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Talkdesk Appoints First CMO

This week contact center as a service (CCaaS) vendor Talkdesk announced Kathie Johnson would be its first-ever CMO. Her most recent position was SVP of marketing at Salesforce, where she was responsible for marketing to seven industries and 18 sub-verticals. That was a relatively new initiative, so Johnson had the opportunity to grow something, even within a large, established vendor like Salesforce.
Talkdesk on the Move
This announcement is on the heels of Vasili Triant being named the companies CSO. Talkdesk is also actively in the process of hiring a CRO. This might make one scratch their head and wonder what the heck is going on at Talkdesk? Why the C-Level hiring binge by Tiago Paiva, the founder of the company, and a person that has had tight control over every aspect of the company of this past.
It appears Paiva is now ready to accelerate the growth of the company, and that requires some well-experienced people that have been in the trenches before. Both Triant and Johnson certainly fit the bill. Paiva is smart and has great vision, and I applaud him for his self-awareness in understanding the need to have more experience around him. This isn’t unlike Mark Zuckerberg hiring the well-established Sheryl Sandberg to be Facebook’s COO. I fully expect the incoming CRO to have some battle scars as well and can bring some experience into the company as it prepares to scale up from disruptive start-up to established vendor.
What Johnson Brings to the Table
Johnson’s new role is extremely important to Talkdesk’s future success. As RingCentral has shown, branding means a lot when it comes to cloud communications. With all due respect to Ring’s products, as they’re certainly solid, the company’s success and market leadership have been driven by its brand awareness. Talkdesk has good technology, but its overall brand consideration is low, and that’s where Johnson comes in.
In a pre-briefing with Talkdesk, I did manage to ask Johnson a few questions about why she decided to take her talents down the street from Salesforce to Talkdesk.
She started off quoting Brene Brown by saying she’s “leaning into courage over comfort.” She further explained she’s always had a plan in her career to be part of a team that took a company public. She has never done this and is looking forward to the challenge. Specifically, why Talkdesk? That is due to a combination of being on board with the vision of the industry that Paiva has. Also, there’s no question that Talkdesk has a strong technology foundation, and that’s consistent with Salesforce in its early years. The company certainly had its missteps, but there was never any question about the quality of its technology.
Another reason she found Talkdesk appealing is that cloud contact center is in the sweet spot of the obsession companies have with customer experience. She admitted that Talkdesk doesn’t have as much awareness of some of their competitors, creating a lot of opportunities for a marketer to come in and have a big impact on the company.
Lastly, Johnson sees Talkdesk as having three attributes that align well with her personal values – a sense of family, the ability to make an impact, and overall joy and satisfaction doing the job. She told me the internal culture was strong, and Paiva has hired a strong supporting group of VPs such as Christie Blake in the marketing organization. She was impressed with how smart everyone was, but also how the company has a family-like feel.
During my interview with Johnson, I asked her what were the things that Salesforce did well that she could bring to Talkdesk as it grows up. She told me that Salesforce was the first company that she had worked for that had a singular message that propagated throughout the entire company. Everyone is trained on it and has a consistent talk track, so now there’s an amplification of the company message in the marketplace, Johnson said.
Another aspect she will bring into Talkdesk is an obsession with customers and customer success. Salesforce is invested not only in making customers successful but also nurturing and growing the relationship. That turns those customers into trailblazers in their industry and in turn advocates for the company.
ZK Point of View: Triant and Johnson are both talented individuals with an understanding of how to do things at scale. I’m assuming the incoming CRO will also have a strong pedigree to help the company grow from a startup into a major vendor. Johnson has a wealth of experience in marketing and branding, and that’s critical in succeeding in cloud communications. The continual shift of contact center to the cloud will create a rising tide that should benefit all the CCaaS vendors, but I’m expecting Talkdesk to take a disproportionate amount of share. More to come, I’m sure.