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CMO Strategy Series: Achieving Results With Purpose-Driven Teams

Drew Fortin is the SVP of Sales and Marketing at The Predictive Index (PI), the pioneers of talent optimization. PI’s platform helps clients measure engagement, design amazing teams, hire the best talent, and inspire employees. With over fifteen years of marketing, sales, and management experience, Drew has a passion for sparking inspiration in others to be their most productive and engaged.

1. Who – or what – has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I’m a big reader so there are several different influencers in my life. When it comes to teamwork and management, the biggest influence for me is Patrick Lencioni and The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s about fostering the right team dynamics with a heavy emphasis on trust and creating space to have healthy conflicts that propel your team forward to hit targets. It’s truly changed my life and how I think about work. 

When I think about strategy, I think of On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis. It’s a fantastic insight into the delicate balance of being super simple. People get mired down in tactics and how to outsmart everyone, but ultimately it confuses and muddies the vision for people. 

In the past year, social and emotional needs have shown how much stronger they ring and when you can connect with those you can empower people, inspire them, and make them feel a purpose. 

When I think of influencers in my marketing perspective, there are three: Joseph Campbell, Clay Christensen, and Margaret Mark. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces and has stood the test of time because we’re living it every day. We all go through trials and tribulations and the more we connect to the social and emotional needs of our stories through marketing, the better our message resonates. 

Clayton Christensen’s Competing Against Luck is about jobs-to-be-done theory, and understanding the social, emotional, and functional needs of our market and who we are serving. In the past year, social and emotional needs have shown how much stronger they ring and when you can connect with those you can empower people, inspire them, and make them feel a purpose. 

Margaret Mark’s The Hero and the Outlaw takes Carl Jung’s work on behavioural types of people and how those translate into eleven brand archetypes. Brands and marketing confuse people when they pick two different archetypes, so you need to pick one and lean into that to see success. 

2. What has been the biggest market strategy shift you’ve had to make recently?

PI has always been known to advocate for hiring the right people, and when we launched talent optimization in 2019 it was huge. 2020 was meant to be the year we released our platform aligned to talent optimization, but leveraging our hiring product as the beachhead. We crushed it in Q1, but then the pandemic hit and hiring wasn’t as electric.

So last March we made an immediate decision to put our hiring product on the shelf and pivoted to a product we call PI Design. It helps business leaders answer questions on whether they can keep the ship afloat, if they have the right strategy, and if teams are still engaged. We took the whole company from targeting HR to targeting C-suite leaders to make sure they have tools to help them manage this period of massive change. 

It accelerated our product roadmap about twelve months and focused on a different persona. It was all hands on deck until we released PI Design in October when we made it generally available to our clients and partners. Then in January we did Dream Teams Summit to showcase the product and now it’s achieving way beyond our goals. But it’s all because we made that decision to pivot early. And now we’re in a position to revamp our hiring product for this summer.

3. The skills people were hiring for just a year ago aren’t the same as today, how can marketers make sure they’re learning skills that will set them up for success?

There’s definitely something to be said about buoyancy or range. Nowadays marketing is so multifaceted. In a larger company, you tend to seek specialized roles with people who have years of experience in one discipline. 

But this past year has taught us that success in all hands on deck situations is dependent on our perspectives, our experiences, our diversity as a team, and how we can move through this together. The focus has accelerated towards hiring people that are passionate and driven about the product and the market. Before hiring, it’s so important to have a conversation about your culture and what behaviours you want people to espouse. Don’t go for culture-fit, go for culture-add. Are we too data-oriented and need a risk taker? Do we need a change agent? 

But this past year has taught us that success in all hands on deck situations is dependent on our perspectives, our experiences, our diversity as a team, and how we can move through this together. The focus has accelerated towards hiring people that are passionate and driven about the product and the market.

