CMO Chats with Ellie Ahmadi, CMO of Sago

Ortus Chats


CMO | Sago

Ellie Ahmadi, CMO of Sago, talks to The Ortus Club’s Petra Barna about the importance of data and research in marketing, successful rebranding campaigns, and staying engaged with customers.


To watch Ellie’s interview, you can subscribe to our CMO Chats interview series on YouTube. You can also listen to the interview on Spotify, or pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the full interview below. Subscribe to the CMO Chats Newsletter on LinkedIn to keep up-to-date on our conversations with today’s Marketing leaders.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Budget cuts for marketing departments across industries
  • The CMOs role in using research data and key metrics to drive your campaigns
  • Getting ahead of the competition by learning and understanding data
  • Pivoting marketing plans and strategies to integrate customer feedback


What does your company do?

We are hired by clients to provide the platforms or technology they can use to run their market research. This could be anything from running an online survey, having a moderator for a focus group that you’d like to run, or wanting to have the facilities where you want to do a market research group. You could want to have a platform and do it yourself, where you can allow folks to do brand or concept testing.


As the CMO in your company, what is your main marketing focus currently?

Actually, I just wrapped up the big rebranding. We were, for about a year and a half, working on this rebranding. We are now called Sago. We used to be called the Schlesinger Group for about 57 years.

When I joined, this was the huge shift that we needed to make, based on all the acquisitions that have made us this comprehensive suite of solutions. That was the big initiative. We just launched that in March. Now, we’re going back to the basics of how we can help salespeople feel the pipeline. How do we cross-sell or upsell? How do we maintain, get in contact, and reach our customers where they want to be? and how do we connect with them to help and solve their problems? That’s really the main focus of our organization right now.

Can you tell me about a particularly innovative or successful marketing campaign your team has recently executed?

We don’t want a lot of campaigns focusing on different products, and really building our products, such as the QualBoard or, Methodify, our DIY platform. We’re running campaigns to educate our clients about what these different tools are providing for them and what kind of technologies they can use. We run these campaigns across more channels and platforms to understand where our clients are, how they use our content, and what kind of content they’re looking for.

As part of the rebranding, we try to combine the rebranding with the go-to-market [campaign] on these products. We came up with the Just Say Go campaign. The Just Say Go campaign introduces our different products with the rebranding. Giving people not only the opportunity for them to learn how to say Sago, because you might look at it and go, “Oh, Sah-go,” but it also gives you the opportunity to learn. It is also really igniting that active tone and voice where whatever your needs are, we have the solution and we have the product. You say go, Just Say Go, and we deliver. That’s been one of the main campaigns that we’ve been focusing on since rebranding and including our different products into the mix as needed.

What are your biggest marketing challenges at the moment?

It’s probably the same challenge most organizations are facing: budgets are being cut. Very similar to us as well, the first place where a lot of organizations look is the marketing budget. It’s like, “What can you not do right now?” But how do you grow? How do you continue to grow your business if you’re not spending money on marketing and growing budgets? We feel that as well because a lot of times, a resource budget falls either in a marketing budget or there’s an insights team at big brands that typically run these projects. There might be times when they’re holding back and say, “Well, let’s wait and see.”

But speaking to your customers, hearing from your customer, and the voice of the customer is most important to keep them engaged during this time. If you don’t know how their needs are changing, especially during these times, how will you meet those needs? How will you pivot to how their needs are changing in the future?

How does your company stay ahead of its competitors in terms of marketing?

Staying connected to the customer. We have to run our own research. We have to practice what we preach. Continuously having the opportunity to hear the voice of the customer is important to us. We are still present in a lot of events, conferences, and a lot of virtual events, like running our own webinars and creating topics that might be of interest to our audience—even if they’re sitting and holding on to their budget. We’re also talking a lot about AI. Getting out there having conversations about AI because there’s a lot of what’s going to happen, like: “What is going to happen in my industry or my company?”. We’re still continuing to engage customers, but also continuing to listen to the customer as well.

“Staying connected to the customer. We have to run our own research. We have to practice what we preach. Continuously having the opportunity to hear the voice of the customer is important to us.”

What does the future of marketing look like?

I think with the future of marketing, a lot of folks are nervous about what AI is going to do. I do think there are probably a lot of efficiencies that we can create with AI. People are using it for content creation, using it for ad testing or display ads, and what copy works best where. I think these are just the beginnings of opportunities using AI—the more ingrained we become with AI into our technologies can really help us with the personalization to really learn about the audience.

What resonates with us and how to move us through that funnel and journey are opportunities where AI can play a big role. Will it create some challenges in marketing? Sure. But I think jobs will be shifted. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a lot of jobs will be cut because you still need humans to run a lot of this. We use it to create content. I’ve used it today to create multiple contents just for my personal use. But I still need to read it, I still need to adjust it, and I still need to put my authentic voice on it. I do think that the future of marketing is going to look different, but hopefully, for the better.

How does your company integrate sustainability into its overall marketing strategy?

Inclusivity has been a huge part of us. We, thought leaders from our HR team, published a number of papers on DEI (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion), for example. That’s something that we’re passionate about, talked about, and something that we participate in. That’s one area that we’re really using in sustainability and ensuring that our audience is aware of the fact that this is an important social responsibility for us.

What is the role of the CMO in one word? Why?

I would say pivot. Pivoting. As the CMO, you constantly have to pivot. If you truly listen to the customer or if you’re very data-driven, like I have been, you have to be mindful of what it is telling you and be flexible enough that you have to pivot in a different direction.

We used to talk about these five-year marketing plans and strategy, those don’t exist anymore. Even a one-year plan is nice. Create one to give people a vision and a goal. But, you know very well that during that year, you’re going to have to make some changes, and you’re going to have to pivot from that strategy. Staying flexible and pivoting is very important for CMOs.

What career advice would you like to share with other marketing leaders?

Learn and understand data. Understand how to measure it, what to look for, what KPIs mean, and what is important to a different audience. As a leader in marketing, or even as someone coming into marketing, you’re always going to have someone looking for you for some piece of data. “How did the campaigns perform? How do we use this channel? How does this content do? How do we move to fuel the pipeline?” Understanding the metrics and the data can only help you.

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