How Mariann McDonagh Serves Up a Winning Dish of Cooperation and Cohesion at inContact
By Charlene Oldham
When it was time to bring her far-flung team together a few months ago, Mariann McDonagh eschewed some typical corporate outings in favor of a cooking school session where people worked to prepare an elaborate Thai meal and eventually gather together to enjoy the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor.
“I thought it would be a great team-building event rather than racing cars or shooting each other with paintballs,” said McDonagh, who considers herself an expert in the kitchen.
Creating a cohesive culture for her team members is something McDonagh spends a lot of time and energy on considering more than half work somewhere other than inContact’s U.S. offices. The company provides cloud-based call center services to clients around the world, so its reliance on remote work makes sense. But that global reach means McDonagh can’t just call an impromptu afternoon meeting to make sure everyone is on track. Instead, she relies on “relentless communications” using a range of tech tools, including Skype, Google Hangouts and text messaging, to convey the company’s mission.
“If you could see my desk right now, I have about six communications devices on it. We sort of knock down the walls of remoteness by constantly connecting,” she said. “I think the most important thing is that each of the individuals on the team understands what it is that we’re doing, understands what their part in it is, knows what they need to do to be successful and how they are going to be measured.”
That wasn’t how things worked when McDonagh joined inContact four years ago. Then, the small, entry-level marketing staff performed what she calls “random acts of marketing” without a strategic plan. McDonagh was brought in to change that after a round of fundraising that inContact executives hoped would spark aggressive growth for the firm. McDonagh revamped marketing messages to position inContact as a brand leader, beefed up her department’s infrastructure and rebuilt her staff with more emphasis on seniority and specialization.
“One of the tough things is I had to change out about 90 percent of the team and bring in a lot of different skill sets,” she said.
Patchwork of Peers
But the changes paid off, resulting in a more than 100 percent increase in lead flow year over year for the past four years And they’ve allowed McDonagh, who also oversees inContact’s Product Management Team of about 30, to expand the core Marketing Team from seven to 21. With the larger staff, McDonagh is now able to implement a peer mentoring system in which employees with different skill sets pair up.
“I like to say that my team is like a patchwork quilt,” she said. “We don’t have two people who come from exactly the same background. So when they stitch together, they make something really interesting and beautiful.”
It’s not unusual for McDonagh to mentor team members who are two or three notches below her on the corporate totem pole. Her team also looks to other inContact departments and industry events to pick up best practices.
“We do a cross-departmental mentoring where we’ve got folks who have interesting skill sets,” she said. “They may be good speakers or excellent product marketers, and they are mentoring back into my group to really add skills, experience and a new perspective.”
McDonagh’s own background encompasses several unique positions, including a stint running marketing for an Australian firm and as a Director of Custom Publishing for a firm that produced magazines in multiple languages for IBM’s global partners. One of her most educational experiences came with Cheyenne Software, now part of Computer Associates, where McDonagh handled the product marketing for a new version of Cheyenne’s biggest software line.
“That really cut my teeth on the whole spectrum of integrated marketing that accompanied a product launch, everything from packaging to advertising to partner communications, global launch events and PR,” she said. “I had the opportunity to really direct and touch every facet of that product launch.”
It was that experience, in part, that helped McDonagh become as comfortable in the executive office as she is in the kitchen.
“Having a recipe, but being comfortable enough to riff on it, is really what it’s all about. I look at recipes, but I rarely cook from them, and I think that’s the same way I think about driving this team and driving the business,” she said. “I read a lot of business books and talk to a lot of folks in the industry, then I take that back and I make it my own. I spice it up in my own way.”
Charlene Oldham is a freelance writer based in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Marianne's Key Partners:Webmarketing123 (Digital marketing agency) | Northbound DGS (Lead Qualification) | CGI Interactive Communications (Interactive Design Agency) | MCG (Branding and Design) | Radius Social (Social Selling Partner)
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