Skip to main content

A successful CMO has many roles, including leading an organization's marketing department, establishing marketing strategies, and tracking successes and failures. How can a CMO create a highly successful career? What tools, strategies, and approaches can a CMO use to be successful? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Smith.

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Cvent. He brings more than 20 years of experience developing and managing marketing strategies for enterprise software firms.

 

As SVP and CMO, Patrick is in charge of global marketing at Cvent, which includes the development and execution of all marketing campaigns and initiatives that deliver coordinated strategies for Cvent’s Event and Hospitality Clouds. Patrick leads a global team of marketers, including the Corporate Communications, Product Marketing, Events Marketing, Customer Marketing, Content Marketing, Creative, and Global Demand Center teams.

Prior to Cvent, Patrick was the CMO at Deltek, a global enterprise software company with over 23,000 customers around the world, where he built and promoted Deltek’s global brand. Before Deltek, Patrick held leadership roles at supply chain software leader Manugistics, Intel Corporation, and other industry-leading companies.

 

Patrick has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University and an MBA from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife.

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

My background in college was supply chain management, and my first few jobs out of college were in the supply chain world. Within my discipline, I was focused on leveraging software to optimize global supply chains (what modes of transportation should be used, where inventory should be stored, etc.)

My experience quickly led me to a supply chain software provider, where I joined the marketing department in a product marketing capacity. This started my career in marketing, and I have never looked back!

Marketing is a fascinating discipline because it’s part art and part science. It allows you to be creative AND quantitative. To be a story-teller and scientist. I love how great marketing can really move the meter, create compelling stories that cut through the noise and highlight the essential differentiation and expertise that brands have. But key to doing this is to dive into the metrics, test and learn, try new approaches, and then go all in on what is delivering outsized returns.

What do you think was a pivotal moment that led you on your path to becoming a CMO?

The pivotal moment for me occurred back during the 2008 financial crisis when a lot of organizations–including software companies–were downsizing. The organization I was working for went through a reorganization to optimize costs, and I was put in a position to own more aspects of marketing than I did before. It was a daunting challenge, but one that I embraced, and it ultimately led me to where I am today.

The lesson in this is to embrace change, take it head on, and prove your worth. Even with added responsibility, I didn’t expect–or lobby for–more compensation. I had faith the rewards would come as the results were delivered, and that proved to be the case.

Can you share an interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting story is the incredible pivot that we made at Cvent when the pandemic hit. In March of 2020, the lion’s share of our business was selling technology to support in-person events. That’s a tough business to be in when the world can’t physically meet.

But we leveraged our amazing team to quickly build, market, sell and support a virtual events offering that took off in the marketplace.  

Everyone in the company had to pivot, and we did it quickly. We all had to think “virtual” first–in our messaging, collateral, demos, from a support perspective, and so forth. It’s a galvanizing force when everyone in the company is aligned around one goal.

Fast forward to today, and event marketing and management platform powers virtual, in-person, and hybrid events, as well as webinars. We go-to-market helping organizations harness the power of multiple event format and types, and as a thought leader that helps our customers build impactful event programs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?

I have had many people that I have impacted my career, but one I would highlight is Kevin Parker who was the CEO at Deltek when I arrived. Kevin’s career history is incredibly impressive, and he was someone I looked up to–how to manage teams effectively, how to set clear direction, what behaviors set executives apart. I ended up working closely with Kevin especially for things like M&A communications, earnings call support, and public and industry analyst relations. He was a friend, a mentor, and someone I still look up to.

What are some of the main issues that other CMOs commonly struggle with? What can be done to address those challenges?  

Making an impact, and doing so quickly.  CMOs come with outsized expectations, and it’s often difficult to live up to those expectations.

Transformation won’t happen overnight, but the key is to identify opportunities for quick wins as a new CMO enters an organization. This is where experience comes in–thinking about what is in your toolkit that has worked in the past that can be applied in a new situation.

My best advices is to create and evangelize the long-term vision, but find ways to move the meter every day, especially early on in a new role. One of the keys here is to quickly build relationships with your team and cross-functional stakeholders, so you can build trust. Trust and honest dialogue is critical to success, especially since some people can view marketing executives with skepticism with a “lots of talk, no action” kind of bias.

Having reached this space, what do you believe are the five things you need to be a highly successful CMO?

  1. Be well-rounded from an experience standpoint. It’s immensely helpful to have “been there, done that” so you aren’t learning too much on the job. CMOs have to do a lot of things across a number of different marketing disciplines… having some experience in each–even if it is not outright expertise–is fundamental to success.
  1. Balance the art and science of marketing as I stated above. You need to be creative to stand out, but metrics-driven to measure success.
  1. Create, evangelize, and reinforce clear north stars for your marketing team. It’s amazing how much the words of a CMO carry weight inside an organization. North stars align everyone and become rallying cries that people embrace.
  1. Be a clear communicator (both internally and externally), through the written and spoken word. In an era where everyone is distracted, effective communication (even spelling!) is more differentiated than ever. It can make brands stand out from their competitors.
  1. Partner with Sales and build that trust. When Sales and Marketing are aligned–on goals, plans, and processes–magic happens. When they are not, in-fighting can occur, finger pointing can happen, and it gets that much harder to deliver results.

What do you believe is the most effective way to stand out and make an impact as a CMO?

Create goals and hit those goals. Post measurable results that the rest of the company can see. Nothing speaks to success better than exceeding goals, be that brand awareness goals, lead generation targets, you name it.

Can you please share your favorite 'Life Lesson Quote' and how it has been relevant to you in your life?

Not sure who said it, but I believe this to my core: Be a solution provider, not a problem identifier. Everyone can point out problems, that’s easy. It’s those that have the solutions to the problems–and embrace a problem solving mindset–that will get the farthest.

Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?

I alluded to this above–don’t underestimate the power of clear, concise, compelling communication. It’s becoming a dying art. Good ideas don’t become good ideas if they aren’t communicated well.

Lastly, is there a person with whom you would love to have a breakfast or lunch with, and why?

My grandfather, a man I never met unfortunately since he passed away before I was born. But from the stories I heard from my father, he had an entrepreneurial spirit that came in handy during some of the darkest times in American history–such as the great depression. Would love to spend an afternoon with him to hear his stories and learn his lessons. My bet is they would be timeless and incredibly applicable today.

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.