CEOs must let their CMO own “The Big Why”
Before your company gets to what you do for customers, who does it, how it gets done, where you can do it, and when, you must answer “The Big Why”. As in...Why should your targeted audience even care that your company exists? The so what? Let the CMO own and obsess over The Big Why at all times. Insist they distill it down to a tight and engaging message that any employee, partner, or customer can repeat with ease. This simple message just became your best marketer because it travels quickly to the right audiences and reduces the noise of poor communication. Your CMO becomes the customer evangelist, a master storyteller, and the message-discipline advocate. Once your CMO calls out universal customer truths, it’s like a sunny day has arrived at room temperature with a soft breeze. The CEO will notice that all audiences including analysts, press, board of directors, employees etc. welcome the clarity of “The Big Why”.
CEO must respect the CMO’s expertise
When the CEO constantly questions the CMO or tries to force their own ideas, it often creates the wrong results. CEOs in general are not marketing experts. Not because so few have done it at a high level, but they are not in the marketing flow. Even the best of us can fall out of practice and have to reacquaint ourselves to what works. Consider golf, tennis, or martial arts. You are better when you are in constant practice, especially in the digital world.
My advice to the CEO is to step out of the way and focus on ensuring the CMO has the resources needed to deliver the outcomes you want. If you are not going to give the CMO the benefit of the doubt, then you have shackled an expensive headcount.
CEOs should get their CMO measurement tools
If the CMO doesn’t have a scoreboard, how do they know what to do next? Everyone likes to win and measuring marketing outcomes was difficult for decades. It’s easier today. Thanks to digital disruption, not only can we measure activities, we can adjust and test immediately. Marketers must be as measurement-driven as the sales team. CMOs should crave analytics and segmentation of data. Metrics transport marketing teams from speculation (often what the highest paid executive believes) toward better investments informed by targeted audience behavior. The end result is a CMO that can now marry data to “The Big Why”. The challenge here is reporting on actionable KPIs (key performance indicators). Busy executives prefer a summary of insight, a few appealing graphs, and the ability to go deeper if needed. You may need to make a technology investment to deliver a real-time information platform. If that seems expensive, consider the expense of not knowing what’s working or what to do next.
Once the scoreboard is made available and tailored to specific users, marketing can focus on data-driven teamwork abilities and agility. They become marketing athletes who don’t let their skills diminish in a hyper-competitive market. A marketing team with performance clarity is a team that is establishing new norms that help them achieve faster. Marketing’s data-driven mindset creates credibility for the marketing team and CMO.
CEOs must encourage CMOs to go on in-person sales calls
A qualitative feedback event for The Big Why. Show your CMO that prospects and customers sometimes stare out the window during meetings that showcase the CMO’s best messages. Let the CMO experience that some customers never ask a question. See sales calls get interrupted by just about everyone. Let the CMO see the prospect’s face melt during a PowerPoint presentation where a salesperson raves about your company and waits too long to get to issues. See product or specific service messages totally miss the backboard and rim. Notice how executives at your client’s company can sometimes hijack the entire meeting.
The CMO must challenge the marketing team, “how can our Big Why, the messages, and content marketing be so good they can’t ignore us?” Marketing table stakes have shifted. Your content has to body-slam the prospect into paying attention which means your marketing team must raise its own expectations. Once a CMO gets sales conversations fever, The Big Why starts to add new dimensions that accelerate bigger deals. Welcome to the fusion of marketing and sales.
CEOs should invest in the CMO’s Marketing Technologies Confidence
Do you have a CMO that does not appreciate what martech (marketing technology) can do? Uh-oh. Your CMO does not have to be the world’s greatest marketing technologist, but it should become a CMO strength. Software in the cloud is eating the world, AI (artificial intelligence) is finally getting traction, and disruption is only accelerating. Progressive CMOs no longer wait for IT to help them buy and install software.
Martech does our repetitive work, allowing us to focus on relationships and creativity. CEOs should invest in the CMO’s understanding of marketing technologies to gain new efficiencies and be more effective with every marketing dollar spent. Some ways to get informed are conferences, vendor meetings, analyst research, watching online software demos, and working with the CIO to understand integration. The major IT Analyst organizations are all over martech and are clear on one thing; CMOs are going to exceed CIOs on technology spend. CMOs must understand why they are buying marketing technologies and how they get the highest ROI. CMOs need peace of mind that their martech decisions are helping the revenue line and getting value in operating expenses.
CEOs must celebrate the CMO and marketing team’s creatives
Creative work from your company helps you stand out with prospects and customers. See a piece of content you like? A visual? A video? A white paper? Tell the CMO. Show them you notice. If you are a parent, did you ever notice it’s more constructive to tell a child what you like about what they are doing rather than what you didn’t like? Emphasize correct behavior to the group and privately coach toward improvements. Many of the marketing team will be creative types who may be introverted. They enjoy the abstract and want to make beautiful things. Some of them went to design school and creativity is an innate strength. I’ve met more than a few that had creative hobbies and just enjoyed art in any form. When you tell the company marketing is doing amazing creative work, the marketing team will reach for the creative stars next time, which is exactly what a high-growth company wants. Supporting a psychologically-safe environment in marketing creates a fountain of ideas.
CEOs should broadcast the CMO’s business impact
Let’s make sure we tell our CMO that they are running a business. That business has metrics at the awareness, interest, sales, and account marketing stages. Add those goals to budget management and getting the most bang for the marketing dollar. When we treat the CMO like a mid-level manager in an isolated cost center, we leave them unprepared to be a collaborative business leader who has the right habits. This creates damage with all of their peer relationships who do run on business metrics such as the Chief Sales Officer.
When the CEO has credible metrics informing the rest of the organization of the CMO’s impact, they need to be recognized. For too long, CMOs have been victimized by a poor understanding of marketing’s impact since measurement was difficult. No one wants to be part of a dying brand and it is almost as bad to lead a brand that lacks an ascending story backed by facts. We can put a stop to this and finally broadcast the CMO’s impact and insight about why we are winning.
CEOs are great problem-solvers. Address the aforementioned points and be prepared for an enthusiastic CMO who will help solve for organic growth.
John Ryan is a Managing Director and Chief Growth Officer at Growth Visions. With over 30 years of business experience where he has worked with nine market-leading companies and has served as an executive or board member on six technology companies. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org