Interview with Adrianna Burrows, Chief Marketing Officer, Cornerstone OnDemand

Adrianna Burrows
Adrianna Burrows

“The best marketers will be able to use technology, including machine learning, to fine-tune their campaigns and provide truly personalized experiences for their potential buyers.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be a part of a tech-based talent management company?

In March 2018, I joined Cornerstone OnDemand as the Chief Marketing Officer. The company is currently in a pivotal phase of growth, and I was drawn to the enormous opportunity to lead the company’s brand expansion and help it evolve into a major SaaS player. Cornerstone is also doing some incredible, innovative work in the talent management space, particularly in workplace learning. Ongoing training and education have been an incredibly important part of my career, and I’ve worked hard to inspire my teams to be curious and open to learning new skills. So, when I started meeting with Cornerstone, the opportunity felt like a natural fit.

Prior to Cornerstone, I was the CMO at Stack Overflow, where I was responsible for all global corporate marketing, including branding, communications, digital marketing and demand generation. Before that, I spent six years as the General Manager of Windows marketing at Microsoft, where I led product marketing, business strategy, global channel strategy, brand communications, co-marketing initiatives and worldwide marketing strategy across more than 190 countries. You really sharpen your skills when you work with companies that operate at two very different scales. You are reminded that the fundamentals of marketing don’t change regardless of the size of the company or what you are marketing. If you don’t have the fundamentals in check (such as knowing your audience, identifying what problem you’re solving, ensuring your product is a market fit, etc.), then you are dead in the water.

I began my career at the global communications agency Waggener Edstrom, where I spent 13 years leading and supporting global technology accounts, including several Microsoft businesses (Office and Explorer), as well as opening the agency’s Austin, Texas office and a few of the West Coast offices. Beginning a career in PR very much set the course of my career — you see firsthand that perception is reality, so if a company or a product doesn’t have the perception they want with their customers, media, analysts or influencers, then nothing else matters.

How do you see the demand-gen and marketing automation technologies changing the way HR and Talent Management companies drive their sales productivity?

Marketing automation technologies have come a long way in the past few years, and it’s been one of the more interesting aspects of my job figuring out how and when to adopt new technologies. Beyond increasing efficiencies in outreach and reporting, some of the latest automation tools have enabled my teams to develop unique, fresh campaigns that truly reflect the brand they represent. Additionally, integration functionality with social media has drastically improved campaign results, setting the stage for the sales team to jump in and continue the conversation.

What are your predictions for B2B marketing technologies? How should CMOs plan the inclusion of these technologies in 2018?

As marketing teams become more integrated with other business units within a company, the need for more collaborative tools is paramount. Collectively, marketing leaders have worked so hard to open the lines of communication between marketing and sales teams, and the next step is to use these technologies to bridge the gaps between other departments, such as marketing and product development, or marketing and IT. The more collaboration we can get across the entire company, the more innovative and efficient we can become.

Additionally, I foresee major growth in the areas of social media integration and enhanced behavior-based workflows. The best marketing tools are successful when they naturally fit into existing processes. One of the best examples I see here is experience management from companies like Qualtrics — giving companies an opportunity to manage all aspects of their brand and experience.

Which marketing and sales technologies and automation tools do you use to achieve better ROI? 

Throughout my career, I’ve worked primarily with Marketo and Hubspot. For the size of the organizations I’ve worked for, these tools have offered my teams the functionality and scope needed to reach the scale of global clients.

With the maturity of B2B content, how do you see multi-channel marketing and sales automation integrations evolving by 2020?

Today’s buyers are inundated with marketing overload. It’s always been important to know your audience when developing a new campaign, but I see this process getting even more prescriptive. Personalization will become an imperative component of cutting through the clutter. The best marketers will be able to use technology, including machine learning, to fine-tune their campaigns and provide truly personalized experiences for their potential buyers.

What startups in the martech/ sales intelligence industries are you watching/keen on right now?

It’s not that much of a start-up anymore, but I’m a massive fan of Qualtrics. I’m also excited about the momentum behind XM. Traditionally designed for B2C campaigns, I think we’ll start seeing it more and more in the B2B world.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign? 

