Big Lessons from Marketing’s Fearless 50

Modern Marketing


For the past couple of days, I (and the other 6,000 people at Marketing Nation Summit 2018) have had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with some of the most successful and fearless marketers in the world. This included hearing from an all-star panel moderated by Marketo CMO Sarah Kennedy, and five remarkable members of the Marketo Fearless 50—our inaugural program sponsored by PFL and cultivated by Sarah to bring marketers from around the world who are intrepid in their use of technology, data, and leadership to drive bold digital transformation in their organizations.

Naturally, while listening to the panel discussion, I found myself thinking about how I, or anyone, can be as consistently bold, brave and inspiring in our own careers. Where is the “on button” for marketing fearlessness? How do you sustain fearlessness on a daily basis? And how do you nurture it across your organization?

As it turns out, those fearless panelists—Kristen Wendel, director of marketing operations at Planview, Emily Poulton, marketing manager at The Adecco Group, Tyler Lessard, vice president of marketing at Vidyard, Aria Pergolino CMO at Anaplan, and Nnamdi Nwoke, senior director of demand generation at GreenSky—provided answers to these and other germane questions, both in their roundtable and in video interviews.

Here are some of their best insights and experiences that resonated with me and I hope it will inspire you as well.

CMO Sarah Kennedy took the stage for day two’s opening keynote asking the question: “What does it mean to be fearless?”

“Fearlessness should be at the core of all we do,” Kennedy told the audience. “But the goal is not always success—sometimes there’s no glory, it’s just a labor of love. In fact, failure can be a gut-check moment what makes us who we are. Fearlessness sometimes just equals ‘trying’,” In other words, “leaning into what we believe and not being afraid to fail can create a better version of ourselves in the end,” she explained.

That’s fearlessness on the personal level. On the business level, with things moving so incredibly fast, Kennedy said, today’s marketers are “accountable and responsible, but have no idea what’s coming next.”

Nevertheless, she said, there are three things we can do to maintain fearlessness. First, change perspective and attitude about failure. “It can be the beginning of the story, not the end,” she said, “so accept the shift, embrace it, and take action.”

Second, pick one thing and be fearless—but not reckless—about it. “Pick one thing to experiment with and take a risk from a new perspective. Bring your conviction and, remember, what works today might not work tomorrow.”

Finally, make space for your team. “Be their catalyst,” concluded Kennedy. “Give them space to learn and grow, and don’t dilute their passions. You must create a culture of empowerment. Decide to be bold and bring bravery to all you do. As leaders, we have no choice but to this.”

Being Bold is a Mindset

The motivational mantra “be a warrior, not a worrier” applies perfectly to being a fearless marketer. For Kristen Wendel, being fearless begins with “not having an aversion to risk.” She goes even further, drawing a line in the sand against mediocrity in saying, “Being bold is a mindset. I am not okay with being average or taking the easy way out.”

Neither does Tyler Lessard pull any punches, claiming, “Fearless marketing is about embracing the idea that ‘good enough is no longer good enough,’ and having the conviction to do whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd and make your voice heard.”

Confidence Clears the Way

Confidence is a great dispeller of fear. Not surprisingly, it is a theme visited by most of the panel members. According to Emily Poulton, “The most important characteristic of a fearless marketer is to be confident—confident in your abilities, confident in what you can do.”

For Maria Pergolino, confidence gives boldness legs to stand on, saying, “Don’t just be bold. Be bold with great information, with great ideas, and then move forward with confidence.”

Tyler ties confidence to leadership, saying that “a fearless marketer must have the confidence and courage to lead by example.”

Fearless for Your Customers’ Sake

As the customer needs to be at the center of everything marketing does, it’s only natural that we be fearless in providing them value and protecting their interests. Nnamdi Nwoke believes, “The fearless marketer is a ferocious champion for the customer.”

Emily clearly agrees, saying “Fearless marketing to me is not being afraid of doing what you think is right for the customer.”

Tyler draws the inspiration for his fearlessness from the responses his company gets from its customers. “Replies that ‘I love you guys,’ and “Vidyard has a soul and I thank you for that,’ are all the inspiration I need,” he says.

When Opportunities Knock

Fearlessness in the face of new opportunities is another theme picked up by many of the panelists. Emily believes, “Opportunity inspires me to be bold. You’ve got to find opportunities and take them while you can.” Leaving full-time employment and taking a contract role at her current company was just such an opportunity. “Terrifying, but so worth it,” she claims.

Says Maria, “The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is just following great market opportunities and not being scared to take the next step.”

Partnerships and Leadership

We are at a time that marketers must step forward and take responsibility for the end-to-end customer journey, which often means stepping outside of our comfort zones. It’s daunting but necessary. Kristen believes in the power of partnerships. “Find someone within your organization that shares your passion and your vision for marketing,” she says. “Don’t try to go out and do it alone.”

Emily councils, “Believe in yourself, but also do not be arrogant. You need to be able to take people with you and bring people up and help them on the way.”

Maria adds that knowledge of marketing is not enough. “You really have to understand the entire business; all of those things that make up having great business acumen are critical to being a fearless marketer.”

Finding the Fearlessness “On” Button

How do you jump-start fearlessness? Says Maria, “Being fearless to me is really just moving forward, getting stuff done, being excited about what you are doing and then, most importantly, sharing that back so that all of us can do better together.”

Emily boils it down to, “Always trust yourself. Trust your abilities. And just be the best person you can.”

Concludes Nnamdi, with a smile, “Any marketer who is looking to step out there and be fearless and bold, my advice would be to just go for it. Do something that dazzles and amazes, and always push the envelope of your job each and every day.”

Ready to Join the Fearless 50’s Class of 2018?

If you, like me, sat in my seat and had goosebumps from the fearless stories, and know someone just like that, nominate them to join the 2018 class of the Fearless 50. You have until May 8th to put in your nominations. Create a short video and post on social media with #Fearless50. Read more about it here.

And keep checking back here because we’ll be sharing more of the Fearless 50 stories with you. Now take a step, do something fearless today. I am.