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How to Get Marketing a Bigger Seat at the Table with Allison MacLeod CMO of Flywire

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Welcome to another episode of Scratch! In this week's episode Eric Fulwiler is joined by Allison MacLeod, Chief Marketing Officer of Flywire. Flywire is a global payments enablement and software company, on a mission to deliver the world’s most important and complex payments. Flywire has over 2700 clients, supports more than 140 currencies, serves more than 240 countries and territories and employs more than 750 people.

Allison MacLeod, joined Flywire as the EVP of global Marketing at Flywire, since March 2021 she became the Chief Marketing Officer. Allison is passionate about building and empowering teams and finding the best talent in the industry.

At Money2020 Vegas, we talked all about the role of marketing within Flywire, and how you best build a strong marketing team. We touched on what the role of the CMO will look like going forward. How has it changed, and how you get CEOs to really understand the role of the marketer?

This is a fascinating conversation, tune in!


Eric: Hey, before we get into today's episode, I have a favor to ask actually. So we are now over a year in with Scratch. We've recorded about 50 episodes and by the time you're listening to this potentially more, it's been amazing and I've really appreciated the feedback and support from you all. But I really want to try with the second year to get scratch in front of a wider audience. And so I'm asking you if you've been listening for a while or if you're new, if you find this content valuable, if you're supporting what we're trying to do, I would really appreciate it if you could just take a second press pause on this episode. Either leave a review or share this episode and scratch with someone else who you think would find it valuable. It would mean a ton to me and to us as we're really trying to build the audience and the rival brand and get this content in front of more people that we think and that you think can help. Thank you so much for the continued support. Now onto the episode

Allison: One thing you say, if you're not doing this already, make sure that you have those opportunities to demonstrate the value of marketing and the impact of marketing within your organization. It seems like the thing that's the less obvious of like, eh, well we'll do that with way of time. So important because if your organization doesn't understand the priorities, the goals, how it's driving things, I think we'll continue to see marketing teams in this place where it's like, I dunno what they do. And it's a office. Obviously a great opportunity to let your marketers shine too.

Eric: I'm Eric Fulwiler, and this is Scratch bringing you marketing lessons from the leading brands and brains rewriting the rule book from scratch for the world of today.

Hey everyone, a special edition of Scratch for you today, it's going to be audio only because we recorded this live from the showroom floor at Money 2020 in Vegas. If you don't know Money 2020, it is I think the biggest North American FinTech conference. So there was a ton going on and I was lucky enough to be able to cross paths and sit down with Allison MacLeod , who is the CMO of Flywire. Flywire is a global payments enablement and software company on a mission to deliver the world's most important and complex problems. Really interesting conversation with Alison. What we focused on was essentially how to get marketing a bigger seat at the table, the role of marketing and the role of CMO within high growth businesses. And I know for the marketers listening as something that everybody's thinking about, I certainly am always thinking about, and in the time I was a CMO is top of mind for me. How do you get marketing to have a bigger remit, a bigger role to drive the growth of the organization? So it is truly an innovation and growth function, not just a distribution function. And Allison has great perspective, lots of lessons, lots of advice and tips to share with people on that. I also love her on building teams, attracting and retaining and setting up for success, the best talent out there. So I know you're really going to enjoy this episode. And without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Alison MacLeod  of Flywire.

All right, we are here in Las Vegas, coming to you from Money 2020 us. Alison, how has your money 2020 been so far?

Allison: It has been great. Quite an experience. Lots of clearly events are back and great to meet lots of partners and be here.

Eric: I think it's interesting not to go off script before we've even started with the script, but big events like this, I always think it's so interesting from a marketing perspective. And so I'd love your kind of to share your thinking and the process on it for somebody like Flywire. But what are you looking to get out of an event like this? And then I guess the other part of the question for me is when I walk around an event like this, I'm always so fascinated by it's a big investment to do a big booth, to have a big presence here as a brand. How do you think about really standing out? Because that's the thing for me is I feel like a lot of the brands here, it's very kind of interchangeable what they're doing and how they're showing up. So how do plan for that? How do you try to do something that's different from everybody else?

Allison: So I'd say that across events, really, it's trying to understand what's your purpose of being there. And I think where marketers often may not get it right is that they try to do the same approach for every single event they go to. I am a little bit struck, but after two years of covid that the trade show circuit is back, but it's similar to what it was a couple years ago. So I was, what I was hoping to see was more change, things that are different, how do make a different experience but a lot of it is the same. And that could be primarily because it works or just because there's been a lot of change in the last two years. But I think when you think of brand investment, a lot of it is making sure that one, your purpose for what are you trying to do, whether that's making sure that you're connecting with clients, with prospects, with partners, all of that is really important to consider. And who do you want to stand out to? Because you might have the biggest, best presence. And yes, you might walk away with like, Ooh, they were super cool, they had a latte machine, or whatever it could be. But if it doesn't have the impact that you are going for, whether that's revenue, whether that's driving more partnership, more engagement, more awareness, then it's probably time to rethink that strategy.

Eric: Yeah, yeah. And we talk a lot about for brands in general, however they manifest whatever the channel is, whatever the activation is, you need to be relevant to the audience. Yes, you're trying to serve or reach, so you need to have a solution. You need to have a brand that people can actually feel like is relevant to them. But you also need to be differentiated ideally from everyone else within the category. And I feel like a lot of the businesses, businesses in general, particularly when it comes to events like this, they kind of stop at the point of relevance or maybe I'm being harsh, maybe they do try to think about how to be differentiated, but it just kind of falls down in the execution. Anyway just starting with that, since we are here and surrounded by a lot of big activations by different brands. So back on track. First question for you, Allison. What is a brand that you are very passionate about right now and why?