I’ve had a handful that really stick out — the size and impact have obviously varied based on the scale of the company. For Microsoft, the digital campaign to drive Windows 10 downloads (the company’s first SaaS version of Windows) was a huge success. There were varying tactics to reach the different target audiences, but one of the biggest targets was trendsetters, a younger demographic that Windows was losing ground in. The objective was really to modernize the consumer experience through various social channels to engage and inspire new Windows fans. Windows 10 launch day was the most successful launch in Windows history… and the data shows we got those trendsetters. 🙂

At Stack Overflow, we literally had all the world’s developers on our site almost daily, yet very few of them also knew Stack was a place you could find a job or post your CV. Using the massive amounts of developer data we had, we created an online “developer salary calculator” identifying what a given developer should be paid for their skills in varying markets and posted it on our jobs site. We pushed it through several of our owned and operated channels. The traffic it drove was incredible, which ultimately lead to increased awareness/leads for our B2B offerings as well.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

Many have said we are embarking on the next industrial revolution and that is proving to be a true statement more and more. As AI and machine learning start infiltrating our workplaces, every single person will be impacted. As a business leader, it is our responsibility to prepare our teams for this massive shift. Whether it’s providing more training on how to work with AI or helping our teams pivot to new career trajectories, proactive leadership and new skills training will be the keys to success.

How do you inspire your people to work with leading technologies?

With any new technologies, there is always a learning curve. It’s important to give my teams time and extra budget to truly deep-dive into new tools and get the most out of all the features. In some cases, I’ve also encouraged team members to participate in beta programs for new functionality, which often results in benefits for both vendor and client.

I’ve also made it a point to include technology management goals in my direct reports’ performance goals. This way, we can track progress throughout the year and they have a target to achieve in a dedicated timeframe.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Aside from the tools, I talk about above and the dependency I have on the data they supply, I think it’s critical in marketing to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry. For me, that’s a combination of consuming massive amounts of tech press coverage as well as keeping an eye on the latest and greatest products across B2C and B2B. The wider your purview, the more strategic you are.

I am also an app addict. Outside of TripIt, most of my app use is for personal use versus work-related. My family would be a disaster if it weren’t for Cozi – we live and die by what the calendar says we should be doing.

Also, I spend a lot of time on the road and so I geek out when it comes to tracking my flights on Flight Aware — I even select flights based on their percent of on-time arrivals.

My family loves to ski, so I recently became quite obsessed with Slopes. There’s nothing like seeing your vertical feet, total distance and a ton of other cool data at the end of a great day on the hill.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I’m constantly being pulled in different directions, so it’s incredibly important for me to maximize my time throughout the day. I’m a huge believer in regular, 30-minute 1:1 meetings with my team leads. In that amount of time, I get top-line updates and can help solve any issues. For larger team meetings, I find scheduling them for 45 minutes, instead of an hour, encourages productivity. I also ask whoever is leading the meeting to develop a three-bullet agenda and to share it with all attendees in advance.

When I’m not in meetings, I find it very helpful to schedule two-hour blocks on my calendar to work without any interruptions. I try to schedule these a few times a week if my schedule permits.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I’ve read most of the NYT bestselling business books and have just started reading Barbarians at the Gate. It’s the story of the largest corporate buyout in US history. It is a fascinating recount of the competition to take over RJR Nabisco in the 1980s.

I’m also constantly checking industry news and try to get my hands on as many industry analyst reports as I can. For all marketers, it’s essential to have a tight grasp on the landscape, especially around what your competitors are up to. I’ve always asked my team to send a weekly, sometimes daily, news recap, and I find reading those helps me get a lay of the land quickly, especially on my busiest days.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I had the honor of working for Pam Edstrom for a number of years (of Waggener Edstrom ). Unfortunately, Pam lost a battle with cancer last year so I hold her advice even more dearly now.  Pam taught me early on in my career to do nothing on a project/campaign/plan until you can answer the most important question: “What business problem are they trying to solve?” I pause and ask myself that to this day.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Linda Boff, GE’s CMO. I’ve never met her, but I’ve admired her work from afar for a while now. GE is a company that is over 120 years old, yet she runs that marketing program like the most agile start-up I’ve seen.

Thank you Adrianna! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Adrianna is an accomplished marketing leader with expertise in designing and executing cutting-edge strategies, across consumer and commercial channels, to help achieve business objectives and desired brand perceptions. She has successfully built, transformed, and led motivated, high-performance teams.


Cornerstone OnDemand is pioneering solutions to help organizations realize the potential of the modern workforce. As a global leader in cloud-based human capital management software, Cornerstone is designed to enable a lifetime of learning and development that is fundamental to the growth of employees and organizations. From recruitment, onboarding, training and collaboration, to performance management, compensation, succession planning, people administration and analytics, Cornerstone is there at every phase of the employee lifecycle. Cornerstone is a single, unified solution that is completely configurable to meet the talent strategy, compliance, business and workflow needs of an organization. Cornerstone works with corporations of all sizes, government agencies, hospitals, nonprofits and schools. Our software and services are used by more than 3,200 clients worldwide, spanning more than 35 million users across 192 countries and 43 languages.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for MarTech Series’ Free Newsletter

We are a must-read Martech publication, bringing you News, Interviews, Insights, Research, and Trends about B2B Marketing. Subscribe to our free newsletter to keep up with the latest in Marketing Technology.
Company Email Address
Secure and Spam free...