Sally Schriner, CEO Schriner Growth Partners
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
Today’s guest is Sally Schriner, CEO Schriner Growth Partners
In this episode,
- Sally share’s the story of her career progression evolving from:
- Her first exposure to customer segmentation and customer service in first job with Dairy Queen!
- Through her progression at Merrill Lynch; with a private business that went public, a public business that went private…
- And ultimately into operating her own fractional CMO focused consulting firm
- She provides specific examples of the importance of diving into the details of lead generation and measurement to calculate ROI
- Lastly, Sally offers some excellent advice for both recent college grads and experienced pros, on how to differentiate yourself in a job search
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hello, everybody. Each week we interview proven leaders to learn from their experiences and share their stories with our listeners.
Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests, share experiences from their current roles and products and services that they offer with their existing companies, share success stories from those experiences, and then translate that into highlights or strategies to share with job seekers and advice talent looking to advance their careers.
Today’s guest is an accomplished marketing executive from the Cleveland area. She has been running her own business consulting business for the last five years, focused on marketing strategy. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with her a few times.
I consider her a mentor of mine I’m very happy to have her with us today.
Pleased to welcome Sally Schriner, President of Shriner Growth Partners. Thank you, Sally. Welcome.
SALLY: Thanks. I’m glad to be here, Ron. Always good to see you.
RON: I appreciate your time today. I know you’re very busy. Can you add to my very brief introduction of you and tell our listeners about yourself and your background and not only what you’re doing today, but how you got there and talk about your career evolution?
SALLY: Sure. So I own my own company, as you mentioned, and Schriner Growth Partners focuses on marketing strategy. And what I do is really help companies that don’t have marketing leadership in place in house, but could benefit from having marketing leadership in support.
So usually those companies are going through some kind of inflection point where they may have had a recent investment, whether that’s from venture capital or whether that’s from private equity investment or there’s another inflection point in the market where their marketing needs are changing.
Their sales is changing this past year. Obviously, a ton changed with no in person meetings. So a lot of sales strategies were really adjusting to more digital strategies. So the most clients I work with are about $10M to $50M in business and have grown those to be substantial businesses without a marketing leader.
And I come in and help them figure out how they could add that to their team and act as the CMO finding resources if they don’t have them internally and then bring those resources to execute on our plans. So what I always say is it’s a blessing to work with companies that have grown up without marketing because we know they have a great product when they get to that $50M without a significant marketing, and then it just gives a lot of ammunition for a marketer to have a great product to then push out and keep growing.
So career progression, how I got there: I worked for a family owned business. My first job that was a small family owned business that went public while I was there.
So that was a fun experience Then I came to Cleveland to work for a publicly traded company that was family controlled. And then went private! So that was a different experience.
And in between that, I had gone to graduate school, Northwestern, and then seven years ago, I left corporate and went to the startup world here in Cleveland and just was really interested in helping smaller businesses make impact.
And a lot of that had to do with just kind of mission of job development here in economic development in Northeast Ohio to ensure that not just big companies were growing, but also little companies had an opportunity to grow that then would have opportunity to hire, but then continue to sustain Cleveland as an economic player.
So that’s kind of where the heart of it all came from. And here we are. Five years later, I’ve worked with probably 40 companies in and out of Cleveland and across industries and across B2B and B2C.
RON: could you share a couple of case studies or examples of highlights from that career that kind of stick out in your mind?
SALLY: Sure. So I can talk about a few one of my first clients. It’s a great sort of startup ownership story that they’ve been in business for a few years. Software company, about 10, 12 people. And the CEO brought me on board to really help get sales beyond him.
He was really the sales leader and coming in and really helping understand a process, thinking about that process, thinking about other ways measurement and how we could measure trade show attendance, their investments that they were making that they may not have said was a marketing investment or a sales investment, and starting to put some process in place to be able to track leads that they were getting and ultimately into sales as well, and putting an Ri against that.
And I use that as an example, because that owner, CEO of Sales, head of operations, everything that he was playing was really open to working and really responded to the help in such a positive way and had a real goal in mind for why he wanted to grow, which was seeing retirement on the horizon and wanting to build his business into what would be a valuable business for sale.
