Skip to content
Cover art for podcast episode The CMO Corner: Embracing Risk

The CMO Corner: Embracing Risk

Welcome to the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence.

Today’s episode is the first of the CMO Corner series, and we’re kicking it off with one of the most accomplished and respected chief marketing officers in all of health care, Marcia Miller. 

Marcia is one of the most respected CMOs in all of healthcare. She has grown her success by not shying away from risks. Marcia discusses the crucial intersections of risk, fear, and leadership in marketing, emphasizing the need for marketing to be acknowledged as a pivotal element of strategic business discussions.

Marcia shared her insights on why marketing needs a seat at the leadership table and how proving your value can change the game. Our conversation covers the art of taking risks, the importance of brand consistency in healthcare, and the power of building high-performing teams. 

With so much wisdom in one conversation, she leaves us with this key piece of advice: face fears, embrace challenges, and always advocate for yourself, especially in leadership roles. 

Thank you for being part of the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence. The future of healthcare depends on it.

Key Takeaways:

1. Earning & Occupying a Leadership Seat: Marcia Miller stresses the imperative for marketing professionals to demonstrate the tangible value and impact of their strategies to secure a rightful place at the decision-making table. This involves not only advocating for marketing’s role but also aligning marketing strategies directly with core business objectives to enhance visibility and influence within the company.

2. Confronting Fear with Courage: The conversation sheds light on the transformational power of approaching fear not as a barrier but as a motivator. Marcia’s personal journey in starting a fly fishing school serves as a poignant example of how embracing risk can open doors to fulfilling endeavors that one might typically shy away from due to fear of failure.

3. Strategic Partnerships and Crisis Management: The selection of creative partners is highlighted as a critical decision point in health marketing. Marcia advises seeking partners who not only bring expertise and innovative ideas but also possess the reliability to manage crises effectively. This underpins the broader strategic approach of assuming positive intent and fostering respectful, yet honest dialogues to drive brand success.

4. Female Leadership & Self-Advocacy in the Workplace: With an emphasis on the unique challenges faced by women in leadership roles within healthcare marketing, Marcia Miller encourages female professionals to vigorously advocate for themselves and actively seek leadership opportunities. Building confidence and resilience is key to navigating and overcoming gender-based obstacles in professional environments.

5. Practical Strategies for Team Building and Budgeting: Marcia shares her holistic approach to constructing high-performing marketing teams and budget advocacy. Key strategies include hiring talent that complements existing team strengths, setting realistic goals, and aligning budget proposals with clear, data-driven expectations. This ensures that marketing efforts are both effective and sustainable, reinforcing the need for leadership to fully support and understand the value of their marketing divisions.

About Marcia Miller

Chief Marketing Officer 

Marcia is a career marketer with strong experience in a wide range of business challenges – from Start-up companies… to Fortune companies …to marketing agencies – she’s tried her hand at all of them. She’s at her best when she is building teams, brands or companies and she prides herself on helping others develop professionally while not letting a job define them. When she’s not working, you’ll find her traveling the globe with her lovely husband or spending time with their four adult children.


Sara Payne [00:00:10]:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence. I'm your host, Sara Payne, a health marketing strategist at Inprela Communications, and I'm bringing you fascinating conversations with some of the industry's top marketing minds. Today's episode will be the first in a series of chats I'm calling the CMO corner, where we'll tap insights and advice from some of the industry's most renowned chief marketing officers. Joining me today in the CMO corner, I'm thrilled to welcome one of the most accomplished and respected chief marketing officers in all of health care, Marcia Miller. Marcia is a career health care marketer with strong experience leading a wide range of business challenges from start up companies to fortune companies to marketing agencies. She's seen and done it all. She's someone who knows how to effectively build a brand in this industry and also excels at building high performing teams. Welcome, Marcia.

Marcia Miller [00:01:03]:

Yeah. I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Sara Payne [00:01:05]:

We're gonna touch on several different topics today, but the first thing I wanna talk to you about, Marcia, is effective risk taking for marketing success. I've witnessed, that you are someone who's comfortable, taking risk, and I admire that about you. So let's start with, how do you think about risk taking in your role as a marketing leader?

Marcia Miller [00:01:24]:

Yeah. It's an interesting topic and question when you posed that you wanted to have this discussion. You know, I think that there are people that are natural risk takers and there are people that are not. Don't you agree?

Sara Payne [00:01:36]:

I agree.

Marcia Miller [00:01:38]:

And, I think there are companies that are natural in risk taking and those that are not. So I think as we talk about risk, I hesitate to say that everybody should be a risk taker. Right? I think that finding the right mix of, where you want to work and how that matches with the company is critical. And I know a lot of really successful people, who are not risk takers, and they found their place at companies who don't need that Yeah. And don't value it probably as well. And so, you know, you have this kind of fixed mindset that companies are in and a growth mindset. And I think figuring out what you what drives you as a marketer and as a a professional and as a leader and matching that up to the right kind of company, is really important. I am a risk taker.

