Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie talk with Alecha Stackle, Chief Marketing Officer at NetDocuments, as she shares her transformative journey and expertise in leading remote teams. From navigating the ever-evolving landscape of marketing to fostering global team cohesion, Stackle’s strategies and reflections provide valuable insights for aspiring leaders and marketers alike, offering a nuanced perspective on the challenges and triumphs in the dynamic world of modern business.
Links from the episode:
[02:47] From physical therapist to marketing
[07:16] Capitalizing on passion
[18:04] Mistaking kindness with passiveness
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders. No apologies podcast, a show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our website at affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders. Here’s the show.
Debbie Foster (00:34):
Here we are for another episode of Powerful Leaders Know Apologies. Thank you for joining us. Hi Beth.
Beth Thompson (00:40):
Hi Debbie. How are you?
Debbie Foster (00:42):
I’m doing well. I can’t believe we’re recording this a week before the Christmas holiday. It’s our last recording of 2023, so our listeners, it’s already 2024. You’re in the future for us and we are super excited about our guests today. We have Alecha Stackle with us and Alecha is the chief marketing officer for NetDocuments, a company that Beth and I hold very near and dear to our hearts for different reasons. We’ve been NetDocuments partners for a really long time. I don’t know, I feel like 15 years or something like that. And Beth, how about you?
Beth Thompson (01:21):
Well, of course I have certainly affinity for NetDocuments and worked there for several years and still enjoy all the people and we worked together in a different capacity when I was at NetDocuments and works with Affinity as our implementation partner, as an implementation partner for me. So we go back way, way back. But before we dive in, I just wanted to acknowledge Debbie, it was about a year ago this time that we were sitting in the Delta Sky Lounge dreaming up this podcast. And I just wanted to let you know it’s been an honor to be working on this all year with you. We kicked off in January, we’ve been going strong and just to think that we pulled this together, it seems so quickly at the end of last year. And then we’ve had such a great ride all year and had some amazing guests and we’re ending this year recording with another amazing guest and looking forward Alecha to chatting with you.
Debbie Foster (02:14):
You are so right. It is our one year dreaming anniversary. I didn’t even realize that. So I agree. It has been super, super fun. And Alecha, you get to be a part of an episode that we’re recording right at our one year anniversary of really the birth of this podcast.
Alecha Stackle (02:31):
That’s really exciting and super flattering to get to be with you on this anniversary.
Debbie Foster (02:36):
Yes, well we’re glad to have you and we would love it if you would start and just kind of give us your story. How did you get started in marketing and what led you to the legal industry and NetDocuments?
Alecha Stackle (02:47):
Sure. Well, I always like to tell people that I ended up in marketing so I don’t have to purposely hurt anyone. And that sounds a little strange, but it’s because I was going to go into physical therapy. I had had a big injury, had gotten to have just an amazing set of care and was all set up to head into college and come back and do an internship and the long and shortest, they needed some help when they were overrun with actual rodeo cowboys that had had injuries for the day at the Fort Worth rodeo. And I went to work and set someone up for really some compression to help with swelling for the same injury that I had had. And it turns out I’m okay with my own pain, I’m not good with others. And I passed out because sometimes you have to hurt people to help them get their right range of motion and others.
So I went into college’s business undecided instead of kinesiology and I had a great experience and as an athlete at the University of Texas, we had a lot of opportunity to do recruitment, to do fundraising and things like that. And someone that had seen me in that capacity thought I would be really good at sales. And so said, Hey, when you graduate, if we have a role at the company, you should come and interview. And it happened to work out and I was at that company for about six or seven years and I just always credit that organization with being such a great foundational place for me to have started my career. I love when marketers carry a bag first because I think what you bring to the table is a little bit more real life, what it’s like to get in front of the customer and what you’d need to know and how you’d need to know it as well as what tools and things help you.
And I hope I bring that every day as a marketer to the table. But I started in a sales customer service role. I’ve always been, even though I was a tennis player, which is thought of as an individual sport, previously I did team sports and I always did better when there was a team orientation to the activity like a team tennis or those kinds of things. And when I got in my first role, we actually had individual and team goals and you had to hit the team goal to go to club and it just naturally sort of fit with my desire of how to engage and collaborate that I started helping everybody with their scripts. And you can always hear those aha moments when you’re helping somebody with their job and the product will be beneficial for them. And as I started doing that, I started doing that for a broader and broader part of the organization and then training, it wasn’t really a part of my role, but just seemed like the right thing to do.
