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It should go without saying that effective marketing management can be make or break to a company's success. To understand the best ways to lead a successful Marketing Management team, we asked CMOs and other leaders in the marketing space to share tips, stories and insights from their experiences. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jess Petrella.

Jess Petrella

Jess Petrella

Jess Petrella is the Director of Product Marketing at Unbounce, a leader in AI for marketing. She has worked in SaaS for over 10 years and in that time has brought dozens of innovative products to market. She is focused keenly on driving business growth through effective go-to-market strategies, product positioning, and experimental PLG. Prior to Unbounce, Jess led a SaaS marketing and sales team at a pre-seed startup to achieve 20% MOM revenue growth which led to their first funding round.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! To begin, can you share a bit of your backstory and how you got started in your career? 

I began my professional journey as a web designer and developer, eager to explore the vast world of technology. After gaining valuable experience in the corporate environment for a year, I decided to embark on an entrepreneurial path and established my freelance business. Over the course of four years, I had the opportunity to collaborate with an impressive roster of clients, numbering over 70, ranging from local startups to renowned Fortune 500 companies, both within my country and internationally.

Driven by a passion for the tech industry, I transitioned into the role of a marketing consultant specifically catering to tech startups. This transition provided me with invaluable insights into the intricate workings of these innovative ventures. Motivated by the desire to make a more substantial impact, I joined several tech startups as a founding product marketer, contributing to their early stages of growth.

Throughout my professional journey, I have remained deeply involved in the field of marketing, consistently evolving and honing my skills. Since 2014, I have been actively engaged in various marketing roles, each presenting its unique challenges and opportunities. Over the past nine years, my primary focus has been on building high-growth marketing and sales teams, utilizing my expertise to drive success for the organizations I've been a part of.

I currently hold the position of Director of Product Marketing at Unbounce, a global leader in landing page creation and conversion intelligence. In the role, I’ve fortunately been able to combine my technical background, marketing expertise, and leadership skills to help propel the company forward. 

Can you share three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves? 

Growth mindset - it’s important to have personal and professional growth at the front of your mind as you move through your career, find areas of opportunity and lean in. Know your strengths and amplify them every chance that you get. 

Forward-thinking - I always knew what the next “step” needed to be and stayed incredibly focused and true to the path that I was on.

Communication - I am ALWAYS working on my communication skills, this is something I can never be “good enough” at. Presentation skills (getting in front of groups and presenting my ideas, thoughts, knowledge every chance I get), clarity of communication (always attempting to outdo myself - “how can I say this thing with absolute clarity and as concisely as possible” - something I ask myself all the time). This all builds my confidence in addition to my skill set, which has gotten me, my projects, and my career further along than almost any other tactile skill that I have. 

What are some strategies you use to identify and attract top talent to your marketing team, and how do you ensure they are a good fit for your organization?

When it comes to identifying and attracting top talent, I employ a combination of strategies to ensure we bring on board the right individuals who will thrive within our organization. First and foremost, I recognize the power of my own personal online presence. By maintaining an active presence online, I can establish credibility and ensure that those researching our organization are confident they’re joining a team of industry professionals. For me, this includes engaging with relevant online communities and platforms such as Sharebird, where I can share insights and contribute to industry discussions.

Additionally, I understand the value of nurturing existing connections. Building strong relationships within the industry allows me to tap into a network of talented professionals who may be a good fit for our team. By maintaining regular communication and fostering genuine connections, I can leverage these relationships to identify and attract individuals who align with our organizational values and objectives.

What specific backgrounds, qualities, or credentials do you look for when hiring for management and senior positions?

One of the key factors we consider when hiring for senior roles is strong experience. For management positions, it is essential that candidates possess a relevant and proven track record, and ideally are able to transition into their role seamlessly and demonstrate a clear understanding of the industry landscape and how to meet the challenges that come with it.

To provide a specific example, when hiring for a senior marketing role in the SaaS industry, SaaS experience itself is highly valued. A strong candidate who has previously worked in SaaS will bring valuable insights and understanding of the unique dynamics and intricacies associated with marketing in this particular sector. They will ideally be familiar with target audiences, the competitive landscape, and the best practices able to drive results and positively impact the business.

