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The Best Marketing Leaders Know What Works — Twilio CMO Sara Varni Says B+ Marketing Isn’t Good Enough

Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin kicks off a series of chats with industry-shaping marketing leaders.

Sarah Franklin-Sara Varni
Twilio and Salesforce CMOs Sara Varni and Sarah Franklin believe in authentic marketing.

When I became Salesforce President and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) earlier this year, it was a dream come true, something I aspired to throughout my 13 years at Salesforce. It was also a massive undertaking, with the world still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that came with it.

In the past year, marketing leaders have completely rewritten long-established playbooks. We’ve had to look at everything we thought we knew and reimagine it. Most of all, we have had to find new ways to make connections with our audiences to help us focus on customer success and inspire customer loyalty. That’s why I’m stepping out from behind my computer screen and hitting the road to make new (in person!) connections with some of the most innovative marketers in business. We’re calling this new video series Connections with Sarah Franklin.

That’s right, from California to Texas to Hawaii and elsewhere – thanks to the miracle of vaccines – I’m getting out there to bring the perspective and expertise of senior marketing leaders right to you.

Authentic marketing is about being helpful and helping, not selling.

sara varni, twilio cmo

Who are today’s marketing leaders? How are they reinventing their tactics in a time of dramatic change? And where do they see marketing heading next?

In the first episode, I meet Sara Varni, CMO at Twilio, and hear about how her team is focused on authentic marketing, which she defines as “earning the right to speak with your customers and delivering content that prioritizes their needs above your company or your product’s needs…It’s all about really being helpful and helping, not selling. That’s really a mantra that we try to live day in and day out.“

Establishing authenticity, trust, and purpose (in connecting with employees and customers) has taken center stage and is a top priority for many organizations.

During our conversation, which took place at a bowling alley — Sara is an amazing bowler — we also talked about trusting your instincts and not being reactive.

“I think a lot of marketing organizations can act as service organizations and in that mode, you’re just going to be reactive to your inbox,” she said. “You can do a fine job doing that and you can probably get a B+ at your job just by being responsive. But you’re not necessarily going to put up innovation.”

In upcoming episodes, I cross the San Francisco Bay to chat with Kory Marchisotto, CMO at e.l.f. Cosmetics. In Austin, I’ll meet Carla Pineyro Sublett, CMO at IBM. And on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, I meet with big wave surfer Laird Hamilton to discuss how he launches and markets two businesses, XPT Extreme Performance Training and Laird Superfood.

I want to hear their stories, their challenges, and their triumphs. I am sure the lessons are universal and that we can learn from each other, in a year like no other.

It’s a year of connections with some of the most innovative marketing leaders around. I hope you’ll join me.

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