And that naturally rolled into a sales management role, that particular one, we had all this data and information that just told us when we acquired the company, I was going to go need the sales org for that. We were not going to get to the number. It took about six months longer to acquire that company than they had anticipated. And so they said, Hey Alicia, if you get to 50%, you did well, we need you to know that because a little bit counter to your personality. And I just went home for the weekend and I thought, we can’t end it 50%. That can’t be the goal. And so I took all the data and what we knew and went and looked, what were the vectors that I could change in that dynamic that would get us to the goal? And there were a lot of things that I did that sort of translated that momentum with the team and the combination of those things.
We actually hit the full year goal and I was on the last day with my little calculator trying to make sure we really got everything in and really hit the number and the general manager came up and he said, Hey, this was a great job and we’ve got direct mail that is really costing us money and it should be a profit center so you no longer do this job on Monday, so go home and celebrate this one and come back. And I said, whoa, I thought I was doing okay here. I don’t even know anything about marketing. And he was like, you were targeting, you did the following things you kind of think you naturally do. And weren’t you a speech communications major? So went home, came back and started with direct mail and then eventually ran all of the marketing organization and then later marketing sales motions with the firm. And so that’s how I got my start and headed towards marketing and then it really snowballed from there. It turns out I am a marketing geek and really do love it.
Beth Thompson (06:45):
I love that organic growth and when other people see skills and attributes in you that you may not see yourself but then it catapults you and it really allows you to thrive and maybe capitalize on an area that you were passionate about but you didn’t recognize it but other people recognized it. So I think this is a really great example of that. So what led you to Legal Tech? Because obviously you’ve fast forwarded now, right in your marketing CMO at Medocs.
Alecha Stackle (07:16):
Sure. Well, I tend to gravitate to things that are somewhat, I’m going to say like highly regulated niche where you can really enable someone who spends all day every day with a mission on behalf of their customers. So I’ve gravitated to markets like education state and local government, legal, even tax and accounting. So I think I just have sort of a natural inclination to go to things that are mission critical for a business or system or entity entity. And so that’s how I originally headed that direction. And again, I love helping support someone who’s trying to get the right outcome for their client, their customer, their students, whatever that might be. And so I think it just naturally occurred there and this will be my sort of second rotation in anything that was related to legal and I just find that they’re really amazing professionals and it can be just wonderful to be a part of that ecosystem.
Debbie Foster (08:18):
The NetDocuments part of it, I think Beth and I have both had the opportunity to work with NetDocuments marketing over the years and over a lot of years and I definitely think that you joining the marketing team has made a huge difference. And I can tell that as a partner because, and one of the things, because I have experience working with you and with your team, one of the things that I see that I think is really impactful is that your team is looking at marketing from every angle. How do you support your internal sales team, but how do you support your partners and how do you support integration partners and how do you support the product team and how do you help bring clarity to all of the messaging around all of the amazing things that what looks to be a single product but which is what is actually lots of products all combined in one? And I think that’s a real powerful skill for a marketing professional. So kudos to you for that.
Alecha Stackle (09:23):
Well thank you. You absolutely just made my day, my week, my year by saying that you certainly hit a passion of mine. I think that when you create solutions that help people hopefully do their best job for themselves as well as their clients, you’ve got to work really hard to make sure you can message what it is that they can get from that and actually get to adopt and utilize that. And my additional passion around that is that again, the ecosystem that supports that customer end to end all need to have the same information so we can run together at the same pace because that’s where you get the magic or the outcomes for the customers. And so I always tell my team that when you think about the motion going out the door, which is kind of what marketing’s supposed to do, is get the information so it can get to all the right people and really always think about what we’re doing is supposed to raise all boats. So if we do our job well, there’s a whole bunch of impact that we can’t track or monitor, but you see the momentum in the business, but you only get that when you realize that you have an impact on that and that you make that a part of your plan. So I appreciate that feedback and hopefully that’s something we continue to build our muscles on.
Beth Thompson (10:33):
Well Debbie, if you recall, we go so far back with NetDocuments, it was a marketing team of one. So there’s been a lot of growth in NetDocuments.