In addition to applicable experience, we also seek certain qualities in candidates for management and senior positions. Strong leadership skills, strategic thinking, and the ability to drive results are paramount. These individuals should possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, enabling them to effectively collaborate with cross-functional teams and stakeholders at all levels. A track record of successfully leading and managing teams, as well as a demonstrated ability to make informed decisions and navigate complex challenges, are qualities we highly value.

When it comes to managing large teams, WFH, and different time zones, how do you prioritize communication and collaboration to ensure a cohesive marketing strategy?

For me, the first step is to acknowledge and understand the unique working norms of each team member, including their working hours, time zones, and meeting preferences. By operating within these parameters with fairness and equality, we are able to create an inclusive environment that respects everyone’s availability and fosters effective collaboration.

One crucial aspect is dedicating time specifically for the team to connect and share information. We recognize the importance of “team time” where team members can come together virtually to align, exchange ideas, and plan collaboratively. Regular team interactions, both synchronous and asynchronous, are scheduled to facilitate communication and provide a platform for sharing updates, discussing challenges, and brainstorming solutions. This fosters a sense of camaraderie and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Another key factor is establishing a well-defined planning process that the entire team can align and work from. This includes establishing day-to-day cadences and routines that facilitate smooth coordination and collaboration. By having clear expectations and standard operating procedures, team members can synchronize their efforts, regardless of their time zone or location. Quarterly planning sessions enable the team to set goals, define strategies, and allocate resources collectively, ensuring a cohesive and unified marketing strategy.

To support effective communication and collaboration, we leverage various digital tools and platforms such as Clocker, and Micro. These tools help streamline communication, facilitate project management, and enable real-time collaboration on shared documents and files. By utilizing technology effectively, we bridge the gap between team members working remotely and across different time zones, ensuring seamless connectivity and information flow.

How do you stay on top of the latest trends, technologies, and AI to ensure your team is implementing the most effective marketing strategies?

One valuable resource we utilize is newsletters. By subscribing to relevant newsletters, we receive up-to-date information, insights, and industry news directly into our inbox. This allows us to stay informed about emerging trends, evolving technologies, and best practices in the marketing landscape.

When it comes to AI, one particular newsletter we find highly valuable is ‘AI Promptly.’ This specifically focuses on artificial intelligence and provides us with regular updates on the latest advancements, applications, and trends in the AI domain. It keeps our team informed about how AI can be leveraged in marketing strategies and enables us to explore innovative approaches to enhance our campaigns.

In addition to newsletters, we also leverage technology tools to support our knowledge and understanding. One such tool we utilize at Unbounce is Klue, which helps us track and monitor industry trends, competitive intelligence, and emerging technologies. By utilizing Klue, we can gather valuable insights and competitive analysis to inform our marketing strategies. It keeps up up-to-date on the latest development and helps us adapt our approaches to align with industry shifts.

In an industry that is often focused on data and metrics, how do you balance the importance of quantitative data with the qualitative insights and instincts needed for success?

While quantitative data provides valuable trends and patterns, it is the qualitative data that helps us understand the "why" behind those trends. Knowing the motivations and underlying reasons why customers act or think a certain way is essential for customer-centric decision-making.

Over time, as we immerse ourselves in working with quantitative metrics, these trends start to inform our qualitative instincts as well. We develop a deeper understanding of our audience and gain insights into what resonates with them. This allows us to create informed assumptions based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. For instance, when we have a sufficient amount of quantitative data from our audience, we can develop user or customer archetypes that serve as valuable tools in guiding the decisions we make on behalf of our customers.

By integrating both quantitative and qualitative approaches, we can make data-driven decisions while still acknowledging the importance of instincts and insights. While quantitative data provides statistical evidence and trends, qualitative insights help us uncover the nuances and intricacies of customer behaviour. It is this combination of the "what" and the "why" that enables us to create more impactful marketing strategies and make decisions that resonate with our customers on a deeper level.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Rapid Fire Question Round

What’s your best quality as a leader? Creating clarity and effectively carrying out our strategic direction through that clarity.