Allison: Well, I probably don't get any points for saying Flywire because it's where I work. I would still say for me, and I know that they still haven't the presses lately hasn't been great for them, but it's still Peloton. I have been a diehard Peloton fan for six, seven years now in counting. I still use it frequently. I've owned the bike since the early days. I consider myself an original member still have quite an affinity to the brand. Unfortunately. I think they're in a rough patch right now. I do hope they make it through. And I think why I've always felt so connected is really that how they've built to that community something I'm passionate about is, and exercise is sort of my happy place. So that's something that I've always really gravitated towards. So I know a lot of people have walked away from it. And I think in Covid it was what a little bit like, oh, now everyone has one. Everyone knows who they are. But I do think the community they've built over the years is something that is special and the promise that they make to their customers.

Eric: They're one of the examples that we use all the time of, we think about this kind of spectrum, if you will, between traditional brands like brands that exist and they might be at scale but don't, not really changing the category in any significant way. And then you think about challenger brands, brands that are trying to change the category, but actually the term challenger brand, first of all, in this world everybody calls themself a challenger brand, but it's a statement of intent rather than accomplishment saying that you are trying to do something, you're trying to change the category that you read. And then there are very few that are what we're calling and trying to make this a thing, rival brands which are successful challenger brands that have actually changed the category. And Peloton is I think a great example of a brand that had so much momentum through that challenger phase. And they did a lot of the things that we see successful challengers do. They created a community, they really spoke to a niche. They created a different way for people to buy and solve the needs that they have within the category of exercise. But then they kind of fell down at that last transition towards becoming a true rival of actually redefining the category. And in a way you could argue have the whole category of home fitness has really changed post pandemic. And there's a lot of challengers now with hydro. And I saw one, oh my God, the climbing one, have you seen the climbing one?

Allison: No.

Eric: There's a brand that's trying to make it's Peloton, but it's for climbing. It looks ridiculous. I need to, I'll send it to you,

Allison: Rock climbing or a -

Eric: It's like a machine where you a stair stand on it, it's like a StairMaster, but you're using your hands at the same time. It just screams like Nordic track to me. Those exercise eighties machines

Allison:In the eighties, Tony, little Suzanne summers.

Eric: But you know what? They're probably going to make a lot of money while they're doing it.

Allison: Probably will.

Eric: Anyway. So yeah, I think it's a great answer. It's a great brand to look at and that's always kind of how we view it. It's like they almost made it and they still pop. Probably could, but they haven't quite transitioned from being a challenger to being the true leader in a new category that they've created. Yeah,

Allison: I agree with that.

Eric: All right, so let's get into the meat of the conversation. I am really excited about this one based on our prep call and what I know about you. So we're going to talk a little bit about the role of marketing as you see it right now. We're going to get into what it actually looks like under the hood at Flywire. I know you're very passionate about and have a lot of advice to share on the people and talent side of things. And then lastly, we're going to talk about your perspective on the role of the CMO going forward. Great. So starting with the role of marketing, how do you think the role of the CMO or the role of marketing as a function has changed over the last few years?

Allison: So funny cause I sat on a panel yesterday talking about the evolution of the cmo. So still, I mean there's still the headlines out there, least amount of tenure in the role right up the C-suite. How do we think about marketing's impact? Oh, it's a cost center, but I truly believe and have seen the impact of it, of being a growth driver for organizations. And when you think about that, that's everything of course from your market position, how you tell your story, how you tell your story for your audiences internally, your external stakeholders, your clients, your investors your prospects, whoever that may be. And making sure that that is very well understood. And then also it's a driver primarily, particularly in B2B companies, you are a growth driver for helping with sales, with revenue with deal velocity. And also a lot of that, the positioning, the messaging and enablement of go-to-market teams. So I think we have seen quite a change. And if you just rewind the clock a couple years ago, every role across every industry had change and dealt with change in COD. But obviously marketing went from when you look at something like ti this, right? We're at an event where these didn't exist for a while and shifting a hundred percent to digital overnight. So one, I think it gave people the opportunity to really reinvent themselves, but also I think it gave marketing teams the opportunity to really look at what they were doing and then double down on things like digital, double down on different things like whether that's co-marketing or different channels to really try to drive not only the awareness but also adoption and engagement and loyalty. So I think it has evolved quite a bit. My hope is it continues to be evolve and continues to get a larger seat at the table. I don't think is big enough now <laugh> at the theoretical table. But I do think that as long as marketers continue to show that impact and the growth that they're driving for the organization, the better off we all are.

Eric: Few things that I want to pick up on and build on within what you said because I think so, so much good stuff within it. So I think the first thing for me is what you said about marketing being an innovation and growth function, or you might have said growth function, but to me it's growth and innovation. Cause I think all growth ultimately comes from innovation. It's what I see as I'm putting a positive spin on it. So much opportunity within many businesses, particularly tech businesses, financial services, businesses that we talk to and that I come across. But honestly if I'm being honest about it, it's where I think they're getting it wrong. They think of marketing, A lot of these companies think of marketing as a distribution function, yes, function. And a lot of that comes from the DNA of the companies and the DNA of the founders being primarily product and technology. And at the end of the day, one of the things I always say is the best marketing is a great product. And of course you need to build something great in order to have a chance to be a successful company, but you need both a powerful, differentiated, innovative marketing function as well as a product function to drive long-term sustainable growth of the business. And that is not just about taking a product to market, but it is about essentially connecting the product that you're building, the cvp, the value proposition of that to the needs in the market. And so I think there's so much opportunity within so many businesses and clearly you've already picked up on it and I'm sure this is how you're doing it at Flywire for marketing to be much more of an innovation function, not just a distribution function within these companies. I'd be curious all those headlines about the shortest tenure of all the executives for the CMO, whatever it is now, why do you think that is?