Marcia Miller [00:02:37]:

I love risk. I would never take a fixed, you know, same old same old kind of role, because it doesn't feed me. So for me, personally, I love growth. And, I think those kinds of companies that want growth and they want innovation are companies that are more risk full focused, and those are the kind of companies that I run to. And I run away from those companies that are not that. Not to say that that's not good. I think there are people who can build great careers in companies who really want an operator. Someone to dig dig in and operate and and kind of keep that rhythm of things rolling.

Marcia Miller [00:03:23]:

That is not what drives me. So

Sara Payne [00:03:26]:

Yeah. I think you're so spot on about so much of that. I think a lot of it is is innate or not in in certain individuals, and a lot of it comes down to the culture you're in and the leadership around you. To that point, what advice do you have for people in terms of how to set expectations before they take on a role? You might know the leader that you're going to work with, but that's obviously an ideal situation. Right? You've you've worked before. You sort of have that that trust, and and they know what they're getting. You know what you're getting into, but that's not always the case. And so what advice do you have in terms of how to set expectations before they take on a role, set themselves up for success? What should someone negotiate? And I'm not talking about comp.

Sara Payne [00:04:08]:

Right? Like like, yes, negotiate comp. But set that aside. What should someone be asking or negotiating and get sort of leadership buy in to before they, you know, take on a new role so they have that autonomy to lead and drive the change that needs to happen inside of those, you know, high growth, high innovation type of of companies?

Marcia Miller [00:04:27]:

Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, first, you have to know yourself. So decide if you're if you're more risk focused or not. I think we're here to talk more about risk, so let's assume everybody who's listening wants to be, a better risk taker and wants to be part of that. Right? That fun game of crazy. So I think that, you know, for me, there are some things that are critical if I were to take a new role, especially as a marketing leader, that if I'm moving into a growth focus, whether that be a startup company or an early stage company or an established company can still have that growth mentality.

Sara Payne [00:05:06]:


Marcia Miller [00:05:06]:

So I think there are a few things that absolutely have to happen in order for me to say yes to an opportunity. One of those is that the c suite, including the CEO, needs to believe that marketing needs to sit at the leadership table.

Sara Payne [00:05:23]:


Marcia Miller [00:05:23]:

If that is not the case where the CMO is not reporting directly to the CEO and that marketing can't really impact and drive business, to me, then you become a cog, not a change maker. And so then the risk that you're taking on to really make something happen kinda goes away or softens, if you get buried underneath all of that. And then you can't tell that great story to your team of all the things that you're trying to do and build and fee and they feel like you're sitting at that table representing them in a way that is meaningful, in a way that is change making. So I think that's super important as you think about risk and the kinds of companies that you want to be with. I also look for companies, that where there's a lot of good alignment. You know? Like, what are we doing? And do we all believe that that is what we're here to accomplish? Right? And if that's the case and we're all holding hands, hands in the middle, let's go, man, that is so fun. I mean, there is nothing better than a strong leadership team that is aligned and that values what everybody brings to the table. If you can find that and you feel that through that interview process, my gosh.

Marcia Miller [00:06:49]:

Don't let that go.

Sara Payne [00:06:51]:


Marcia Miller [00:06:51]:

Because it's hard to find and, that's I think that's, you know, super exciting. So, you know, know what you're in it to do and know what that long game looks like. You know? So, you know, I always say that, over the years, I've come to realize what I'm good at. I'm good at building teams. I'm good at building brands. I'm good at building companies. I may not be as good at running them, but that gets to your risk thing. The build of that could take 5 years.

Marcia Miller [00:07:22]:

Right? Yes. Yep. So I think what's that long game that you are going to come hell or how high water deliver on? And if the long game is a sale, if the long game is a revenue goal, if the long game is a product introduction or an innovation around something, if you know that and everybody's aligned around that and you're sitting at the leadership table, I don't think you can fail.

Sara Payne [00:07:48]:

I love that. So 2 things you mentioned, having a seat at the table, strong alignment with the leadership team. You're still spot on with both of those things, but, you know, where you're at in your career today, Marcia. Obviously, you you know these thing you know yourself and you know to look for these things. But perhaps it hasn't always been that way. Maybe earlier on in your career, were there are there any experiences you can share where you you walked into an environment where where marketing didn't have the seat at the table or there wasn't strong alignment? And did you have any the alignment piece is a bit harder, right, to That's right. For,

Marcia Miller [00:08:27]:

I don't even know until you're in it. Yeah.

Sara Payne [00:08:30]:

Right. But the the seat at the table, let's take that one as an example, is was there ever an environment where that wasn't the case and you were able to sort of convince and and make that change where marketing went from not having a seat at the table to earning the seat at the table?

Marcia Miller [00:08:44]:

I mean, I think that there's probably many examples of where I've come into situations where marketing wasn't sitting at the business table. We're buried down in the weeds or, and I think that it's and and sometimes I was not in the role to sit at the table. I was, you know, on the team underneath of that too.