What bad management habit should cease to exist? Micromanagement and the act of telling your team what they already know.

What single piece of advice would you give to aspiring marketing leaders? Create clear paths for your team. This involves providing clarity, direction, and specificity.

What are you reading right now? Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis. It’s a fantastic read.

What product, tool, or service do you wish existed? A desk “turn-over” service that would remove my drinking glass, clean my reading glasses, and even charge my mouse and keyboard.

What tips do you have to motivate and inspire your team to consistently meet and exceed their goals? 

In my experience, motivating and inspiring a team requires a multifaceted approach. Firstly, it is essential to align the team behind a shared mission. By clearly communicating the purpose and vision of the organization, team members can understand how their individual contributions play a significant role in achieving that mission. This shared sense of purpose fosters a collective commitment and motivation to excel.

Celebrating wins, regardless of their size, is another effective way to inspire and motivate the team. Recognizing and appreciating individual and team achievements boosts morale, reinforces the value of their efforts, and instills a sense of accomplishment. Whether it's through public recognition, rewards, or team celebrations, acknowledging successes fuels enthusiasm and drives a positive and high-performing team culture.

Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that the work team members are engaged in directly contributes to the team's objectives, which, in turn, align with the broader corporate strategy. When individuals can clearly see how their tasks and projects ladder up to the overall goals of the team and organization, they feel a sense of purpose and understand the impact of their work. Regularly communicating this connection helps team members stay motivated, as they can see the direct contribution they make towards achieving larger strategic objectives.

Additionally, providing regular feedback, coaching, and growth opportunities are essential for motivation and inspiration. By offering constructive feedback and guidance, team members can continually improve their skills and performance. Creating a culture of continuous learning and development ensures that the team remains motivated to enhance their capabilities and exceed their goals.

How do you handle underperforming team members?

When faced with underperforming team members, I believe in taking an empathy-first approach and engaging in clear and open conversations. It is essential to approach the situation with empathy, recognizing that there may be underlying factors impacting their performance. By fostering a supportive environment, team members feel more comfortable discussing any challenges they are facing.

The first step is to have a candid conversation with the underperforming team member to understand the reasons behind their performance issues. This involves actively listening and seeking to understand their perspective. By uncovering the root causes, whether they are related to workload, skill gaps, personal circumstances, or other factors, we can identify potential areas for improvement.

Once we have a clearer understanding of the factors influencing their performance, it is crucial to work collaboratively on developing solutions. This may involve providing additional training, mentoring, or resources to address any skill gaps. Alternatively, if the underperformance is due to external factors, such as personal challenges, exploring potential adjustments to workload or deadlines may be necessary.

During this process, it is important to set clear expectations and establish measurable goals for improvement. By defining specific targets and timelines, both parties have a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved. Regular check-ins and feedback sessions can help monitor progress and provide guidance and support along the way.

What would you say is the most valuable marketing software in your tech stack?

In our tech stack, we have several valuable marketing software tools that contribute to our success. One such tool is Notion.ai, which has proven to be highly valuable. I have personally created a template of product launch assets in Notion that can be easily customized and utilized for various launch campaigns. This tool enhances efficiency and organization in our marketing efforts.

Another valuable software in our stack is our own Unbounce Smart Builder. This tool allows us to quickly create high-performing campaign landing pages. With its user-friendly interface and a range of customizable options, we can effortlessly spin up landing pages that drive conversions and support our marketing campaigns.

Additionally, ChatGPT has become an indispensable tool that I turn to daily. It serves as my own robotic personal assistant, aiding me across various areas of work. Whether it's generating creative ideas, assisting with content creation, or providing insightful information, ChatGPT's capabilities have proven to be invaluable in enhancing productivity and decision-making.

Based on your experience, what are the five things you need to lead a successful marketing management team? 