Debbie Foster (10:42):
For sure. And it also makes me think like we had Bri from Big Hand on our show a few episodes ago, and Triona from Actionstep, both of them, CMOs in those two businesses, we’ve got to send an intro email to the three of you. I am sure that there are, you can commiserate, but also really celebrating the things that work and the things that help get that message out. So we’ll definitely do that. We’ll definitely make that intro and you should listen to those episodes and we’ll tell them the same thing. I think it’s super helpful to hear from people who are doing the same job in the same industry with other products.
Alecha Stackle (11:23):
For sure. It’s super helpful. I think I have an ongoing text string, actually multiple with folks that I’ve worked with that are all now either CMOs or CEOs. We just bounce things off of each other and I think even if you had the right answer, getting two or three different angles on that is so helpful. So I love that. That would be fantastic.
Debbie Foster (11:45):
That’s a perfect segue into talking about where you find inspiration. Are there books, are there podcasts? Where do you find inspiration on a daily basis?
Alecha Stackle (11:55):
Well, I used to drive the mailman who came to our house nuts, but today it’s mostly online. I truly sign up for everything. Lemme take a step back. When I took on that direct mail job that we talked about and I said I didn’t have any experience in doing it and I thought they were a little bit crazy for saying I should go do it, but to your point that people see things in you and can facilitate that, I really signed up for everything that would send me direct mail from everybody in the industry outside the industry, consumer oriented things. And so truly we had a box you walked to in the neighborhood to get the mail and I had so much coming on a daily basis that the mailman came to our door and he was like, I just need to know what you do that gets this much mail.
And I explained, and he was so kind that he started dropping it at our doorstep, but I had an initial hypothesis that if I saw the same type of mailing three times in a row or at least three times over a period that they were getting success out of that. And I started using it as a way to test when I didn’t have market research dollars or things like that. And what I’ve found is that if you take in a lot of information, you engage with a lot of things. It could be something that seems silly fun for you and what you’re ordering for a holiday gift as an example, but there might be a nugget in there that you can apply in a B2B environment or it might make you think a little bit differently. So I tend to be someone who likes to learn a lot and likes to test out and try things.
I will take calls, I will buy extra things if you will, to see if they’ve got a good motion going, how they flowed you all the way through it and how they responded. So I do a lot of that kind of stuff. And then I read quite a bit. My family at one point told me I didn’t read anything for fun. So I’ve adjusted and I now read more for fun as well. I personally love Harvard Business Review. I still like getting my paper copy. I make my team listen to stories about how to think a little bit differently and examples that are outside of our world and I find that very helpful. I’m not always as good with listening to podcasts in terms of a consistency, but I find that I have friends and colleagues that will send me things and I’ll voraciously listen to those as I get them. But I actually think sometimes we forget that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We need to learn from others and test what works in our environment. And that creates uniqueness with what you’re doing, but you don’t have to overcomplicate it by always just sitting in a room by yourself so to speak.
Debbie Foster (14:28):
That’s a really great point because I do think that there is a lot of value in that. Back to the basics messaging, finding something that worked previously. Not everything has to be new. In fact, some would argue that nothing is new, we’re just recycling the same things over and over again. I love the back to the basics and of the things that I started doing six or eight months ago, which has been super helpful for me is in teams you actually have a chat with yourself. Everyone has that. It’s like the top chat in teams and whether I’m sitting at my computer or I’m on my phone, if I see something and I think that’s a great social media post for later or that’s a great idea that I should bring back to my team, or I want to go read this article later or somebody highlighted this podcast episode, I send it to myself in that team’s message. And then I go through that team’s message pretty regularly and I look for things that are just maybe little nuggets that you find that spark something in your brain and make you make it something bigger. And for me that has been a little bit of the back to the basics. I don’t need to invent everything I can find little nuggets of things and then turn them into something cool.
Alecha Stackle (15:47):
No, it’s such an important point and honestly there’s always going to be a new vehicle, but I think something you said is something I talk to my team and current and past teams quite a bit about, which is the fundamentals of things don’t change. The path that you get to leverage to have that communication with someone can change. But at the end of the day, there’s a debate from time to time, but I firmly believe the stats that somewhere between 70 and 90% of the success of any marketing is the targeting. And that’s been fundamentally true from day one. And then the second part of it is once you get to the right people, having the right message and information that actually ties to what they’re trying to achieve really connects. And that’s when I say things like boring selves sometimes we try to get too cute and the reality is, look, we’re all trying to parse through our day and information map our way to the quickest path to our answer. So don’t make it difficult, make it clear. And I think those things, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking social media, you’re talking a dimensional mailer or you’re talking how you show up an event, clarity over cuteness all day long.