Sara Payne [00:09:02]:

Sure. Sure.

Marcia Miller [00:09:03]:

And so I guess I've seen kind of both sides of that coin and how different that is, when a strong leader in a marketing realm can sit at that business table, and what a difference that makes.

Sara Payne [00:09:15]:

Any advice for people who might be listening, who who maybe, you know, are in that situation I mean, I guess, really, you you have to prove it.

Marcia Miller [00:09:28]:

I mean, I guess, really, you you have to prove it.

Sara Payne [00:09:31]:


Marcia Miller [00:09:32]:

You have to prove that the value is there for that set for you to be sitting at that table, and then ultimately, you have to ask for it. And I think a lot of time, marketers in particular, you know, get buried underneath, you know, a growth officer or even in some crazy cases in, you know, a peep chief people officer or underneath a number of different things. And I think, you know, really kinda pushing harder on the why it matters to the business, not to you. This isn't about ego.

Sara Payne [00:10:04]:

Right. Agree. I'm

Marcia Miller [00:10:05]:

not saying that. It's about what matters to the business, and why why having that presence on that team and that connection to a CEO is critical. So I think, you know, it's a combination of proving it and asking for it, that we all probably need to be better at and in order to maintain to get and maintain, that seat at the table.

Sara Payne [00:10:31]:

And I love the point that you made that, you know, we're talking, you know, growth and and and comfort with risk taking in in cultures and leadership can exist with both, you know, established large global entities, public companies, as well as start up emerging emerging organizations. And obviously, you've had experience inside of inside of both of those environments.

Marcia Miller [00:10:53]:

You know, it feels like, you know, even you think about risk taking and what stops people from wanting to do that. And, you know, I was I I was thinking about what's the difference between risk and fear? You know? I mean, what is the difference? I mean, fear is more emotive and and risk is more measurable. You know, people talk about calculated risk and data data informed risk, you know, versus fear is just what you feel. But I do think that there's they're close cousins.

Sara Payne [00:11:28]:

I agree with you on that. And I think I think the in part, the data driven environment, data driven marketing that we that we live in now And, you know, with modern marketing, digital marketing, there's a lot more data available. And, therefore, I think more emphasis on show me the data. Show me the data that supports this decision over here. Well, there you're never gonna have a 100% certainty. Marketing is after you've made that decision. It's really

Marcia Miller [00:11:58]:

If marketing were that and we could bottle it, we'd be gazillionaires.

Sara Payne [00:12:04]:

Yes. We could. It's

Marcia Miller [00:12:05]:

just not. You know, just like health care isn't a science. You know, the say it it really is, you know, a and the market changes, human beings change, businesses change. It's an evolutionary thing where you're testing and trying and measuring and repeating. And so you cannot let fear of failure or anything else get in your way when you're in the middle of those kinds of really monumental change. You know? You have to be able to say, well, that didn't work. We'll try something else. Right?

Sara Payne [00:12:42]:


Marcia Miller [00:12:44]:

And I think that there are people and maybe those are the people that are overly fearful about things, fearful of failing, fearful of getting fired, fearful of fill in the blank. Maybe those are the people that are are risk averse. Right? They aren't interested in jobs like that. But if you but frankly, risk and fear comes with everything that we do. I actually get kind of a high from it.

Sara Payne [00:13:13]:

I was gonna ask you about, like, your mindset with it. Right? Because I think to your point, you almost if there is whether this is true for you personally, but just acknowledging for all human beings, If there is a little bit of fear, you one almost has to sort of take that and, like, put it on the shelf and, like, acknowledge that it's there, but then, like, view it as something else. Reposition it in your mind as as a challenge. And for you, there's sort of an adrenaline rush with that.

Marcia Miller [00:13:39]:

Yeah. I think that with risk comes adventure, comes, you know, energy, comes joy for me. Because the the uncertainty of something, you know, building something, you know, launching something, you know, making it sing is super exciting to me. And I think that people who don't find that exciting might not be ones for, doing some of the companies, the the crazy companies that I've done that are more risky, I suppose, if you call them that. But I don't know. I kind of think risk is part of the world. And I think becoming more fearless is something we all should strive for. I mean, I look at I have 4 kids, and I'm sure they're have moments of fear as they've gone and launched their adult lives and, you know, their first jobs and signed leases on apartments and, you know, I'm sure that's a scary thing.

Marcia Miller [00:14:40]:

And, you know, but the reality is that's part of life. And so if we can all find our muscle to run into that versus run away from it. And especially, I think, as we get older, you know, where where you yeah. Your aging parents are more fearful today than they were 20 years ago, and I can see it with my parents. And and I don't like it, And I'm not gonna be that. So whether that be professionally or personally, taking on, that kind of feeling that you have of, you know, a little angst about something and muscling through it, I think builds the muscle that you need, to build the next company or the next thing or the next, you know, team or the next challenge. And I think that's what makes it fun. So

Sara Payne [00:15:34]:

Yeah. No. You know, I get people are all different.

