CMO Blog Series

That’s Great! But Have You Considered…”

This is a phrase I’ve heard often in my career, with varying degrees of politeness. As a Chief Marketing Officer in Silicon Valley, you quickly learn that everyone has an opinion about how you and your team do the job. This dynamic is a key reason why a Spencer Stuart study recently found that the median tenure of a CMO is a mere 25 months — the lowest measured, and lowest across the C-suite. It’s definitely the nature of the profession, particularly in B2B companies where the measured impact of marketing is often highly dependent on key levers across your sales organization, partner ecosystem and product portfolio.

But is this a problem? It all depends on how you take it in. I’ve told my teams in purposely simplistic terms that every function in Silicon Valley has a cross to bear. Engineers have to debug code. Sales reps are under constant pressure to hit their numbers, or face job jeopardy. In marketing? Everyone’s an art critic. Comes with the territory! I like to think of every leader, every employee across your company as “earned media.” The more badged employees you can get behind your cool new campaign, the more scale you’ll realize.

So then, the more people who weigh in on your team’s work, the more people who care! As a CMO, you have an opportunity to turn this rabid interest into a key advantage, but only if you get really good at the “art of listening.”  Author Simon Sinek nailed it when he said listening isn’t about understanding the words that are spoken, but rather the meaning behind the words. He points out that people want to feel that they’ve been heard.  If you can achieve that, even if you ultimately don’t implement their advice, chances are better that you’ve enlisted another member of the army that pushes your message far and wide.

I’ve thought a lot about managing a blizzard of opinions, and how as a marketing leader you need to do your best to make those around you feel like they are a part of your mission. But it’s awfully difficult to do this unless you have an unshakable sense of core beliefs and guiding principles that define how you operate as a CMO. When the opinions and debates come flying in, you will need a critical set of these to influence, navigate and operate.

Over my 30+ year career, I’ve developed my own set for the CMO role. Some may have more or less relevance depending on the company, business model (I’m definitely coming from a B2B perspective here!) and people. In the end, I’m capturing them, for your consideration. And while opinions are many, at least with me you have someone who has done the job. 🙂

Over the next few months, I’ll be releasing new chapters, each dedicated to one of my principles. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about each.  I’d appreciate it if you would comment and offer up your own examples on each topic I will touch on in this series. Onward!

Chapter 1: Going Hollywood: Creating Signature Moments

  • The difference between an event or launch and a true signature moment
  • Breakthrough rally cries
  • Finding cultural resonance
  • Tapping into emotions
  • Some of the best, and then some more

Chapter 2: Education and Certifications: The Virtuous Cycle

  • Perhaps the most effective campaign motion you can run
  • Create fiercely loyal, long-term advocates
  • Best industry examples, and my own

Chapter 3: Running For President: The Art of the Campaign (political or otherwise)

  • How the best do it in politics, and why it matters for B2B
  • The launch
  • The primaries
  • The convention
  • Paid/Owned/Earned Media: a world gone mad
  • The debates
  • Ground Game
  • Election Day

Chapter 4: Reaching the C-Suite

  • They won’t listen to you … they listen to each other
  • Creating the proper venues to spark the network effect
  • It’s not the product, it’s the operation, and the outcome

Chapter 5: Vitamins versus Aspirins: Putting the Marketing in Product Marketing

  • Start with the problem.  Is it a headache, or a”first-world” problem?
  • “Vaporware:” Finding the balance between inspiration and disillusionment 
  • Architecting the proper launch, top to bottom
  • Focus: The ramp is more important than the launch
  • Keeping it fresh: Chart the customer journey
  • Core vs emerging: Not the same recipe

Chapter 6: Pipeline: The Living, Breathing Beast

  • Taking the lead: Owning pipeline strategy and performance in a B2B model
  • The nature of the beast: 
    • Seasonal shifts
    • Pipeline culture and accountability
    • Attribution in a multi-touch world
    • Everyone has a role: Sales, marketing, partners, product
    • Tug of War: Quality vs quality vs existing vs new business
  • Don’t get set up; set the performance agenda
  • Calibrate, calibrate, calibrate the engine, and don’t spend until you are ready

Chapter 7: Architecting Autonomy over Autocracy

  • Architecting a marketing organization for scale
  • Avoiding the centralized “ivory tower”
  • Defining the mix: Theater marketing > Field Marketing
  • The 80/20 rule: Balancing top company priorities with “on the ground” reality

Chapter 8: Attack of the Tragically Generic

  • Exploring, recognizing and rejecting generic messaging and copywriting
  • The worst literary offenders .. the “ilities”
  • Beyond stock imagery 
  • The art and emotion of soundtracks

Chapter 9: Blunt Force vs Leverage

  • Growing up with a “do it yourself” go-to-market motion
  • 50 cents on the dollar: finding partner leverage
  • Ecosystem: it’s the focus, not the logos

Chapter 10: Saying No: The Hardest Call

  • Don’t be that “pleaser”
  • Assessing the incoming, and choosing wisely
  • Saying “no”, with style

Chapter 11: The Toolkit:  Five foundational skills that will take you far. 

  • Lead with Your Ears …or you’ll fall swiftly out of touch
  • The Power of the Pen … Write early, write often, write continuously 
  • Drama Class … being the great communicator
  • Know Your Tech, Know Your Seller … or you won’t really know
  • Therapy … everyone needs advice, ask for it

Chapter 12: How one fills the role

  • SecState … The head diplomat
  • Thriving Outside of your Swim Lane … the difference between a functional and business leader.
  • Check the Ego … Hire your blind spots, and constantly put them on stage
  • The Art Critics … How to win over the toughest ones
  • Know Your Data … and don’t get trapped by the law of averages