Debbie Foster (16:53):
So let’s shift gears and let’s talk about obstacles and challenges. I’m guessing you’ve had one or two over the years, years would love to hear what was hard, when did somebody count you out? What did you do to overcome it?
Alecha Stackle (17:08):
There’s probably been two things throughout my career that come to mind. One is I graduated early from high school and then kind of powered through college. And heck, I was still getting carded for movies when I was 18 and 19. So I never quite looked my age in my early years. So I always would get sometimes you’re very young and when you think about that first sales manager role that I talked about, most people will sometimes two x my age in those roles. And so I think you have to be very clear how you show credibility because it’s a combination of experience and hard work and intellect and honestly a lot of other factors that sometimes get you in those roles more than just sheer numbers of years. And that had been something I had come up against as an athlete as well. And so I always felt like if you did the hard work that you’d get that buy-in and build that credibility.
The other thing that I got even later in my career and probably still get some today if I pause and think about it sometimes, I do remember, oh gosh, probably 15 years ago being passed over for a role and they specifically said it was because they thought I was going to be too nice for that role. Now ultimately I got the role and did the actual hard work that they thought was something that I would be too nice for. And I think there’s a difference between finding a way to be kind than being a pushover. And I hope I find that balance, which is again, you’ve got to hold accountability after you set expectations with yourself and with others. But I don’t think you have to do that in a harsh way. And I think that for me was an interesting one. And I think as more and more women have gone further in careers and in the workspace, I think there’s a much more just natural inclination to understand there’s different work if you will.
I don’t want to call it techniques, but different ways that we show up. And so there’s more of an understanding of that today than probably 15, 20 years ago. But those would be the two things that I think you can always work really hard and get the skills you can take personal ownership of improving your skillset and knowledge every day. I do think I had to work for a while on getting my voice more strong and more heard. And I’ll give you a tip that I still use to this day, especially when I get in new environments. When I first got to Dell, one of the pieces of feedback I got was when I spoke I had really great ideas, but I wasn’t speaking up enough. But I had been at smaller companies and honestly an only child, you never had to really fight for time at the dinner table, so to speak.
So they were wonderful and did coaching and I was working with a coach who said, I just want you to not do something silly. You don’t have to just do a weird call out in a meeting, but just as you go into the meeting, say something like, can we confirm the agenda today? Or she just gave me a few opening starters and one of the things she said, and I remember thinking at a time, that sounds so silly, but of course I’ll try it because you’ve given me this input. But just say something as the meaning’s beginning or just before it begins and people then will expect that you have something to say and they’ll naturally turn and give you that space until you feel more comfortable to kind of shout it out, shout out clearly. I probably have the opposite problem now, but it was a huge game changer for me.
Debbie Foster (20:22):
That is an amazing tip. I love that. I do too. And because being assertive doesn’t always come naturally and I think you have to practice, and that was a very subtle way to practice being assertive. I love that. That’s great. So I’m curious, Alicia, one of the things that I’d love for you to talk about from a leadership perspective is your team is not all in one place. How do you keep ’em motivated? How do you keep people connected? How do you as a leader show up for all of your team everywhere they are, meet them where they are and have them feeling like a cohesive team? And I ask you that because I really do feel like they do feel that way, and so I’d love to know what contributes to that.
Alecha Stackle (21:06):
Yeah, and look, I think this is an extra hard one for all of us after Covid, and there’s so many different reasons for that. And it’s not just because we’re more dispersed. I came from environments in which I always had teams in other parts of the country. So even if we had a hub, we weren’t really all together. And I still think it’s a little bit more difficult. What I would say is that I think we have to come to the new reality that teams or things like that, you can still do drivebys and we’re used to, you could run by somebody’s office peek in, do you have a minute? And you felt like you could have that conversation or on the way to get a cup of coffee or what have you. You’d run in and get that FaceTime. You have to be more purposeful in it.