Marcia Miller [00:15:37]:

Yeah. People are all different. You know? I mean, I I can this is kinda funny or not, but we started a fly fishing school with my husband out in Wisconsin. It's about an hour out of here, and I cannot tell you the number of people that have been out there and have said to him or me, I've always wanted to do this. I've always wanted to start

Sara Payne [00:16:01]:

try this is oh. This this

Marcia Miller [00:16:04]:

is yeah. Whatever it is. Wow. Fill in the blank. They probably mean anything, but let's just say it's a fly fishing school. I've always wanted to do this. And I always walk away from that going, well, why didn't they? Right? And so that's where the fear I think the fear of failure, the the risk averse element of all of us. You know, if you really wanna do something, do it.

Sara Payne [00:16:30]:

I agree. I agree. And I think you're right in in terms of thinking about this as as a parent. Right? And watching your kids, it it it starts when even when they're little in elementary school and and and having to, you know, get out there and try and the things that we can learn from our kids by watching it. Right? Which is, like, they do incremental things that build that muscle as you talked about that then build more resilience and the things that might have seen scary, right, or or fearful now aren't. Why? Because we we've tried it. We have experience, and and confidence often comes from experience. Right? And so I think this is just a great reminder in terms of if there's something the the, you know, the big, hairy, audacious goal over here, the beehog that you you know, the the fly fishing school, whatever it is.

Sara Payne [00:17:17]:

Whatever it is. Like, how how do we how do we take small bites out of it in that direction or take some risks in other areas that build up that resilience and that muscle that now suddenly allow us to look at that thing and say it doesn't have to be that scary anymore.

Marcia Miller [00:17:32]:

Well, even just changing jobs. You know? A lot of people and women are frankly worse than men. Sorry.

Sara Payne [00:17:39]:

I wouldn't yep. I think that's true. I think the data would prove that that that that's true.

Marcia Miller [00:17:44]:

Totally proves it. And, you know, changing jobs, you know, raising your hand for a promotion, before you're really ready for it. I mean, I mean, I don't mean to slam on our femaleness, but I'm going to for just a second. You know? People are critical of or of why women aren't sitting in boardrooms and why they're not c suite and why they're not in and I'd say, yes, part of it's society, but I'd say another part of it is us. I'm asking. Because we don't raise our hands. We don't push forward through that fear. We don't we don't apply for jobs when we're only 80% qualified for it because we wouldn't dare do that unless we were a 120% qualified for it.

Marcia Miller [00:18:26]:

But yet a man pushes through it when he's 30% qualified for it, he gets it. Right? Right. Yeah. And so I think, you know, conquering that kind of self talk of you said the word confidence, and I think that's it too. Conquering our confidence, conquering our fear, our little voice inside our head, and and going for it. What's the worst thing that could happen?

Sara Payne [00:18:54]:


Marcia Miller [00:18:55]:

And, actually It's

Sara Payne [00:18:56]:

not that bad.

Marcia Miller [00:18:56]:

Another one. What's the best thing that could happen?

Sara Payne [00:18:59]:

Yes. I mean, I've seen a lot of these, sort of inspirational, posts on social media lately that it's like the growth comes on the other side of something hard. Right? And so Totally good. Like, what what are we doing sitting over here not willing to take that leap? You you mentioned earlier, Marcia, you know, you've got you've been in this industry for a long time, and and you mentioned that, you know, you you are someone who goes into a culture to build to build something. You're good at building. I wanna I wanna talk about what does it take to effectively build a brand in health care today?

Marcia Miller [00:19:37]:

You know, I think it goes back to many of those things we just talked about. I I think that if you're coming into a startup, you're saying, like, from the very beginning days of that

Sara Payne [00:19:47]:

Well, I think I mean, I think we can look at it.

Marcia Miller [00:19:49]:

I think

Sara Payne [00:19:50]:

we can look at it broadly. I think, you know, I think there are many companies out there that, you know, might even be a market leader, but their brand is is sort of quiet. Right? It's just they don't they're not really known as a brand. They're not a brand powerhouse. They just happen to have a really great product.

Marcia Miller [00:20:09]:

Oh, you know, the brand is my first love and kind of what I grew up in.

Sara Payne [00:20:13]:

Yes. This is why I wanted to go there with you.

Marcia Miller [00:20:16]:

You know, I certainly feel like I know enough to be dangerous around, all elements of marketing, but brand is what I I love and, have loved since, you know, 30 years ago plus. I think when you think about health care and the challenges that we have in marketing with health care, I think that having that seat at the table is critical from a business perspective to be effective. So I think if if a marketing leader can have that seat and be respected at that seat and get alignment around what are we doing, what are we expected to do, what is what are the products that we're launching? What is our mission? What do we what do we wanna tell the world about us that's different? You know? And if that team is cohesive and strong and respectful of each other, you can really make a lot of headway in the development of a brand. So a brand is not a logo or a color palette or, you know, set of assets. A brand is how the company decides they're gonna show up every day. And I think that if, more companies, whether you'd be in health care or not, could could get aligned around that and then truly stay focused on that through everything they do. I actually think that that could, make a pretty stellar health care brand, in the market. And, you know, I worked at Optum, and we built a pretty awesome brand.

