How to Build a Marketing Team Effectively with Sheridan Orr

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Welcome to the latest episode of Three-Minute Marketing, a podcast where we micro-interview the world’s foremost thought leaders in growth marketing across different disciplines.

I’m your host Arsham Mirshah and co-founder of WebMechanix, a performance advertising agency. I’m honored to have a bad-ass growth expert, Sheridan Orr, as our guest today.

Sheridan is the CMO of Built In, a go-to hub for tech professionals who want to learn about the technology industry, build connections, and ultimately carve out a future and get a job at these companies that they believe in. Sheridan’s done product marketing and channel marketing for Red Hat, ChannelAdvisor, and PeopleFluent.

Today’s question is: “How do you build a marketing team most effectively for different stages of a company’s growth?”

Show Notes:

  • Think of it like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First, you need to have food to eat, so feed sales.
  • Focus on creating a great customer experience from day one. It serves as the flywheel to accomplish other things, such as creating case studies.
  • Start with the low-hanging fruit, which is to feed your sales team with good leads.
  • Feed your sales team because that’s what matters most.
  • Even though she’s a brand marketing, Sheridan admits that product marketing goes before branding. Otherwise, you’ll waste money branding to the wrong people.
  • You get more budget as you drive leads and sales, and budget is what fuels your growth and allows you to scale. Then, focus on product-market fit.
  • Finally, work on your brand. It’s more than a color palette or logo. Find out how to differentiate yourself.
  • Until you get close to the customer, you don’t know what brand story to tell.

Bonus discussion after recording:

  • It doesn’t matter if you’re insourcing or outsourcing. It’s about getting the best possible talent.
  • Just like a sports team, you need the best people on your team at all times.
  • Use a spreadsheet to rate your team and ask if that’s the best world-class talent you can get for each role.
  • WebMechanix uses an accountability chart instead of an organization chart to rank teams and to identify areas for improvement.


– Hey, welcome to another episode of Three Minute Marketing where we do micro interviews to package up value bombs for all you marketing executives out there. I’m your host, Arsham Mirshah, co-founder of WebMechanix Performance Advertising Agency and I am honored to have a bad-ass growth expert, Sheridan Orr, say hi Sheridan.- Hi, thanks for having me.

– Thanks for joining me today. Yeah, absolutely our pleasure. Sheridan is the CMO of Built In. Built In is a go-to hub for tech professionals who want to learn about the technology industry, build connections, and ultimately carve out a future and get a job at these companies that they believe in. Built In’s really cool, they lead with content to actually help tech professionals learn about the industry and what have you before, you know, going and offering a job, so to speak, right? And Sheridan’s, you know, definitely a bad-ass in the space. You’ve done product marketing and channel marketing for the likes of Red Hat, ChannelAdvisor, PeopleFluent, you know, so really excited to have you. Thank you for being here.

– Thank you so much, I’m excited. I always like to talk to my marketing people.

– Yeah well, here we are. So yeah, and you know, you’ve been at these different companies some kind of startup, some enterprise, so I’m really curious though the one question I have for you is around kind of the phases of maturity in building a marketing team. So, you know, maybe you’re the head of marketing at a startup or a small company that’s growing fast or maybe you’re new to a Fortune 1000, you know what do you look for in building a marketing team?