Allison: I honestly think a lot of times that marketing leaders aren't set up for success. And back to your point of the distribution channel, I still think it's thought of that way of the, Hey, here's our strategy, now go market it, go do something about it. And then I also think the priorities are all over the place. So do events, do this, do the brand, do this. Why aren't we here on digital? Why didn't we get mentioned here? Why isn't this happening here? Wait, what about positioning? I think because whether that's a misunderstanding of what truly is expected of the cmo, and if you look at the breadth of marketing, no CMO is ever going to be an expert at all of those things. I certainly am not, right? My lean is more towards demand gen sort of where I grew up. That's my roots. But I know how to hire the right people who are really masters of their craft in other areas like communications and brand and product marketing. But I still think the priorities of well marketing isn't enough to do X. That I think that's often what happens. And I also think because often marketing doesn't have that seat at the table, it's very hard to demonstrate, well this is the impact we're having, right? Because if they're not included it's very hard for marketing leaders to succeed. So I think the advice I try to give when people are looking for that head of marketing role is make sure you understand what the expectations are. And if someone is expecting you singularly to be an expert in all of those things, you should probably run and you should probably make sure that you are joining an organization and leading marketing with the expectation that you will be part of it and you will be part of growth and you will be part of the strategy.

Eric: So when you were interviewing and considering taking the role at Flywire, what were you looking for? What was the process for you to make sure that marketing and the right seat at the table that you had the right understanding within the organization that you were going to be set up for success there?

Allison: I will say, you know what? There's so many LinkedIn posts, there's so many in general, but there's one that I feel like in the marketing world, I'm sure you've seen a million times too of don't work for the CEO who doesn't understand marketing. I think one thing that I was very excited about with Flywire is that our CEO did say to me at the time, we need a leader to come in and lead this team and really figure out what to do here. Will you do this? But really has given me the opportunity to build that right and to bring forth the strategy that's going to help the company grow. And because of that, I feel like I have support. I feel like I have the seat at the table being part of the executive team, being able to lead that marketing team. And that has made a huge difference. And that to me was the exciting part of being able to build an incredible team globally within a company that was doing really well. So that was a big piece of why I joined.

Eric: This might be a bit of an unpopular opinion, but I feel like you talk to marketers and almost every marketer will say marketing's different. Everybody thinks they know marketing. Everybody's gotten a opinion, everyone's a marketer, marketing, everybody's a marketer. Marketing's always being asked to do more than less. We're the first one to get the budgets, cuts, all that stuff. I feel like it's probably true to a certain extent, but also if you get dropped into a group of product people or a group of finance people or a group of salespeople, I think everybody is going to have a similar type of pain point. Yes. How much of the marketing seat at the table issue and slash opportunity, I think within most organizations, so what I was talking about, about the fundamental misunderstanding and therefore vestment of marketing within a lot of tech companies in particular, how much of that and why do you think it is specific to marketing versus other functions?

Allison: So I do think it goes a back to a little bit of the, everyone's a marketer, right? Yeah. The one thing that's so hard about it, it is incredibly subjective. So people have opinions on, I don't like those words, I don't like those colors. I don't like what we said about this part of the product. And people are highly emotional about things like words like colors. It's innate in what we don't. I also think that you've seen in recent years, you've also awfully seen distributed marketing teams. And I know this varies by company. I might have a different opinion than others but when I see things like product marketing, not reporting into marketing and having nothing to do with marketing, it scratches my head of why would you take that job of that marketing if you're not owning all of marketing? And it doesn't say you need to own everything, but if there's no even clear partnership or collaboration doomed to fail in that instance because again, you're looking at a broken machine. And I do think going back to one thing I've observed and I try to be better about I'm, and by no means perfect is marketing the value of marketing internally. I can't underscore that a month enough and such a good point. I often feel like marketers are usually the worst at marketing themselves because you're so busy doing stuff and putting out fires and helping people and driving stuff for sales. And oftentimes you're not taking the time to say, okay, here's what we did. Here are our priorities, here's how, here's the progress segments our priorities, here's where we're going. So I think that's a big piece of it too, is that if people don't understand the mission and the purpose and the impact, it's very easy to say, oh, I don't know what they're doing. And I didn't really like that. So I don't know why they put that out. I do think that's a piece of why there's still well still struggles within a marketing function.

Eric: I haven't about that all the time because coming up in the advertising agency world, being in the consulting world now for a while at 11 Fs and now with Rival it's like a cobbler's children. It has no shoes type of situation. Where're advertising agencies and consulting firms for the most part 11 Fs and hopefully rival as we build it, the exception they're terrible marketing themself, which I find so ironic. I'd be curious on that point, the kind of internal marketing of marketing, is that something that you have a strategy and a process for, or is it more something kind of in the back of your head that you just try to make sure you and the team do? How structured is that as an objective within your kind of mind map being CMO or your team?

Allison: I would say it's a bit structured. I mean, one thing that we do is making sure that we're doing quarterly reviews by team. We're understanding and we share, we're share, we share that we invite our key stakeholders. We've moved more towards the whole entire marketing team, more to a twice a year look back of, again, reminder of here are the goals, here's what we set out to do, here are the priorities, how are we doing against those? And then in those key areas, we're a vertical specific company. So we focus on education, healthcare, travel, b2b and we have vertically aligned marketing fly mates. That's what we call ourselves internally focused on those verticals. So we are always looking at how are we doing with helping, again, if we look at that mission, what are we doing that's helping to drive that story, telling that story, what are we doing to drive and accelerate pipeline and revenue for our sales team? So it is something that we try to embed into our process and every team is pretty great about also bringing forth and sharing with each other about the work that they're doing and again, how that is tying to our goals.