Marcia Miller [00:21:47]:

I feel good about the work that we did there. And I think we brought that mission to life really well, and I had the privilege of working with some pretty killer marketers, who then took those visions and those those tools and took them down into the product level and down into the service lines. And I think that the best brands are the ones that can do that and and have it feel like a singular brand in the marketplace. So Mhmm. Some do it really well, some not so well. And I would guess that if we went back to the is marketing at the table? Is there alignment around a platform that everybody can buy into? Is there clear expectations of what, we need to do in the next 2, 5, 10 years? If those companies that have that, I think are the ones that have strong brands.

Sara Payne [00:22:43]:

Yes. I agree with you. I love what you said about how it's how the company decides they're gonna show up every day. And I think there are perhaps some leadership teams out there that may not fully understand that. Right. And that it's like this thing that marketing just has to to, you know, build and run and do over here. And it it requires marketing leaders to have that we use the word courage, but, you know, maybe it doesn't really mean, you know, at that level. But I think it's courage.

Sara Payne [00:23:14]:

In some cases, it is the courage to say to the organization, if if this is who we're gonna go out and tell the marketplace that we are, then You better be. We need to have some tough conversations about either the offering, the customer experience, the, you know, maybe culturally something over here that maybe is not fully in alignment with that external brand that you wanna put out there into the world. I don't know if you have any, like, sort of additional thoughts around, you know, I've seen some organizations want to go out there and and build this brand and be aggressive from a marketing standpoint, but then decide to pump the brakes Yeah. Very intentionally because the organization, the offering, everything else around it didn't really truly line up. It was still this message was still very aspirational and having to have the courage to slow things down so then you can turn around and run fast.

Marcia Miller [00:24:09]:

Yeah. I think that's entirely right. And I think, the reason why I'm kind of, pigheaded about the whole sitting at that leadership table is because marketing is so closely linked to everything inside of the company. So it's linked to operations, and it's linked to site, you know, selection. It's linked to employees. It's linked to, you know, how employees are treated. It's linked to culture. It's linked to product design.

Marcia Miller [00:24:41]:

And if all those things are not working cohesively, this brand that you've built, that you're gonna go out and tell the world about, it isn't delivered not only to the customer, but it's also not delivered to the employees. And I think that those those things in the best case scenario have to operate together. And and I think CEOs that recognize the value of brand for growth are the ones I want to work with.

Sara Payne [00:25:15]:

Yes. Absolutely. Couldn't agree with you more on that one. I think there's a lot of people that are gonna be listening to this and then, like, sending a link to their executive leadership team and saying, you need to listen to this because right? They may be they may be probably sitting there going cheering and reaching through you know, wanting to reach through, the the speaker here and say, yes. Yes, Marcia. This is this is all the right thing. Perhaps perhaps they it is very hard work. And perhaps they're in a culture or or, with a leadership team that that maybe doesn't truly understand it in the way that you've you've just described it.

Sara Payne [00:25:53]:

And I I think you're spot on. I wanna also talk about, how to advocate for proper resources and budget. Marketing is is often, I I'm just gonna say it, underfunded in a lot of organizations. What strategies do you use to help an organization understand the importance of that marketing spend? And I I know this is gonna go back to having a seat at the table again, but but anything else you can offer around, you know, certain strategies?

Marcia Miller [00:26:22]:

Yeah. I think it's expectation setting. So if you're doing, you know, business planning and you're sitting at the table and you're talking about, you know, OKRs or or objectives and goals that you want as a company. I mean, this gets back to data. You can actually figure it out.

Sara Payne [00:26:39]:

It's a

Marcia Miller [00:26:40]:

little bit amount. Take the time. You know? So say, okay. You want x and in this period of time, and I need to deliver x because that's what marketing does, you know, as a sales enablement and reaching you know? You can go and work with a partner, to figure out in order to deliver that, what's the the math that we need and and, go back to the leadership team and say, okay. Yeah. This is your our goal. This is what we've set up in the budget. And in the pro form a, here's how we're gonna do it.

Marcia Miller [00:27:15]:

Here's what I need in order to deliver that. And if the answer is, well, you don't have that because I've heard that many times. You have instead of a, you have this. B, the answer is and this gets to your, your confidence in your own ability. And then now you say, well, great. That's great that you have b, not a. Then you're gonna not that goal isn't the goal.

Sara Payne [00:27:39]:

Looks different.