And he sold the business. And so that achieved his goal a few years later. And I ran into him at a restaurant before all the shutdown happened, and to see the smile on his face and his wife, too, who worked in the business with him. And they said, “Sally, I couldn’t have done this without you!”
I wasn’t with them through the sale. But at the beginning, just kind of getting that foundation started really did help. And that’s why I do this, is: impact
One of my “now” clients, and I’ve had a couple of these that I really have done longer term engagements with, which has been over a year. I’ve been supporting them as their CMO, and we’re going through major updates to their brand identity and again, foundational elements. But the biggest highlight we’ve kind of started last year.
Checking boxes right where you’re like, Okay, this is our scope, and we’re just checking off our list of what we’re doing in our scope. And it was very transactional. A new CEO came in, and that new CEO made me a member of the team. And it went from being a transactional scope relationship to really being involved in the team.
And the team calls leadership calls, and it transforms everything. I’m extremely invested in how the company is doing. Employees, my peers that are there, my kids while they were home doing school here have gotten to know them on video. They know my colleagues there.
And it just has been a unique situation that you get an opportunity to be part of a team even when you’re alone by yourself and be invested in their success, even though you don’t have anything 401K or stock or bonus or anything else.So that’s been really fun, too.
One other thing I can mention, I just think about, and it kind of ties into hiring and talent, all those sorts of things, too, because I think each one of these is a common theme, which is the people that I’ve worked with. And I’d say a favorite client of mine was one that we still have great relationship with each other. And we’ll meet up at some point for a beer again, when we can kind of into the relationship where I didn’t know exactly what help was needed.
It was like, come in and explore what help I need, and we have some internal resources, so figure out what they’re doing. But I have a vision. He really had a vision and in process of looking at where they were today and where the vision was. And this big gap between and the main goal, having a goal, a goal in mind, which was raising the profile of the firm.
I got pushed and challenged in ways that, you know, sometimes can be really hard, right? It is get out of the comfort zone. Like, at this point, this was my first HubSpot integration. I never worked in HubSpot before But I’m sending out emails.
And I was like, “Do you really want me to send out emails? He’s like, “Yes, I want you to email. I want you to post my social because you’re doing it better than anybody else is doing it here.” And it was really pushing me to learn more than I probably could have if I wanted to bring somebody else in who could have done that. And so as frustrating as it could be at times, it really was valuable for me to get fully invested in how we were executing.
RON: Well, that’s an excellent transition, and I plan to touch on that. I’ll just say “getting your hands dirty” a little bit in my next set of questions.
And the one of the biggest reasons I was excited for you. You mentioned it a little bit was ranging from corporate experience to startup experience to consumer products and software as a service, consulting – large companies, small companies.
You’ve been around a lot of talent.
You’ve hired a lot of talent.
You’ve seen lots of different structures for how to build teams.
I want to transition in the talent part. And what’s near and dear to my heart, obviously,
I guess first for students in College or soon to be grads or entry level kind of that range of experience. What would be your set of suggestions, observations about the current market and how to approach their next steps and entry into the world, into the work world?
SALLY: I entered the workforce many, many years ago. So a lot has changed since then. The old fashioned networking is the same and different, right. I had somewhere as my mom is going through old bedrooms and stuff. I got a box of things that included a list of paper list of people that my dad suggested that maybe I’d want to contact when I got out of College for a job.
And I wrote cover letters and mailed resumes to those people and other people. So it’s very different than today, which actually in some ways it’s the same, though, really networking, right.
And things like Zoom coffees and other ways that you can come in contact with people. certainly I’m going to say easier. It’s still a hard process, but easier.
So I’m going to tell a story, which is number one advice I would say is, and I’ve seen resumes of kids that are coming out of College now. My neighbor a couple of doors down. He’s a junior in College, and his resume is amazing. He’s had experience with internships and even during school internships.
And so my resume I worked at Dairy Queen. That’s what I did before I got out of College.
Well, I have one internship with Merrill Lynch. But other than that, I worked at Dairy Queen. And so what? I want to tell a story about Dairy Queen, because I don’t think it matters what you’re doing. I think you need to find something that you really like to do and do that.
