Paige O’Neill, chief marketing officer at Sitecore, brings more than 20 years of experience in senior marketing roles crossing many areas of enterprise software, customer experience and cloud computing. As CMO, she combines product marketing expertise with a background in communications and a passion for developing thought leadership programs that build awareness, differentiation and demand.

Prior to joining Sitecore, O'Neill was CMO at the digital workplace platform provider Prysm, where she rebranded the company and helped it transition to a combined SaaS and hardware business. She previously served as CMO at SDL and as VP of Marketing for Aprimo. O'Neill also served as CMO at PHH Arval and two early-stage startups — Aravo and GreenRoad Technologies. Prior to PHH, Paige spent a decade at Oracle Corporation leading a variety of marketing initiatives. 

We caught up with O’Neill for a five-question Q&A on her role as CMO in our latest edition of the CMSWire CMO Circle series. 

Editor's note: This transcript is edited for clarity.

Launching of a Career, Starting with PR

Jennifer Torres: Hi, I’m Jennifer Torres, reporter for CMSWire and this is CMO Circle, a new, regular feature where each episode — we put the spotlight on a different CMO to learn more about them and their role.

Today I’m happy to welcome Paige O’Neill, chief marketing officer at Sitecore.

Welcome Paige — thank you for being here!

Paige O’Neill: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited.

Torres: Great. Well, we'll get right to it. My first question is, how did you get involved in marketing? What led you into this field?

O’Neill: It’s actually an interesting story. I was working on a Ph.D. at NYU, and I thought I wanted to teach college. I was looking for a part-time job and I happened upon a high-tech PR firm, and they thought they were going to hire me full-time — it was a little bit of a misunderstanding — I thought I was going for a part-time job. I didn’t even know what high tech PR was, but I got so excited about all the things they were talking about during the interview — I would have the opportunity to work for IBM, and they were launching an internet division — so I literally went home, stayed awake all night, and then went back the next day, quit the Ph.D. program and took the job in high tech PR.

Related Article: CMSWire CMO Circle: Shay Howe on Rewarding Marketing Leadership

Earn Your Experience in Marketing

Torres: Wow, that's amazing. It’s aways so interesting to know how people get into the field. So next question — what advice would you give to professionals who are just starting out and want to become a CMO one day?

O’Neill: The best advice that I could give would be two things. The first is to let your goals be known. Don't toil away silently, hoping that people are going to notice good work. Articulate what you want, and then to get there, make sure that you get as much experience as you can across the different disciplines in marketing. I started in PR, went over to product marketing, and got a wide variety of experience across different parts of marketing. I think that shaped up well when I did ultimately land in the CMO role.

The Move to a Marketing Technologist

Torres: What do you consider the biggest challenges for a CMO these days?

Learning Opportunities

O’Neill: I think that marketing has changed so much in the 20-plus years that I've been in high tech, and one of the biggest changes has been the complexity of the marketing technology stack. There are diagrams that show all these thousands and thousands of potential technology pieces that marketers could add to their stack. And now the CMO is expected to really understand what role those different pieces of technology are playing. They're expected to be able to leverage that stack to make a strategic impact to the business. It can be a big learning curve for a marketer who didn't necessarily grow up thinking about technology — and I think that's been a fundamental change that’s now a big challenge.

Related Article: 5 Insights Into the 9,932-Marketing Technology Landscape

Staying Authentic in Content, Campaigns

Torres: How do you see marketing evolving over the next few years?

O’Neill: I think marketing is changing a lot right now. When you look at how the rise of digital has impacted us ... and all of the different channels that we have at our disposal to go out with messages to the different personas that we're marketing to ... and trying to understand the message that's going to resonate with those personas ... and that content that we have to develop for all the different things that we want to talk about in campaigns, I think the expectation now is that everything is just getting more and more targeted.

It's no longer really acceptable marketing to just be splashing out campaigns that aren't targeted. You've got to work hand-in-hand with the sales team, understand the strategy, really be partnering with them. Be strategic in the approach and have content that's really tailored to the message that you want to give. So, the level of sophistication just continues to increase, and now we've got to talk about AI and the metaverse. Something that we have to consider when we're developing content is how we’re going to leverage these new technologies. I think the technology is always changing and the level of sophistication continues to push us to explore new things. It's exciting.

Rewards: Watching Marketing Team Members Grow

Torres: We'll wrap it up with one final question. What is most rewarding as part of your job as CMO?

O’Neill: I think I'd have to say the team — and probably a lot of people say that — but it's really true. And for me one of the most rewarding aspects is when I've got several people that have worked for me over the years and seeing their career progression ... seeing people articulate their goals, watch them excel in this space, and then watch them do other things and continue to advance ... and even move on to become a CMO. It's rewarding as a leader to know that that people that have worked with you are having that success and discovering marketing and being a leader as well.

Torres: Thank you so much for joining us today, Paige O'Neill, CMO at Sitecore. I appreciate your time.

O’Neill: Absolutely. It was great to be here and have a great rest of the day.

Torres: Thank you! You too. And thanks so much to our audience for joining us for another episode of CMO Circle. This is Jennifer Torres with CMSWire.