Marcia Miller [00:27:41]:

That's right. So I think there's that that conversation that needs to happen. That's why marketing needs to sit at the table because we need to be part of that dialogue of what the goal is so that the budgets match up to that and so that things are allocated correctly. And sometimes the goal might be not even achievable. Right?

Sara Payne [00:28:07]:


Marcia Miller [00:28:08]:

Yep. That you need to have that conversation. Well, that's a really aggressive goal. And based on what we need to do to get there, I don't see that happening in the next 12 months. Maybe we could do it in 18 or 24. So I think, you know, all those things that I know that everybody says, you know, budgets are always marketing never gets enough. I think we always get enough, but against what we can deliver.

Sara Payne [00:28:36]:

Yes. Yep. You're right. What's the We gotta do the hard work.

Marcia Miller [00:28:41]:

Yeah. So if you you give if you wanna work it the other way, I'm happy to do it that way too. Tell me how much I have Yeah. And then I'll tell you what we can deliver.

Sara Payne [00:28:52]:

Right. But you don't get to control both of those things. Yeah. Both. Which is the reality for some folks. I do I do realize that.

Marcia Miller [00:29:01]:

So, again, you got you've gotta be able to stand up and go toe to toe a little on that. And and, honestly, they may not like to hear it, but

Sara Payne [00:29:11]:

I agree.

Marcia Miller [00:29:12]:

But for the sake of your team, you're not gonna set your people up to fail.

Sara Payne [00:29:18]:

Absolutely. You brought up team. I was gonna go there next. You, you, you excel at, at building teams, Marcia. And so what advice do you have for how to build, you know, a high performing marketing team?

Marcia Miller [00:29:33]:

I mean, I think it's all the things that we read about and hear about every day that people say. I don't think it's any secret. I don't think it's any science. Yeah. Unfortunately, I just don't think enough people do it. Fair. So so I guess in my world of how I go about building an effective team and I gotta tell you, I've worked with some of the best teams. So if anybody Yes.

Sara Payne [00:30:01]:

You have.

Marcia Miller [00:30:01]:

Listening to this has ever been on a team with me, I love you all because I think, that you hire great talent. That's the first thing you do. Right?

Sara Payne [00:30:13]:

Yep. Yep.

Marcia Miller [00:30:14]:

Put people in roles in which they can be successful. Don't jam a square peg in a round hole. Look at what you're hiring and put them in a role that they can be successful at. That's 2. 3, then you fill to the gaps of the team, recognizing your own gaps. I have lots of them. Yeah. Right? I have lots of gaps, and so I'll hire 2 people, and then we'll assess what gap are we missing.

Marcia Miller [00:30:39]:

Let's go find that gap and fill to that gap. So hire people, best people. You know, let them be who they are.

Sara Payne [00:30:48]:


Marcia Miller [00:30:48]:

Your gaps. I think then you need to support them in being the best that they can be in those roles, and that doesn't mean micromanaging them. You've hired an adult, Let them be, and let them prove to you that they're capable of that. And it's not that I haven't laid people off, and it's not that I haven't had poor performers. I have. But I've at least let them try it before I step in to manage that. So let them give them the rope that they need to be successful because now you've put them in the right role. You've surrounded them with people who fill their gaps.

Marcia Miller [00:31:24]:

So they should really be awesome. Right? Let them be awesome is what I think.

Sara Payne [00:31:30]:


Marcia Miller [00:31:31]:

I also think your team as you build a team, and I there might be things people would say about me as a leader that are not favorable, but I would hope the one thing that everybody would say about me is I would lay down in the fucking road for them.

Sara Payne [00:31:46]:

Yes. You would. I've seen it. I mean, not literally, but I have seen you do this, Marcia. It's true.

Marcia Miller [00:31:54]:

And I think you have to be willing to do that, and your team needs to know you do that.

Sara Payne [00:32:00]:


Marcia Miller [00:32:00]:

And Yes. And not only does that build an effective team, it also makes me feel good that I know I will do that for them. I will take the hard hits for them. I will take, you know, somebody yelling at me. I will you know, so they don't have to. Right? And, I think, you know, setting those clear expectations for your team as they're working is also really important. So they understand what the goals are of the organization. They understand what they do and how that contributes to that goal is really important for effective teams.

Marcia Miller [00:32:38]:

And I don't I don't wanna keep going on, but I think the last thing I would say is to be kind.

Sara Payne [00:32:45]:

And We need more kindness.

Marcia Miller [00:32:47]:

We need more kindness everywhere. And again, it's not that I haven't had hard conversations with employees. It's not that I haven't had to let people go. It's not that I haven't been angry. I have been all those things, but at the end of the day, these are human beings who have homes and children and

Sara Payne [00:33:08]:


Marcia Miller [00:33:09]:

There is no reason to yell in the office. There just isn't. And kindness goes a long way. I think you can be I think I'm super direct. People don't think I'm from Minnesota and I'm not. But I actually think that I am mostly kind. Maybe there are some moments I'm not.