Eric: Yep. Okay, cool. So let's shift gears with that context and knowing a little bit about your perspective and philosophy on the role of marketing. What does it look like at Flywire? So take us inside maybe give us a bit of an overview of the structure of the marketing department. I know that you also own, which is I think something that you don't see in a lot of organizations. So what's kind of the structure, what's the remit of the function and your department and the team within it? Right now

Allison: Suew, we have an amazing global marketing team. So we really are distributed across the globe. We're a global company. I'd say the only difficult thing about our structure is it's an impossible to find a time that works for everyone to get together, but we work on that. But when we think of as I mentioned, we are a vertical focused company. So education, healthcare, travel, and b2b. And the way we try to achieve that and make sure we're setting ourselves up for success is we have our vertically aligned teams. So think of that as your go to market, really close sales alignment as well as field marketing. Because again if say for education, we've, our team is global, so what we're doing in North America, very different than when you're doing in Japan or Australia. So we make sure that we have marketers that really understand what they're doing in region as well. So across those vertically focused teams, then we're also, if you think of it is the underpinning and the core of what we do is across both our corporate marketing team. So that team sits across our brand, our communication strategy, our digital marketing strategy and our content and social media as well. And then also ops and that. And Rev ops is helping to set not just for marketing, but across all of go to market. So marketing goals, sales goals a lot of the go-to-market processes, our tech stack, making sure we're enabling all teams, both marketing and sales. So that's been a big piece of how we, we've looked at that and it's definitely an evolution as we get bigger, we're always looking at, hey, are we aligned the right way? Are we focused on the right goals? Are we set up for success? Are we making sure that we're creating opportunities for marketers to keep learning? And they may start in a role focused on one vertical, but say, Hey, I'm so passionate about travel that I really want to focus on the travel vertical from marketing. So we're making sure that we're uncovering those opportunities too for our team members to be able to grow within the organization.

Eric: How big is the marketing team?

Allison: Across marketing and Rev ops? We're about 30 or so.

Eric: And how big is Rev Ops within that?

Allison: Probably eight to nine.

Eric: Yeah. And their remit. So ops specifically, just to make sure I understand how it's set up within Flywire. So they're responsible for the, I guess the facilitation of the sales process or the connection between marketing and sales where stuff gets handed from how marketing is actually generating leads for the business, or can you take it down a level for It's across?

Allison: If you think about it, it is combining what used to be very siloed team teams, marketing operations, sales operations, technology tools that honestly, if you look at it, many organizations, many different places and bringing that together and how are we driving insights and process everything from lead and awareness all the way through to retention. So the key pillars of which we focus on rev ops or our total operation, so marketing operations, the tech stack, how are we looking at generating that top of the funnel, making sure that we have great processes and handoff with sales. Then everything from the insights of what we do across the sales organization, sales, productivity, go to market productivity everything from designing incentive plans and commission plans for sales all the way through to enabling the team on tools and processes. And then lastly, that tech stack and again, this is across the entire go-to-market team. So for all our go-to-market tech staff, software tools we have that centralized within the team. And then a couple of things. One that's driving consistency that's making sure that we are short sort of sharing the wealth of best practices across teams, that we're onboarding marketers and sales the right way. And that we have a very consistent focus on things like improvement. Again, when we're looking at those things, how are we improving things like our ability to tell that story, what's the impact there? How are we improving our ability to drive sales, acceleration and revenue? So that's been a pretty phenomenal thing. It's something I'm very passionate about. Again, you don't often see rev op in marketing. And I think again, I go back to when I think of trying to reimagine or innovate on what marketing is like, I do believe it's a growth driver and I think it's ais, right? If not, I get that everyone's going to want to do these things, but I'm not the expert in rev ops, but I've hired an amazing person who is right. And being able to lead to guide and to just get more alignment across marketing, across sales it's so critical and it's so important. So something I'm very excited about and very passionate about as well.

Eric: So was part of marketing when you got there or was it part of sales and did you have to make a case for it to come under you?

Allison: It was a bit distributed. It was a bit distributed. We had some in marketing operations we had a couple of different transitions, but it was definitely something that I said, Hey, I'm really excited about it. I think this would be a great place for it. Again, when we think about that mission and enabling our go-to-market teams and making sure that they have the right things in process and how do we put that all together? So it was something that I put my hand up for and has been a great journey so far.

Eric: Yeah. And that goes back to what you were saying about the interview process. You considering joining the ceo. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> actually being actually understanding the true potential and role of marketing and being willing to support the vision that you had for it. And I guess on that note, so obviously the ceo, who they are, your relationship with them really matters, but there's always these key joints, I call it, within an organization where the functions need to come together and collaborate and marketing and sales is a huge one. So is there chief revenue officer, chief commercial officer, who is the person at the head of the sales function, and how important is that relationship and how have you built it over time? Because while you know can do your remit is marketing specifically in order to actually drive the ultimate outcome, not just output of marketing, which is the growth of the business and the way that you want it. You have to work really well with the sales function, I would imagine.

Allison: Yes. So one again, the unique things about us is that our go-to-market teams are focused by vertical. So we have four, I guess you could call them heads of sales and they're the general managers of the verticals and leave lead our sales and client success teams as well. So I have four key stakeholders and I probably spend the most amount of time with those four all wonderful people. And a lot of that is aligning on what's our strategy, what's our tactics, how do we think about this? And I think even if we think of the five of us, we to found great opportunities, just work together more as a group due to make sure we're sharing best practices. It's very easy to get siloed and you say, I'm focused on this and my vertical of how do you pick yourself up and say, Hey, what's happening over in travel or what's happening over in b2b?

