the job of five other people – not that you do the workload of five people – but if you are capable of doing five different jobs, you’ll never be out of work”. I thought about that a lot, and I believe it all goes back to being a lifelong learner. For example, when I had the opportunity to take on sales operations, which is not common for a marketer, I dove into it. I learned everything from territory management to comp design to reporting and metrics on the sales side. That’s why I ended up with revenue operations under me at a couple of companies. I also had sales enablement and was one of the first people to join the Sales Enablement Society. Even now at SecurityScorecard, I have both sales enablement and the BDR team reporting to my organization. It’s all about seizing moments of opportunity to learn. It may be scary or uncomfortable in the beginning, but you can figure out anything.
CT: What business/corporate buzz word would you like to eliminate forever?
CZ: There are so many, but one that stands out is “circle back”. Hearing “let me circle back with you on that” usually means I’ll never get an answer, LOL.
CT: When you are interviewing candidates for your team, what is your go-to interview question?
CZ: I always like to ask something around what they are passionate about. What gets you up in the morning? What gets you energized about what you do? And conversely, what is such a drag about what you do? There are always parts of our jobs that we love and parts that we don’t. I also always ask about KPIs. I like open-ended questions like “talk to me about your most successful campaign or project – why was it successful?” Or what’s a mistake you made and tell me what you learned from it.
CT: If you had an extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it?
CZ: I picked up a new love of gardening. It gets me outside and calms me. I take my dog out with me and tend to my flowers. I have hydrangeas, rose bushes, and three little flower boxes on my rail on the porch, so I love going out there and taking care of them. It just makes me happy.
Editor’s note: If Cindy tends her flowers with half as much care as she tends the world of marketing, she must have a beautiful garden. Special thanks to Cindy for sharing some of her valuable time with us. You can find Cindy on Twitter and LinkedIn.