Sara Payne [00:33:32]:

I know that to be true. I know you to be a very kind person. Are there a couple of takeaways from what you said that I just wanted to to call out? Where you're talking about being honest about your own gaps as a leader and then thinking about how to fill the gaps with the hires that you've made, I think is a really interesting point because it's almost as though we need to be a little bit more fluid when we think about the org chart, quote, unquote. Right? Like Yeah. There might be certain roles that you know that you need, but when you hire them, then you then you realize, hey. There's this there's this other role we need to create to complement, you know, these 2 leaders over here that maybe just wasn't originally kind of mapped out in the org chart. So I think I think there needs to be some fluidity, right, and and honest assessment around that. So I loved that point.

Sara Payne [00:34:17]:

And then the expectations That's hard

Marcia Miller [00:34:19]:

in some organizations, though. But but yes.

Sara Payne [00:34:21]:

Very hard. Because you might only have a certain head count. Right? Certain head count that you can get, and so that might be much more challenging. And then when you talked about expectations, I was nodding my head a lot there because I think there's a lot of assumptions that can be made many times.

Marcia Miller [00:34:37]:

Right? Mhmm.

Sara Payne [00:34:38]:

You have a job description, you hire someone to the job description. You're very clear when you're recruiting and hiring them and bringing them into the team. But then there's this right, there's the actual day to day work and they get in there. And then sometimes they're not asking questions because they're new and they're figuring things out. And all of a sudden, you're 6, 12 months in, and Yeah. You thought they were doing this and they thought they were doing that. Right? And so I think I, I agree with you. I've learned as a leader, clear expectations are incredibly important.

Sara Payne [00:35:07]:

Assume nothing. I say that a lot to, to my team as well. Don't make assumptions because you're not helping yourself or the organization by by making assumptions because you you you thought you heard something or understood something to be a certain way. I think it goes back to asking a lot of questions, whether you're the leader or or the the employee. But, yeah, those clear expectations are so important.

Marcia Miller [00:35:31]:

You know, I think you bring up one other thing that I think is important to have an effective team. So it's all of those things that we just went through. But but I also think being transparent, is important. So setting up the expectations is transparency. Sharing the business goals of the organization at a high level is transparency. Sharing problems that are happening, at a level that may be outside of what your team typically would know. I think that's important. I mean, it's context.

Marcia Miller [00:36:06]:

And don't we all want some context to know what's happening in the company that we're going up to every day? And, so, you know, I probably erred on the side of too much transparency, in my career, but it's a fine line.

Sara Payne [00:36:22]:

Yeah. I agree.

Marcia Miller [00:36:23]:

You know, and and I think that for me as an employee, I like to know what's going on and I just assume everybody else does too.

Sara Payne [00:36:32]:

Yeah. And I think, you know, I think there's a level of I think for the most part, employees really appreciate that transparency. Right? Even if some of what they hear sometimes is uncomfortable. Right? Or or might be a little fear inducing, right, because maybe the organization is under a lot of, you know, financial pressure or or pressure from the board or whatever that is. But I think getting it out of the open and talking about it and having a leader to your point, that's that is gonna say, but I'm I'm here for this team and we're gonna you know, we stay focused here. We're gonna be, you know, we're gonna be able to deliver for the organization and things are gonna be great. I mean, not not overly, you know, pushing positivity, but but standing there as a leader.

Marcia Miller [00:37:12]:

Nice balance. Yeah.

Sara Payne [00:37:13]:


Marcia Miller [00:37:13]:

I remember I worked for a company, an unnamed company, that that, had gone through some significant layoffs. And after the layoffs, typically got the whole team back together in a room and on virtual. And so I think there were 300 people, you know, on the call, and I was, you know, up in the front. And somebody asks a question, and they said, well, so is this it? Is that all the layoffs we're gonna have? And, you know, there was a talk track from human capital that would have said, yes. We're through with those layoffs and right? That's what the talk track probably would have said had I read it, but I probably didn't, because that wasn't my answer. My answer was, you know, I'm gonna be honest with you. This company is gonna make their numbers one way or the other. They're gonna make it by either earning their way to success or cutting their way to success.

Marcia Miller [00:38:10]:

But at the end of the year, that's gonna happen. So do your best job every day, improve your value, and we'll all be fine. And I had a ton of people come up to me after that and say how much they appreciated that because they didn't feel like I was just feeding them an HR line.

Sara Payne [00:38:26]:


Marcia Miller [00:38:27]:

And and I I was honest and I was it wasn't meant to send people off into some kind of crazy fearful state. No. Because I said, you know, hey, We're all do a great job, and we're in it together. Right? And I I think those kind of lessons through my career when I've done something maybe a little unconventional, that could maybe get me in trouble, later after I've had those follow-up conversations with people, I'm like, yeah. That was the right thing to do.