Eric: So I think that's a relationship I'm really proud of across the teams. And I know there's so many organizations where there's so much strife between marketing and sales. I'm really proud of what we've built and the relationships that we have and that mutual trust and respect. Of course, it's not always perfect and we're always looking at different ways again of how do we support this? How do we continue to evolve? I do think though, a key driver of that is having ops in a central centralized location. Because otherwise what happens is that people are running their own models, they're looking at, they have different expectations of what you can do with your budgets, with your resources. So I think that has helped a lot, right, to one uncover insights that we may not have had, but also to find those opportunities. One of the things I'm picking up on about you, cause we had our prep call, but this is the most time we've spent together and I've read a little bit about your background and fly wire and some of the stuff that you've done. But what's really coming through for me in this conversation and I think is so valuable for people listening is the understanding of emphasis on. And it seems like your really strong ability to manage the people side of how this all comes together. A lot of people might call it politics, but it's funny, I remember working with someone kind of coming up, they were kind of coming to maybe a mid-level stage of their career. And the thing that they always struggled with was they were, was essentially the people side. So they were so good at the work <laugh> when something was black and white, when it was just like they could be the individual contributor, they would smash it. But whenever it came to how to work with other people, you know, ask for something and somebody doesn't do it you don't understand why they're going to prioritize their thing instead of the thing that you need. They just had a really hard time understanding it. And I think that that's such a, I'm sure you see it and I know we're going to talk about kind of talent and how you develop it and attract it next, but one of the things I see in the people that kind of want to take that next step up that want to get to the senior level or the CMO level is you need to understand how important the job around the job is. You can't do anything only yourself and you can't do anything. Only marketing. It all comes down to how well you can collaborate, set expectations with, communicate with, build relationships with the people in the business. And I think one of the flips that people need to make is they're kind of coming up the chain is to understand that to a certain point of your career comes down to how good you are at the things that you do. And in my opinion, the next stage of the career is all about how you can create that collective output by working really well with the people around you, even if they're outside of your depart, especially if they're outside of your department.

Allison: I a hundred percent agree with that and I think that's often hard learning for people. I would say even earlier in my career, you always think of it of I want to show my worth and have this big reveal and everyone will be so impressed. And I learned the hard way. You don't go into a room with executives and do a big reveal when people around that table haven't seen what you're thinking about, particularly if it impacts their world. So how do you bring people along in that journey? And I think so much comes down to communication. You could have the best deliverables, the best strategy, but if you can't communicate that and get other people on board and collaborate, it won't matter. So really understanding the motivations, what people are driven by, how you meet them, where they are, how you make sure that people feel like you're in the trenches with them. We're a team. It's not like you need to do this or I need to do this. That's such a big part of it. I'm always learning, always learning. And definitely not, I wouldn't say I've nailed this in any respect, but something I try to be more conscious of building those relationships. I also am naturally a people person. So building those relationships and knowing people beyond just work is really important for me. Cause it feels like that's how I can connect as well as make sure that we're spend a lot of time at work. You want to make sure that you're enjoying what you're doing and you're building relationships with the people you're building that impact for. So I do think it's a huge part of the role, again, is the communication and understanding with your key stakeholders.

Eric: One of my favorite quotes, and I've probably said it on past episodes, but Kim Scott who wrote Radical Candor, love Her is such a good book. She said Communication is measured at the listener's ears, not the speaker's mouth. And I think that's such a profound important thing for people to understand and you get to a certain point and you're like, yeah, obviously. But I think for a lot of people, they don't always act that way. They're like, well, I said my piece. It's on them to get it. It's your job, it's your job to make them understand and that that's true internally. That's true externally as well. Just because you want to market your brand in some way. You don't decide who your brand is. You might decide who you want your brand it to be, be right, but it's the audience, it's the market and their perception, their ears that actually determine what your brand is. So perfect. Springboard into the next chapter of our conversation. Let's talk about talent. I know you have a lot of thoughts and a lot of passion about how to build happy, productive, passionate, successful teams. I guess the place to start is obviously a lot of conversation, a lot of headlines about how tough the talent market is right now. How have you navigated that at Flywire and how are you thinking about building, I guess, the employer brand of Flywire and how you run your team to successfully attract top talent?

Allison: So I would say one, definitely an area I'm passionate about, but I think one of the things that makes Flyer Fly Wire so unique is yes, our employer brand, but that really is tied to, part of that is just how we amplify well, who we are as a company and our values. And we are, as I mentioned, global. So we have mates all over the world. More than 40 nationalities represented more than 35 languages spoken, which is incredible. So I learned so much. But I do think one thing that we say as a company, and I truly believe that it is, how do we give people that opportunity to build their career of a lifetime? And I love nothing more. My dream was always to be the cmo and I feel like I have gotten there and I really truly do love my role but I feel like what's next for me is how do I keep building that future bench of CMOs and people who want to do more in their career. It's incredibly rewarding when you can coach someone and give them the tools, but really they're doing it themselves. So my hope is that's what some, that gets people very excited about. One, what we're working on, two, the team, one the company is incredible and our culture and our values but also how we built that within marketing. So a lot of that comes from, as I said, the marketing of marketing, giving people those opportunities to share, giving people those opportunities to try new things or to go into a different role or perhaps it is just get more exposure to whether it be the executive team or someone else. So those are things I'm always trying to uncover and trying to think of what else could we do? But that's a big piece of it and making sure that what I try to say to people too is I'll never be able to design your career for you. So if someone says, what's next? I can't design that. I remember earlier in my career, I'd always ask my boss that, and her response would always be like, what do you want? And I'd get frustrated by that, be like, but I just want to hear that you're going to be the X of this, right? But when I think about it is if I were to design a career for someone, it's probably going to look far different than what their passions are. Some people want to manage people and they want to be a people leader. Other people want to stay close to their craft and they, whether that's they want to continue to design or do product marketing or do sales compensation design, that's what keeps them happy and fulfilled. And fulfillment is something that's one of our core values and something that we really focus on. So that's been a big piece too of how do we help people build that career of a lifetime? We are still a small and nimble team, so I don't necessarily have a, oh, you'll start here and here's where you'll go. It's really like, what do you want to do? What do you want to learn? What do you want to try? So that's something always looking to get better at and focus on and drive. Again, excitement in the team. One thing we've recently done too is not me deciding, hey, how do we think of improving on things like our engagement or things like training and development, and it's a subgroup of marketing fly mates that have come together to say, here's how we want to make sure we're connecting with each other, how we want to share what each other do, what a career map may look like, and here's how we're going to think about training. And I love that, right? Because if I do it, I don't know if that's going to be right. I don't know if that's what they really want, but how do you give people that opportunity to design that for the team and for themselves?