When it comes to skills, we need to separate them into different buckets. Personal development is super important. With the conjunction of what’s happened in the past year with social injustice, diversity, and inclusion, there’s also burnout and anxiety about going back. Learning about new technical marketing skills will always be important, but the onus is on leaders to deliberately make space for all types of education. One thing that has helped keep this at the forefront, is we implemented mandatory monthly personal development meetings for every Sales & Marketing PIoneer. This is 100% dedicated time for team members to talk with their manager about what’s going on in their work, their life, and finding new ways to grow. 

4. We’ve all had to adopt new ways of working over the last year, are there any crisis-era adaptations that you think marketing leaders should make permanent?

Connection between brand, work culture, and recruitment brand is changing for the better. To me, crisis-era adaptations means we have to stop responding and be proactive. People are looking for companies to take action. I think listening to social signals – not just product adoption and engagement – is really important as well as having a way to measure them such as NPS. Social factors are making their way into our branding and messaging and I’m glad they are. For too long companies have been able to straddle all sides of the situation, but those days are over. 

When we talk about products there’s a slippery slope of getting too tactical and forgetting that product is part of a whole brand experience. Every experience your customer has from reading content, becoming a lead, becoming a client, being a long-term customer it’s because of the all-around.

In making a stance sometimes you’re making a decision to exclude some people that have a different belief than you. But chances are, 80% of your customer base is adopting your product not for it alone, but because of everything surrounding it. When we talk about products there’s a slippery slope of getting too tactical and forgetting that product is part of a whole brand experience. Every experience your customer has from reading content, becoming a lead, becoming a client, being a long-term customer it’s because of the all-around. They’re subscribing to what the product empowers them and their business to do. 

B2C has been ahead of this curve; when you’re marketing to consumers you’re already thinking about their social and emotional needs because it’s such a part of their day-to-day lives. B2B has been hanging out in the shadows, but now they’re bringing this to light. Marc Benioff at Salesforce has been such a trailblazer this way. The rise of advocate CEO leadership is definitely here.  

5. How has your investment strategy changed compared to pre-COVID?

In the past six years that I’ve been at PI, we’ve taken a company with strong brand affinity in its client-base and increased the revenues more than 300%. 

We don’t do a ton of webinars, we’ve gone super specialized with maximum thirty people in one niche area for round-table talks. 70% of our budget is dedicated to demand gen programs and we allocate 30% of our budget to brand. We always invest that much to feed our category and brand building efforts. We’re not looking for directly attributable ROI within a certain period from the brand budget – it’s paving the way for our future. 

85% of our lead-flow is organic because of our content marketing. Our content engine is fantastic, and we’re continuing to double and triple down on that area by building a product out of it. We’re creating a product called PI Learn for anyone interested in talent optimization, self development, and connecting business strategy to people strategy. We’re taking people from consuming information to curated learning paths towards achievement. 

With so many leads driven by our content engine, we’re focused on finding ways to complement that strategy. Pre-pandemic we held our first conference: OPTIMA. We just held OPTIMA21 100% virtual and it focused on bringing people together to talk about talent optimization through the lens of what’s happened over the last year. 

It was emceed by Guy Raz of NPR’s How I Built This podcast and featured keynotes from Dara Treseder, CMO of Peloton, Baratunde Thurston, author of How To Be Black, Patrick Lencion who wrote Five Dysfunctions of A Team, and our own Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index. It was amazing to have thousands of people together for serious conversations about leading and creating better work in a better world through talent optimization. 

6. If you could snap your fingers and become an expert in something, what would it be?

My three-year-old son was recently diagnosed with autism (I have two kids – my oldest is seven-years-old). The past few months have been a crash course in understanding how unequipped our educational system is to handle neurodiversity. 

I was devastated to hear this stat: over 80% of adults with autism are unemployed. Once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. They each have amazing super powers. 

Becoming much more educated on the systemic issues in education and business and how to make progress toward neurodiversity acceptance would be my snap-finger wish. 

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