Sara Payne [00:38:54]:

It pays off. I agree. Yeah. I agree. Well, I I could talk to you all day, Marcia. There's so much richness in this conversation, so much, advice. Before we go, I'd like to switch gears for for a special segment we call the collective quick fire. I've got 5 rap oh, you got this.

Sara Payne [00:39:13]:

You got this. So I've got 5 rapid fire questions, to get some valuable insights here before we before we end. My first question is, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Marcia Miller [00:39:26]:

Wow. I worked one of my first jobs. I worked for this gentleman. Maybe he's helped me be, a risk taker, and he didn't know it. And he's told me he was, laid off or moving into another role or something, and I was, like, horrified for him because I was just right out of college. And, he said, no. It's totally fine. He goes, this is, you know and the the job of every manager and every leader should be to work themselves out of a job.

Sara Payne [00:39:57]:


Marcia Miller [00:39:58]:

And I have taken that with me, and I'm like, yeah. Your job is to empower people to be the best they can be so that if you weren't here, they'd be fine.

Sara Payne [00:40:10]:

Yes. I love that. As a CMO, what do you typically outsource versus keep in house?

Marcia Miller [00:40:18]:

You're not gonna want me to tell you this probably, but I think that things that are critical to the business that are business ideas, need to stay in house. Yeah. I think things that are trees for the forest, that a partner can bring insight because you're too close to it should be outsourced.

Sara Payne [00:40:42]:

Makes sense to me. What's more important to you? Short term results or long term investment in the brand?

Marcia Miller [00:40:50]:

Everybody wants both and you can have both, so I'll say both.

Sara Payne [00:40:54]:

Okay. Fair enough. How do you, Marcia, stay updated with the latest trends and and developments in in health marketing? What are the different sources that you turn to?

Marcia Miller [00:41:05]:

You know, I stay on top of a lot of the publications that do a lot of great great work, and I listen to great, you know, people talking about what they're up to. I have a great network of people who I get together with, and we hash through what's what's good, bad, and ugly, and what's changing and evolving. So, you know, I think that I stay abreast of things, through a variety of ways.

Sara Payne [00:41:29]:

Yeah. I think in your in that CMO role in particular, I think it's really critical to have that group of peers that you can lean on, you know, who are facing similar challenges, have gone through similar things, and and just be able to to talk through some of that. I think that's really important. What advice do you have for how to select the right external creative partner?

Marcia Miller [00:41:51]:

That's a good question. I have the advice that you should actually, assume that everybody can do the work. I think that people spend too much time, you know, trying to, you know, dissect who can do the work better. I think at in this day and age, all of our creative partners, whether it be PR or creative agencies, they all really should be able to do the work. So assume that positive intent. They're all gonna be able to do the work and then get down to brass tacks of a relationship. Who is gonna be there when the shit hits the fan? Because it's gonna. Yep.

Marcia Miller [00:42:28]:

And who's gonna be there with you helping to solve it? And those are the best partners. I've had some fabulous ones. You guys have definitely been one of them where, you know, you're gonna have crisis, and you wanna make sure the people that are in that crisis with you, that you like them, that you respect them, and that you know they're gonna go to the mat with you. And and and I think if you can pick a partner that way and assume the work is going to come, that's probably my best advice.

Sara Payne [00:42:57]:

Yeah. And the and the ability to, respectfully disagree with each other on both sides of the table, that candor. Right? Because if you're if you are in a crisis or, you know, there's a lot sort of on the line, you need to be looking at all angles, and you don't want to surround yourself with a partner that's just gonna be, you know, a yes person and just agree with, you know, the direction that

Marcia Miller [00:43:17]:

they're planning. Nothing to do with size. You know, there there used to be you only wanna work with big agencies. I'm like, well, a lot of the big agency brains went and started small agencies on their own. You know? Absolutely. And so so I would not look at that at all. I'd only look at, you know, their book and their work, of course, but that's table stakes. And then look at the relationship that you have with them, the mutual respect that you have, and and ask them the question.

Marcia Miller [00:43:45]:

When something goes wrong, because it will, how do you handle that?

Sara Payne [00:43:50]:

Yep. Love that. Great advice. Well, this has been really fun, Marcia. Always a pleasure getting to spend time with you. Thanks for doing this with me today. How can listeners get in touch with you?

Marcia Miller [00:44:02]:

Probably easiest way is on LinkedIn.

Sara Payne [00:44:05]:

Excellent. Look for Marcia Miller on LinkedIn. As usual, the collective dished out some pretty great insights today. If you're feeling inspired, do us a favor and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for being part of the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence, because the future of health care depends on it. See you next time.

More episodes

Cover art for podcast episode Marketing's Role in Driving Meaningful Change
Marketing’s Role in Driving Meaningful Change
Read More
Cover art for podcast episode The CMO Corner: Embracing Risk
The CMO Corner: Embracing Risk
Read More
Cover art for podcast episode Brand Consistency in the Rapid Content Era: Part 2
Brand Consistency in the Rapid Content Era: Part 2
Read More