And that might be helping out a charity with something that could be helping out a Church, other types of things, but something that you can get access to and do. And the reason I’m going to tell about the Queen is because that’s how I got my first job, my first real job.
So I worked at Dairy Queen for high school and two years in College and three years in College. And I told a story at my first job interview about literally I walked in this my resume was summer at Merrill Lynch and four years of Dairy Queen and Babysitting here and there.
My future boss asked me like,”so what was it that you liked about Dairy Queen?”
So I told a story about when every day, every afternoon, there was a man who worked at the paper next door, and he would come in for a medium chocolate cone.
And he came in with exact change every single day…$1.20. And he would walk in the back of the door. And some days the Little League team was there, There’s 30 kids who are there getting ice cream at the same time. So there’s a line. And I would see him walk in.
And instead of him walking back out and coming later, I would flag him forward, make his chocolate cone, and hand it to him.
And she just said, “Why did you do that?” And I said, “because he’s my loyal customer.”
Right? I got to serve him in a way I knew how I could. Even if he didn’t have the $1.20 change, I knew he was going to come back with the $1.20 the next day.
So that ability to kind of segment your customers, she loved. And she was like, “You’re hired!!”
So if you think about even the smallest experiences that you may have, whether it’s volunteering to do something in your sorority, in on campus club, in a charitable dance marathon, I was something at Penn State Dance Marathon Committee. You get leadership opportunities in places you may not think are this star internship opportunity, but it’s making sure you take that opportunity and finding again, a team. You’re working with, people who give you opportunities to learn and something you can get, you can take out of it and talk about that’s a great example.
RON: I wish ice cream still cost $1.20 though, but not so much anymore. Your experience with as a hiring manager, what would you what advice would you give individuals to use to differentiate themselves in the process in the interviewing process?
SALLY: So Here’s what I’ll say is, you can tell people who don’t care. And so you should be applying for jobs to really care about. And the way that I have seen that it’s really effective is somebody who takes the time to research and to understand the company right before they’re going in for their first interview. If you are just showing up, you’re not going to get the job.
That’s one piece. But I do think that showing that you’ve taken a look at their website, at their social media, at you signed up for their email newsletter, maybe. And you’re getting copies of that. Or you pretend to be a prospect and see what happens when you fill out the form on the website. Right?
There’s a huge difference in conversations I have with people. And so I should mention sometimes I I hire my replacement at my client companies.
So I’m hiring VP of marketing and directors and marketing, too. So in that process, I have a conversation where I want, as I said, I’m invested in these companies emotionally to make sure they’re successful. I want to have somebody going into that spot who’s going to be successful there. And again, I could see people that don’t have the passion for the business and they haven’t done the research. They’re not going to get the job.
And I don’t want to say that it’s easy to do that, but it’s easy to do some of it to really put your mindset in. I’m going to become a director, marketing manager, marketing, whatever it is.
What are the questions you want to know walking in day one, right?
- Who’s my customer?
- Can I see how my messaging platform?
- What are the tools I have available to me?
- What’s happening today?
I think one of the other questions that I ask people is like, “What’s your goal?” How am I going to be measured? What’s my goal? And even seeing that, is it a realistic goal that you that you should sign up for? Or how does that manager potential future manager? That’s my other piece. You’re also interviewing them on what it will be like to work there. So don’t forget about that, too. So be prepared. But also know what you need to be successful.
So I had somebody who told me that even this client work, like, I want you to increase my website traffic by 2,000%. And I was like, “Okay, great. What are you investing today and over what time frame and what’s the investment you’re willing to make?” Right? Or is this a wish?
And I feel like I could be successful at that time without really knowing the answers to those questions? Upfront marketing, what new technologies or focus areas are you seeing that are kind of the hot areas in marketing direct mail campaigns was how we were we were doing to direct mail and telemarketing. And it was over periods of six months that we were measuring our results and figuring out our updated strategies to roll out the next six months.