– Well, I always think about it as like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and you have to start like with eating and breathing and that’s feeding sales, right? If you don’t feed sales, not just with leads, but with the story, and the collateral, and who they should be targeting, and where our solution fits, and the parameters of what we can sell today versus what we can sell tomorrow, and how to tell that story, you’re really going to fail. Because when you think about investors and, you know, C-suite executives, those are the metrics that they really understand about marketing is, you know, how many sales did we make? How much did marketing contribute to that? And so I think you have to start there and, you know I’m a brand product person and so it almost pains me to say that, but that really is the bread and butter in which marketing is made on. And once you have those sales people as you know, champions, you can really start to do a lot more. And I would also say not only sales, but you have to keep an eye on the customer experience. That’s where I would start, is what can we sell today? How do we sell it? How do we package it? And then how do we support it? And how do we create an excellent customer experience? Because as a marketer, you know, it’s so much easier to keep those customers and help them be referrals and case studies and all of that stuff that kind of becomes the flywheel for you at the beginning. So I would keep my eye on the customer experience from day one, and be a huge advocate for that. So once you kind of have like your sales funnel moving, you can say, okay, marketing is contributing this much then you can start to get more budget, you have faith in the organization. You also, through that experience of making sure the sales team has what they need to sell, you understand your market more, your customers more, and probably space more. And this is going to be a controversial thing is I think product marketing goes before brand. And I’ll tell you why. Because if you don’t really understand your product market fit, your ideal customer, you’re going to like waste a lot of time branding to the wrong people. So that, you know ideal customer is going to be critical to make sure that you’re spending your brand, money, and time wisely. So I would really focus on, you know understanding your market space, and then the other thing I would say in product marketing is segments. Segment by not, you know, a lot of us like to say “Oh, it’s SMB growth and enterprise,” but is there vertical space? Because especially when you’re joining a company that may have a huge total addressable market, it is so much easier to win in a very defined space. Your messaging is tighter, your audience is, you know where to find your audience, you could be much more effective. Like for instance, Built In is excellent with fintech companies. Like we really do a good job with fintech companies. And so we do vertical campaigns, vertical messaging, to make sure that we can continue to win there. And that all really is on the back of product marketing. So now you get to have the fun stuff, right? We’re going to self-actualize and move into branding. And that’s what we all love. Now that doesn’t mean you have neglected the brand through the sales, products, and now you’re in the branding phase, you’ve probably just been refining it, and I mean, you know, you’ve gotten your color palette, and your logo, and all of those things, but now you’re really going to be like okay, we’re going to evoke a feeling and we’re going to own our space, and we are going to differentiate ourselves from the competitors. And you really need product marketing to understand really that unique space in the Venn diagram that you can own in the branding world. And so as you continue to mature, so you’ve moved from, you know, sales, product, brand, you start layering on things like analyst relations, and PR and all of those things, you know, certainly you’re going to do press releases about new products and new customers, but you’re not going to invest your $200,000 with an agency until you really get those foundational pieces, you have customers who are advocates because that’s what PR wants. So that’s kind of my three minute pace, you know, how to build a marketing team in three minutes.

– I love it, I love it, thank you, yeah. So what I heard was, you know, start with the low hanging fruit, make sure you’re breathing and eating, right? So, and what that means is you’re driving leads that actually turn into sales. Then you can use those sales, those customers, to learn what your actual product market fit looks like, where, you know, you can carve out some niches, so that’s the product market fit we’re moving up in the hierarchy. And then at that point, then we get to brand. And by doing so, one thing you said in the pre-interview here, you said you get a budget by doing that, right? If you come into the marketing organ and you start driving leads and driving sales, you get more budget, you can use that budget then to refine your brand and really target in to do the kind of longterm high value long-term activities in branding.

– Yeah, and I think the other thing, brand is always about story right? Like if you don’t have the story because you haven’t stayed close to the customer, close to the product, close to, you know, the landscape in which you’re playing, you don’t really know which brand stories to tell. Like you can have a whiteboard session, but you don’t know how to prove them and that is one thing that I’m always asking my team, like what is the proof point? We’re saying something, how do we prove it? Because that’s how you move somebody kind of through the funnel, is we’re going to say something and evoke this feeling from you with our brand but you know, we’re going to follow, fast follow with here’s a customer story that really exemplifies what we’re telling you.

– Love it, yeah. You know, so actions speak louder than words, right? You’re going to say the words but then you’re going to show the action. So as it pertains to Three Minute Marketing, that’s the value bomb right there. You start with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you start with the feeding sales, the collateral, the leads, the sales, then you go to product market fit, and then to the brand. So that’s good for three minutes. Sheridan and I were… Thank you so much, Sheridan, I love it. Love the analogy, the parallel to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and let’s keep chatting. But for everyone listening, thank you for your time. Like, subscribe, share this if you found it valuable. Go follow Sheridan and go check out Built In too, I think a lot of people listening are kind of at the intersection of marketing and tech.

Sheridan Orr

Sheridan OrrCMO of Built In

Arsham Mirshah

Arsham MirshahCEO & Co-Founder

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