Eric: I just want to underline a couple things you said because they really resonate with me and I think they're really important for people to take away. So one is I think self-awareness is such, it should be talked about a lot more. Yes. I mean, going a little bit off the topic of this conversation, I think it should be taught in school. I think I agree that I think that from a young age we should be talking to people about how important it is to understand who you are, what you want, and then that's kind of more of the personal side I guess. But then professionally, I think a lot of people are always looking outward, always looking for someone to give 'em the answers, someone to tell them what to do. I have a big rant that I go on about mentorship and how everybody's wants their big mentor, who's going to be the person who's done exactly what they've done. And I'm like, maybe for some people that's out there, but at least in my experience, I spent a lot of time kind of thinking that I needed that person. Then I realize actually almost everybody I come across in a way is this conversation is a mentorship conversation for me. All the people around you and the market and all the experiences you have are an opportunity to learn. And so I think that combination of giving people the space and the support to actually think about what they want, turning it back on themself because that's where the real answer is going to come. It's the only place, yeah, the real answer, yeah, can actually come from, is there anything that you do specifically differently at Flywire? Because all of that, I see how that has an impact on retention for sure. I see how that has an impact on hiring once you get somebody into the conversation, into the interview. What about for the brand? Is there anything that you do to put this beacon out there to the world that you're doing things differently, that you're creating this type of environment for talent within Flywire? How do you actually get the right talent to come to you?

Allison: I do think we have a pretty really strong employer brand and that's definitely a collaboration between our people team and our marketing team to make sure that we're getting that out there. But even if we think of specific channels Instagram, we have inside Flywire and that does give an inside look at our fly mates and you do see, I remember looking at that before I started to being like, wow, this just seems so unique, so global. I'm seeing fly mates in Valencia making paella together. I'm seeing the Shanghai team out to dinner one night. And when you get there you realize how real and how wonderful it is. And everyone says about their company like, oh, it's truly the people. And I really mean it when I say it right, because it is, it's been such an amazing experience when a lot of times when you think of a global company, it's typically us based with global offices and we really are so ingrained and you think of those values that we stand on. So I do think that makes it so unique and I think when people experience it, they're more likely to talk about it and to share and want to bring others in. And it's just such a great work experience. I think again, all these shifts that happen with Covid, seeing so many people try to push people back to the offices now we have offices, they are open, they've been open, and certainly there are fly mates that go in and love to be there but there is no mandate to say you have to be back there. In fact, we've already said very clearly, we will remain fly bread or take on <laugh>. I got to get a marketing moment in their somewhere. I mean, marketers love their puns, so I get it. We got to get in their somewhere respect. But that making sure that people feel like they have the autonomy, have <laugh> the ability to work where they need to work. And again, for me, like I say this fulfillment, when I think of what holds me and one of the core values, I'm a mom, I have three little boys and I'm a cmo, and I don't feel like I have to compromise either of those. So if I need to go drop a kid at football practice at 4:00 PM I go do that. And I think that's, that's something that's just ingrained in our culture is to give people really and empower them to do their roles and to have big contributions at Flywire. So I think that's something that has really helped to stand on our employer brand. I think the other is we're very tied to the communities we serve. So if you launched a charitable foundation a few years ago and that is giving scholarships to students across things like social justice or global medical programs we serve universities, we serve hospitals, we serve travel, we try to give back to the communities of which we serve. We've been had a great partnership with an organization called School to World that goes and builds schools for children in central America, impoverished communities where children don't have schools or have no means in order to get education or literature or books. And that's been pretty amazing. And you see fly mates who get so excited to give back and go on these trips and serve in the communities. So I think that's something that's so special. And then when people experience it, it's just really something to be part of. It's not lip service, it really is just who we are. It's been sort of ingrained in our DNA since day one.

Eric: You touched on something that I want to double click on for a second. You mentioned culture, and that could be the subject of an hour long conversation in itself, but my specific question within that is how do you think about culture for the marketing department? Versus is not the right word, but let's just leave it in there, versus the culture for the wider organization. Do you have a separate set of values? Do you translate the culture of the company to the marketing department? Is it just the same? I'd just be curious to get your take on that.

Allison: I wouldn't say we have a separate set of values. I would say that we are focused on that mission. Again, that mission of how do we tell that story? How do we make sure that we are a growth driver and making sure that, what I try to encourage people to do of we're asked to do so many things and you're working on so many things when you think of prioritizing, pick your head, pick your up and say is driving those two things, should I really be spending my time here? I hope I have made the team feel like the empowered to make sure that they are masters of their craft and to drive their career. I also think it's an incredible group. Try to make things open for sharing and give people opportunities to share with the group or to present on a different topic. So I think as a group that loves collaborate, have fun together marketers are in general very friendly and fun people too. So that doesn't hurt in terms of just overall culture of the team, but something that I'm really proud of. I think we have such an incredible organization and so many talented people who I get to learn from every day. So that I think has been pretty great.

Eric: So this is all very positive.

Allison: I know I'm a very positive person.

