CMO Secrets with Allyson Barr

In this month's CMO Secrets blog, Allyson Barr, CMO of pymetrics discusses the untapped potential power of machine learning.


Welcome to CMO Secrets. This series features genuine insights and advice from today’s exceptional digital marketing leaders. Some names will be easily recognized and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand-picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of startups, technology and marketing. No pretense, jargon or PR spin here. We asked our most burning marketing questions, and they answered. Get their unfiltered thoughts and opinions and find out how these gurus rockstars marketers got to where they are today. 

(Note: This content was previously published on in October 2018 and has been updated for accuracy.) 

allyson barr

Today we welcome Allyson Barr, Chief Marketing Officer at pymetrics, an NYC-based talent software company that leverages behavioral science and audited AI technology to match people to their best-fit job. Previously, she was the CMO of Attivio and held marketing and product leadership positions at early stage and emerging growth companies, both in the US and abroad, including Crowdynews, Boxever, and RAMP. Earlier in her career, she spent 6 years at Boston-based LogMeIn, in a variety of product and marketing roles, and spent three years in the company’s European offices running global marketing. When she’s not working, you can find Allyson volunteering at the local animal shelter, trying new recipes, or booking her next trip to see the world.

What are 1-2 things you’d like people to understand about Machine Learning?

There’s a lot of hope and promise surrounding machine learning, and it can do some pretty helpful things for companies and employees, like removing the overhead of determining what the “right” answer should be to a question, as the right answer changes over time. A machine learning relevancy model can learn what’s “right” based on signals from users and automatically update search results appropriately. And at the same time, machine learning still needs proper training. So while machine learning can help in a lot of scenarios, I think it’s important for businesses and employees not to become complacent about it. It still needs thoughtful consideration at the outset and oversight along the way.

If you could add one more role to your marketing team today to own a new or experimental area of marketing, what would it be and why?

I think it would be in customer journey mapping. We serve a number of verticals and personas, and with a new product we’re launching this week – a new ecosystem – we need to continue to refine the experiences we deliver to each unique persona in order to ensure the best chance for that visitor to become a customer. Understanding those personas, building the journey, defining the content and touchpoints, that’s a full-time job and needs someone dedicated to ensuring its success.

What’s the best career advice you ever received and who did it come from?

Keep your eye on the goal. Especially in marketing, it can be easy to get distracted with the new shiny thing or demand of the moment. But I have learned, and coach my teams, to ask how does it help us fulfill our commitments to the business and achieve our goals. It can be hard to say no, or not right now, but it can mean the difference between meeting and missing your goals. And because marketing is tied to sales, missing those goals can have real impact on the success of the company.

If you could play marketing professor for a day (or a semester), what would you focus on? What kind of lessons and knowledge do you believe are most important for young marketers these days?

I believe any good marketing team really knows their buyer(s), so I think I would focus my efforts on teaching the marketers of tomorrow about that. Everything stems from knowing prospects’ pains, their dreams, their challenges, their biases, and so on. The better you know them, the better you can communicate (and find the right vehicles for communicating) the value your offering delivers to them, and make a match. It can be easy to lose sight of that when you’re wrapped up in the mechanics of marketing. I encourage all of my employees to ride along with salespeople on calls and get out into the field at events. It’s hard to forget the faces and the feedback you get from those experiences – and undoubtedly informs the decisions you make the next day about a message, or an email or ad, or product offer.

What’s one true thing about you that your teammates would be surprised by or not expect?

It’d probably be that I seriously considered majoring in musical theater in college. Instead, opted for a safer route – English 

What’s a marketing/business/technology topic that’s got you fired up right now? Put another way, if you could leave readers with one last thought here today, what’s the rant or rave you’d like to close with?

This is definitely outside of marketing, but I’m fascinated with everything that’s going on around space exploration and travel. We’re able to see into the farthest reaches of the universe, send robots to other planets to give us insights into what comprises them and how they evolve, learn more about the origin of stars and planets which helps us better understand ourselves, and there are companies looking to commercialize getting humans into space for fun and adventure. The folks doing this work are breaking boundaries every day, and using insatiable curiosity to drive their next question, next project. Imagine what would be possible if we all applied that approach to our work?

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