To lead a successful marketing management team, there are five key elements that I consider essential. These elements are supported by great processes and operations, a team-first mentality, strategic thinkers who use strategy to solve problems, a modern tool stack, and tuned-in leadership.

1. Strong processes and operations: Having well-defined processes and operations is crucial for a smoothly functioning marketing team. For instance, at Unbounce, we utilize Confluence as an internal/public workspace. This platform allows my team to share all of our work, project briefs, reports, and historical information in an easy-to-search workspace. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, can access necessary information, and collaborate efficiently.

2. Team-first mentality: A team-first mentality promotes collaboration, mutual support, and a shared sense of ownership. In one instance, we celebrated a major campaign success together as a team. Despite facing numerous challenges and tight deadlines, we rallied together, supported one another, and worked collaboratively to achieve our goals. The celebration of the win was not just about individual accomplishments but a recognition that everything we achieved was a shared accomplishment. This team-first mindset reinforces camaraderie, boosts morale, and fosters a positive and cohesive work environment.

3. Strategic thinking to solve problems: Strategic thinking is crucial for marketing management teams to navigate complex challenges. In a situation where one might be faced with a significant decline in customer engagement, it would be important to employ strategic thinking to address the issue. First, get clear on the problem by thoroughly analyzing data, customer feedback, and market trends. Then define the problem in a way that is understood by all stakeholders, ensuring alignment and a shared understanding. Working backward from the problem, visualize the ideal state you want to achieve. This involves identifying the key milestones and steps required to reach that ideal state. By filling in these steps, you can develop a strategic plan that guides your actions and allows you to effectively solve the problem.

4. Modern tool stack: Utilizing a modern tool stack is essential to streamline operations, enhance productivity, and enable data-driven decision-making. In my role, I have experienced the benefits of having a tool stack where everything "connects." For instance, our team utilizes Slack for seamless communication and collaboration. It integrates with Lattice, our platform for one-on-one meetings, allowing us to have structured and productive discussions. Google Docs connects with Confluence and Monday.com is always visible in our email through updates. These integrations ensure that important topics and action items from our meetings are easily accessible and can be followed up on effectively.

5. Tuned-in leadership: Effective leadership plays a critical role in guiding and supporting the marketing management team. As a leader, staying tuned in to the team’s needs, challenges, and aspirations is crucial. For example, conducting weekly one-on-one meetings allows me to have dedicated time with each team member to discuss their progress, address any concerns, and provide guidance. These meetings serve as a platform for open and honest communication, fostering trust and ensuring that individual needs are heard and addressed. Additionally, one-on-one meetings, quarterly performance reviews, and retro’s on projects all provide an opportunity to evaluate team members' progress, celebrate achievements, and set new goals.

By incorporating these five elements—great processes and operations, a team-first mentality, strategic thinking, a modern tool stack, and tuned-in leadership—marketing management teams can thrive and deliver exceptional results. These elements provide a solid foundation for collaboration, innovation, and growth, enabling the team to adapt to market dynamics, seize opportunities, and drive overall success.

Lastly, If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be?

For me, this would be the establishment of a global standard for government-supported basic living income. Basic income is a concept that involves providing a guaranteed income to all individuals, regardless of their employment status or socioeconomic background. By implementing a global standard for basic living income, we can address issues of poverty, inequality, and lack of access to basic necessities that affect people worldwide.

This movement would have far-reaching benefits, empowering individuals and communities to meet their basic needs, pursue education and personal development, and take entrepreneurial risks without the fear of destitution. It would provide a safety net that promotes social and economic stability, enabling individuals to thrive and contribute to society in meaningful ways.

The establishment of a global standard for basic living income would not only alleviate poverty but also foster economic growth and innovation. It would reduce income disparities, create opportunities for social mobility, and stimulate consumer spending, leading to a more equitable and sustainable economy. Moreover, it would allow individuals to have greater autonomy and choice in shaping their lives, promoting overall well-being and happiness.


Enjoyed this interview? Read more marketing management tips from our other seasoned executives. While you're here, get more of the latest tips, insights, tools, and expert advice by subscribing to The CMO newsletter.

Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.