CMO Spotlight: Melissa Sargeant, Litmus

November 6, 2020 | 5 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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Oracle CX Marketing recently caught up with Melissa Sargeant, CMO of our partner Litmus.  Our conversation ranged how data changed the world of marketing forever to marketing’s importance to a business to how marketers should seek deep human connections with customers.

Q: What did you go to school for?

I attended Roanoke College in Salem, VA, where I majored in political science and US history.

Q: Tell us about your first job.

The agency was headquartered in New Jersey, but I worked in the Washington, DC office which focused on public affairs. The agency was aligned to everything going on at Capitol Hill, and I got to work on some big issues, write speeches, and received my first exposure to marketing. After the exposure, I branched off into corporate communications, which was my first actual job in marketing.  

Q: Why did you want to become a CMO?

I’ve been doing marketing for 30 years and am very passionate about modern marketing. When I started, marketing was often treated like an arts and crafts department. We wrote press releases, created product data sheets, and we even ordered carpets for the trade shows.

Digital, however, transformed the world of marketing into a science-led discipline. The more data allows us to understand our customers, the more we can drive meaningful experiences.

In my time, I’ve done corporate communications, demand gen, product marketing, product management, and leadership. I feel a responsibility to create a learning path and way forward for the next generation of marketers, and data plays a key role in that, as it will empower the next generation to better understand their customers and create exceptional experiences that keep them coming back for more.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge as a CMO?

I’ve found it to be balancing short-term needs with a long-term strategy. I’ve been in my position for almost a year now, but when you start as a CMO, you try to get the lay of the land, see what’s working and what needs improvement. However, you can’t tell everyone to hit the pause button for 90 days to work everything out. It’s not only like in the beginning, though. It’s like that for the whole journey, from the start of your tenure to the end.

So, you learn to do things in parallel, but you should align your integrated marketing program with your long-term growth strategy.

Q: Why do you feel the average tenure of a modern CMO is under two years?

I’ve read a lot of publications that touch on this matter, and a perception seems to exist that there is a disconnect between CMOs and CEOs. This might be the case for some, but I think we’ve seen the importance of marketing become amplified, which has created a great many opportunities for talented CMOS. The really good ones are being constantly recruited for new positions or seeking new challenges. Some have even been promoted. We’ve seen a few CMOs become CEOs, heads of operations, or the heads of all CX for businesses.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to other CMOs?

Connect the business value of what you’re doing in marketing to your business’s overall goals. This is critical, though it isn’t easy, not with multichannel marketing programs all doing different things and having different results and levels of influence. Though we have tools to help with this, it’s still not always a perfect process. However, once there was a time in marketing when we didn’t have any data. Now we have more than we ever thought we would. The need has now arisen for us to know how to synthesize this data, leverage the actionable insights, create experiences based on these insights  and share with our business stakeholders.

Q: What’s one thing you wish CEOs understood about marketing?

Marketing has influence over more than just marketing. Everyone talks about the customer experience, but marketing is a key part of every touchpoint in the customer journey. In a world impacted by COVID-19, we’re trying to cultivate customers for life. Marketing is what drives an experience that achieves this from awareness to consideration to decision and advocacy. In this environment, truly delivering on what customers crave equals success, and marketing plays an integral in that process.

Q: What do you think marketing will look like in 2050? What adjustments do you feel marketers should be making with the COVID-19 crisis?

Personalization will continue to be key. In Litmus’ State of Email Marketing, we found that people in marketing highlighted personalization as one of their top 3 priorities.

Consumer demand for personalized experiences is driving a major transformation in marketing today. A few years ago, our marketing programs were designed from the perspective of one to many. Today, that’s gone from one to some. Where we are heading is a one-to-one approach to create human-to-human connections between consumers and a brand.

As for COVID-19, marketers should expect to be asked to do more with less. We always are, but we should expect that to be amplified to the next level. Drive efficiency and productivity, and make sure that what  you’re running is good for your entire marketing mix of channels, be it social, search, email, and so on. Look to create a multiplier effect to deliver more for less. We'll be discussing these types of necessary adjustments in our upcoming CMO panel on how companies can best prepare for a post-2020 world. 

Q: What job would you never want to do?

I don’t think I’d make a good waitstaff person, though I admire everyone that is one, especially right now. They’re not always dealing with people at their best selves, and these people might be hungry, particular about their food, and their mind could be on so many things. I don’t think I’d be able to keep a smile on my face and retain a sunny disposition at scale for more than a week. My hat’s off to anyone that can, as they have patience and virtue that I admire.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring marketers and aspiring CMOs?

This will sound funny, but run toward the dumpster fire. There’s always a program that everyone rolls their eyes at, but you can make a name for yourself by facing challenges nobody else will.

You’ll either make it better or nothing will change. It might be highly unlikely that you’ll make it work, but your growth as a professional will come when things are difficult, and you’ll learn plenty of skills to apply to your next gig. No one has ever gotten better at anything by doing things that are easy. If you do make it work, you’ll become a hero and have built a reputation for having resiliency. The skills you develop doing so will lay the foundation for to you to become confident, curious, and empathetic – all great strengths to set you on the path toward becoming an effective leader. 

                                                                                                         

Catch up with other CMOs:

For more insights into the world of CMOs, subscribe to the CMO Spark Newsletter.

Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.


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