But at the same time, there’s some simple things I think, and then there’s some bigger elements. On the simple side, I’ve really been trying to get folks to treat being virtual as though they’re in the office. If you have a question for somebody just pinging, Hey, do you have five minutes? Could you fit in a quick call and just call? Right? Just have that the same way you would if you were driving by. It doesn’t have to be a formal invite with a big agenda. Sometimes you just need a little bit of feedback or connectivity. I do think it’s easier when you’re not in an office to start to use email and chat and things to avoid having a human to human conversation, which is what I call it. And I’m like, if you’ve got more than one email back and forth, it’s time just to do a quick call and just have a discussion.
Again, not a formal meeting necessarily, but just a discussion. And I find that that takes fire where you start to get back to having those collaborative things. Have a coffee with somebody that you would’ve normally gone and grabbed a coffee with virtually Dan, who’s our chief product officer, we purposely set our one-on-ones up for our last meeting on Fridays so that we could actually talk and ideate and do those kinds of things without feeling rushed, but have a little bit at that time that we could not feel sort of pressured again to get to that next meeting instead spend a little time just getting the chat, which has been great. And then I think in the big, you do have to be more conscious of all the touch points where you bring everybody together. One thing that we instituted this year that we’re going to continue to do is actually a marketing offsite.
So we do our RKO, which is our revenue kickoff at the first year. We usually do some extra time for marketing around that because then we disperse and go into the segments with our segment teams. But we also added just a pure multiple days where we get together and have very specific agenda work through things that help us. We kind did it more at the mid-year point, so we still had time to make adjustments, but had enough under belt to feel like we knew what we needed to work on. And I think those are a combination of things that you have to do, but I do think you have to get a little bit more of your cadence of meetings, really do your skip level meetings so that you can take in information. And I also think make yourself available. One of the great things that happened with Covid is that it kind of made us all realize we’re all just dealing with the same things.
We’ve got dogs that run in, somebody that shows up at the door, that kind of stuff. And it made us, I think, more open to the fact that just because you’re the cmo, you’re not scary kind of thing or what have you. So I encourage people, I call it the chat meet, text me, call me, but things get buried in email. Nothing really important that happens over email. We sort of document things over email and that’s probably harsh, but the reality is just feel like you can let me know if you’ve got a question. And I think if you get that going, you get those muscles kind of in place for folks. It tends to make people feel cohesive because now I can call folks. And the last thing I would say on this one, I also try to really highlight there’s an accountability factor for this. So if you come and say, we’re not on the same page with this, and I find out you didn’t have a human conversation to see if you could get on the same page, same page. I’m going to ask you to go back and work on that and do that. They start to feel like, oh, I need to make that connection with my counterpart over here because we should be able to work that out. And I think that snowballs positively,
Beth Thompson (25:13):
All really great points. We have made it to our final question. We ask every guest the same question. It’s always our favorite question of the day. What is your leadership superpower?
Alecha Stackle (25:25):
I have never even heard this question until an interview a few years back, and I love the question to ask everybody else, but I think it’s a hard one to answer. One of my past colleagues said, if you haven’t realized it, your superpower is what he called connections. And he didn’t mean that from just that you could call up someone. But when I stopped to think about how he shared that information, it’s really in the fact that I think all of us, it’s an ecosystem. And if you think about it as an ecosystem on an ongoing basis, it’s not. I never was good at networking. And so when somebody say you need to network, I was like, oh, that seems very self-serving, and not in my personality, but this other side of it where you can create connections across organizations. I’ve got functional team members that they’re going to go deeper in their area, but if I know someone who goes really deep in digital and would not mind doing a 30 minute call, the partners and vendors that we work with, I think of them as connection points that you can bring together and bring to the table when you need to do something.
And I find that when I stop and look at that, that’s enabled a lot of additional training for the team. It helps when we need to burst out for resources. It helps when I help people think about how it fits together for some of the stuff we talked about earlier in the podcast. So I guess if I had to lean on one, I’d probably say, I’m going to steal from Larry and say, that would be the superpower.
Debbie Foster (26:49):
That is amazing. And I think that’s really true. I haven’t known you for that long, but I definitely see that and I see you making sure that the right people are connected. So I love that. Alecha, thank you so much for being a guest on our show. We have loved every minute of having you here and be on the lookout for those introductions to the other CMOs that we’ve had.
Alecha Stackle (27:11):
Well, thank you and thanks for a great first year and look forward to a great 2024.
Beth Thompson (27:16):
Thank you, Alrcha.
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network,
Debbie Foster (27:31):
And check out our show notes at affinityconsulting.com slash powerful leaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.