Eric: I got those vibes. And it does sound like you've truly created a really special culture and special team within Flywire. What happens when it doesn't go well? Performance issues firing. What about the other side of this conversation when you don't have the right talent or you're not able to find the right talent? I'd just be curious to hear you talk about that for a little bit.

Allison: That's always the stuff that no one wants to talk about, right nd deal.

Eric: But it's just as not more important the way right

Allison,It is. Because I think part of it is always making sure, I think there's a couple different things to look at again of where are you going? And you see this a lot with companies and teams that evolve. People that are great for say that early stage and love to do everything and have their hands and everything are amazing at that stage. And as the company grows and matures, there are bigger expectations. Our expectations get bigger every year. So I keep saying too, if I was still doing the same stuff I was doing three years ago, I probably shouldn't be here anymore. So I have to keep learning and expanding and growing. But I think part of that is having the right conversations and making sure that those expectations are easier set than done. Because hard conversations are hard for everyone, especially me. I don't like hard conversations, but they're so important. And having them as early as you can is even more important, right? Because it's a lot of times easier to sort of say, oh, I'll just deal with that later. Oh, I'll just deal. Oh, maybe we'll sort itself out. But I think having those, I go back to, you mentioned Kim Scott earlier, right, of the radical candor. So how do you be clear and how do you set the red expectations? And then also learning. It doesn't always have to be bad. Sometimes there's cases where it could be that way but it doesn't always have to be. Having those honest conversations of performance and where people are I think that's such a big piece of it. And it's a necessary piece to listen to the feedback and to understand what you need. And just like any team, whether that is business or sports or whatever it may be they're players that play different roles and different parts at different times of growth.And I think that's so important of a leader. To take a step back I'm more than anyone, of course, I want to be liked, that's who I am as a human. But I also have to realize not everyone's going to like me, and I have to be okay with that. I know not everyone likes me and I'm quasi okay with it, but I'm learning, I'm learning, I'm working on it. I'm learning to be more comfortable with it. But that's such a big piece is it is my job to make sure that I have the right to team to perform on the goal. So when you're in it, it's so hard to be like, oh, I don't don't want to deal with it. But then if you zoom out to say, but what is my job? It's to have the best performing team. And there may be players, it may not be right for this next phase but it's always, it's an evolution, right? It's a process.

Eric: So that point, what you said about zooming out in the last word there, process, I was going to ask, do you have any processes or frameworks that you use to make sure that you are having those hard conversations when you need to? For example, this isn't specific to having a hard conversation, but one of the things that I've always done with my teams is, you know, have the weekly, you have the twice a year annual review, but I also have a monthly one-on-one that is specifically not to talk about the day-to-day, week to week stuff, but to take a step back and just have a general informal conversation. How are you doing? How am I doing? And that creates the space to actually have more of a feedback conversation that can be positive, but also can be more constructive. What do you do tactically in your system as a CMO to push yourself to do that? Particularly, and I think this is the case for a lot of people listening, that's something that maybe doesn't come as naturally or that you're not as inclined to do.

Allison: One, I like the how are you doing? How am I doing? One, because normally I try to make it a little bit different, but one thing I have learned is that everyone likes to be managed differently. And that was a hard lesson too, right? Is you kind of want to use the same playbook of, all right, Eric, we're here. Let's talk about what are your roadblocks and what are things going well and not but that doesn't work for everyone. I have some people that they don't want to hear the small talk. They don't, I do it anyway cause I can't help myself, but they don't want to have clear things that they want to get through and they need my undivided attention to listen to. Others may want to talk about more personal stuff or where they're growing. Sometimes it naturally evolves into, it has to talk about a career conversation.

So I would say one, it's making sure and now, and I give this advice, but I'm also horrible about following it. Even when you think about the time with your direct reports, try as much as you can to protect that time. Sometimes it's hard, right? You're like, oh, well, it's always on the calendar so I can we'll just move it to tomorrow. Guilty. I'm very guilty of that. But I try to be more conscious of it, of this is someone's time. Let's protect this time. Let's make sure that I am listening and fully engaged. And like you said before, the listening piece and making sure you're not just listening to speak if you're turned but in. So how can I be more present and how can I listen? But I do think it goes back to that expectation setting. So in order to, harder conversations are always going to happen. If any leader out there is saying, I have a perfect, I've never had a hard conversation, never had to deal with performance issues. Well they're probably lying, or they just didn't deal With it. They're not, or they're not doing their job well

<laugh> deal with it. Yeah, it's just part of the role. But I think making sure of how are you holding people accountable? Are the expectations set correctly? Do people know where they stand? Do they know what's expected of them? Having those conversations is so key to avoid the awkward <laugh> hard conversation of, well, you're not performing, I thought you would. And it's like, what? I thought I was amazing. So I think that again of how do you make sure you're weaving that in of how are we doing against our goals? How are we checking in on that quarterly or monthly? So that's a big piece of it.

Eric: Have you read Surrounded by Idiots? No. Just check it out. Okay. Great book. All right. It just basically goes into kind of how everybody's different, different personalities, different way that people need to be or want to be, or can most effectively be communicated with each other. The other one is culture map, which is really good. I have not heard about, so is the woman who co-authored read Hastings most recent book, like the Netflix culture? I can't remember exactly what

Allison: I know what you're talking about.

Eric: Yeah. Anyway, those are two good books. I'll send 'em to you. Okay, great. I know that we are up on time, so let's quickly touch on the other thing. I wanted to get your thoughts on shifting gears slightly. We talked about this at the beginning, but I thought it would be a good way to bookend conversation, getting marketing a bigger seat at the table. So you talked about your perspective on the short tenure of the cmo, how more organizations can take more advantage of the function of marketing, more of a growth and innovation function on distribution function. Your experience looking for the right place to become the CMO and structure the role in the way that you wanted it to or that you wanted to at Flywire. What about the role of the cmmo going forward? Take whatever time, domain, five years, 10 years? What are your kind of don't necessarily have to be predictions, but observations on kind of trends and where the future of this function and the head of this function is going?