Campaigns. It to hold some media campaigns you’re seeing the time cycle has shortened everything and so much can be tracked. And I tell business owners you should be insisting that your agencies or any internal staff, everything that you have ways of measuring the impact that you’re making.
So I think data is becoming just tools that support. I’m not saying you have to go out and go crazy with that, but there has to be a spreadsheet at the least, where somebody on the team is watching what’s going on and know:
- Where are your leads coming from?
- How are those leads going through the pipeline?
- Which ones are valuable, which ones are not?
- And measuring that back to an ROI.
It takes time. And I will say I manually am doing this right now for a client because we just don’t have any other way. So I go through all of our Google ad leads. I got export a spreadsheet of them each month, and I go into our tool where we’re quoting, and I tie back the value of each of the quotes for each one of the leads. Total up compared to my ad spend and determine the ROI. And I’m presenting that to the board. But that’s what we have to do.
If I’m going to spend money and I want to spend more, I’m going to bring that back to the CFO and say, Here’s my return on investment. Give me more!
And I know you and I have talked about this before. The whole, like, B2B, B2C agency, non agency. I feel like all those lines are blurred.
And I had a really good mentor, still friend mentor of mine when I was convinced I was only B2C and I was interviewing for my first It was a SAS position, and I was like, How am I going to do this?
Like, how? And he just said, “Sally, the principles are the same. The marketing principles are the same. It doesn’t matter. The tactics might be different because you might be doing some trade shows or webinars or, you know, other things. You may need some additional sales materials. Like, tactics may be different, but it’s all the same.”
So I think that’s happening even more. The same thing agencies. Now you may have more in house. You’re gonna have this combination. It’s not one or the other anymore. And I think I think that will continue as digital become something that everybody has to have, right?
RON: I’m sorry. I’m just chomping at the bit to comment. You hit two things that hit home for me, too. One, clearly, “data, data, data.” It’s all over the place. And if you’re going to go into marketing, I’m telling everyone I talk to in College, study analytics, take some data course, whatever. I’m telling my son in high school, you can’t avoid it.
Second, and it’s so funny. I’m starting to loathe the term “digital marketing” because I think at one time it WAS a thing. I believe it’s marketing. Call it performance marketing, call it integrated marketing, call it whatever you want. It’s still marketing, and it’s now all the same. There is no traditional. There is no digital. It’s marketing.
So I am glad. I don’t think that’s exactly what you said, but I think it’s pretty close, so I don’t know. I just appreciate that a lot.
SALLY: And really working with advice again to young and not so young people, too, because I see this all the time, like, people forget the fundamentals, right? Even like business owners, when you start a business, you’re like laser focused into who is my customer? And what am I going to do? And how am I going to talk to them?
And then, you know, time goes by, and I saw this in my corporate life, like, you’re not as in touch with your customers anymore as you had been at the very beginning of starting that business and making sure that you stay in touch with the customer and those fundamental questions of:
- Who are we serving
- What do we do better than anyone else?
- And how are we delivering that?
- How are we reaching them?
Just taking that lens as a young person and making sure that you keep again, I’d say, like, there could be your little project that you had in high school or College, or there can be little things that you can do that you can show that you know how to think about that on an ongoing basis. How to reach a customer with a message across platforms.
RON: Well, I’m going to follow up with you in a couple of weeks and see how many people have reached out to take the hands on data, sourcing off your hands here for your current role and are applying for internships with you.
SALLY: That’s right. I thought about that!
It’s good to see, like, really, I see leads, what people are asking, lead submissions. And it makes me a better senior leader, too when I know with the sales leader, I can say so, “There were 60 leads we had to come in this month, and you guys had about 12 of them that went through the pipeline, but it looks like 40 more we’re pretty good,'” You know, gives me more ammunition to be able to be a better partner and leader and ultimately push the business forward accountable, make sure everybody is accountable.
RON: Yeah, I agree. Well, Sally, I appreciate your time. I know you’re really busy, and I can’t
SALLY: Never too busy for you.
RON: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Well, I’ll include a link to your profile in my notes when I publish this, and I’m sure you’ll get people reaching out to you, but again, appreciate your time.
Good luck with everything and be in touch soon!
April 16, 2021