Allison: So I think it has the opportunity to go in a couple of different directions. One, I feel like the last couple of years we've heard a lot about the rise of the cro and is the CM O role going away? Will it be obsolete? Potentially, but what if that evolves to the CRO r o, right? Or the head of growth. I see that opportunity for, and I think a lot of times people discount marketers as being leaders of all of go-to market and leaders of revenue. But I think that is it for everyone. Maybe not, but I do think that people who understand their impact in the marketing world, understand how they're driving revenue, understand how it is deeply involved in that sales process and coaching and training. There's opportunity there for, perhaps it's the marketing leader that evolves into the CRO rather than what's normally written about is the sales leader evolving into the CRO and leading sales and marketing. Because it's typical to say, well, they can run marketing too, because everyone's a marketer. So I think that's an avenue. There's also companies that pride themselves on being very product led and product led growth and more SaaS. And I think the head of marketing, having the opportunity to more influence that product roadmap and influence that client journey and customer experience. So I do think that there mean, my hope is that you see more CMOs that are CROs in a couple years or are head of marketing and product or I keep seeing the chief market officer of when you think about what marketers are in charge of across your go-to market, your positioning revenue brand, and really is the market. So I think there is opportunity to continue to evolve. I do hope that marketers continue to push. I think part of that is how do you make sure that people understand the value, the mission of your team?

Eric: How do you create those relationships internally? How do you keep asking the it's again, hard advice, but the worst you can always hear is no. So if there's something that you feel like, Hey, I could add value here if I had more involvement or if maybe this is part of my remit, ask for that. I think that's a big piece of it. Often I think when you talk to other marketers out there, it's like, well, they're going to move this or take this away or reduce budget by this or cut resources by this, but I still have to do more and I'll just keep my head down and keep going. So I do think that's something that's incredibly important is that for marketers, for their team, their team wants this of them, their team wants them to advocate for them. How do you continue to grow that seat? How do you continue to drive value and continue to broaden and expand?

Eric: And it's interesting because a lot of what you're talking about, I would argue, is actually going back to the fundamentals of marketing, four Ps six Ps, right? And this is my big thing overall is at the end of the day, marketing has not actually changed that much all the time if you're doing it well, because at the end of the day, it's about changing human perception and behavior to drive the growth of your business through a brand. It's all the same thing. It's just gotten, or I think a lot of companies have gotten distracted and marketing has become siloed and it's become sidelined in many ways. But actually, if you go back to the basics and you craft the role around that and you execute well against that, that's where the most successful brands, the most successful CMOs for those listening, I'm pointing at you right now.

Eric: Thank you. Are really coming from. So I think that there's a ton to be said about that. I remember what I was going to say before, and I know it's totally out of flow right now, but I'm still going to throw it out there. Okay. Because I think it'll be interesting for people. One of the hacks that I use, so going back to the conversation around having those tough conversations with people, one of the hacks that I use is trying to think about how you would talk about if you're having a meeting with one of your direct reports, if you are talking to your boss, CEO or whoever about how they were doing your direct report, what you would tell them, your boss and what you would tell the person. Try to make that as close as possible.

Allison: Yes, that's a good one.

Eric: So I think if you start there of what would I say about this person to my boss, to the radical candor thing, you have to do it in the right way and in a way that's going to be helpful for them. But that's kind of always where I start from and then work backwards towards the thing that's actually going to be most productive in that conversation.

Allison: Good one. The other one that I feel like has helped me quite a bit, I learned this a while back, is again with humans, the second you say, Eric, you did this, or You're not doing this, you get defensive. Yeah. Because it feels like an attack and it also feels like judgment, but if you say, help me understand. Yep. Your process here, help me understand why we're not there. It does sort of diffuse that, right? And gets people to critically think, and I'm saying this because I feel like it's happened to me before when I've been asked it that way, and in my head I think, oh my gosh, what did I do? Or what was I focused on?

Eric: That I think is another good tactic of, and until you almost never have the full context or understanding of a situation or why someone did what they did. So it's actually genuinely the best way to go about having that conversation is to try to learn first and not pass judgment until you really understand. Yeah. So we are, we're now way over on time. That went very quickly, I have to say. Sure. I know a lot of it has to do with you in this conversation, but being in person has been great, and I feel like we could keep rolling for a while and it has not gotten too hot. No, it

Hasn't. And this honey, but they're probably going to pick, kick us out of the money pot soon

And kick us out. So last question, just to wrap things up. Yes. What is one thing, we've covered a lot of ground in this conversation. What is one thing, if you had to pick one, that people should do differently after listening to this episode?

Allison: One thing is say, if you're not doing this already, make sure that you have those opportunities to demonstrate the value of marketing and the impact of marketing within your organization. It seems like the thing that's like the less obvious of like, eh, well, we'll do that with way of time. So important because if your organization doesn't understand the priorities, the goals, how it's driving things, I think we'll continue to see marketing teams in this place where it's the, I don't know what they do and it's a office. Obviously, a great opportunity to let your marketers shine too.

Eric: Amazing. Such good advice. Allison, thank you so much for making the time.

Allison: Thank you. Is welcome. This is great.

Eric: Scratch is a production of Rival. We are a marketing innovation consultancy that helps businesses develop strategies and capabilities to grow faster. If you want to learn more about us, check out If you want to connect with me, email me eric£ or find me on LinkedIn. If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe, share with anyone you think might enjoy it, and please do leave us a review. Thanks for listening and see you next week.

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