Five New Year’s Resolutions for the CMO

I had lunch recently with a VP of Marketing. He was telling me about his organization, the relationship between sales and marketing, and what he knew needed to change to make his company more effective.  I listened to him, thinking that he was hitting on many of the points I would have made if I were in his shoes.  When he concluded his assessment, I asked, “What does your CMO (his boss) think of all of this?”  His body language said it all – a roll of the eyes and a sigh. Then he said, “He’s a good guy overall, but is not the ‘leader’ type. I sometimes feel like I’m pushing the rock uphill… alone.”

Unfortunately, this sentiment isn’t limited to this isolated lunch conversation, but one that highlights the lack of effectiveness in many CMO offices today.  This CMO effectiveness void is being felt in many organizations and could not come at a worse time for marketers, or even businesses in general.  The need for CMOs to step-up has never been greater than right now.

As we roll into 2012, here are five resolutions that CMOs should adopt to be more effective.

1.  Learn the Language of Your Peers           

I had a discussion not long ago with one CMO about the goals and objectives of his organization.  When I suggested that he begin focusing on contribution to revenue and pipeline his resistance was clear when he stated, “I’m not committing my group to revenue. That kind of visibility scares me to death.”

This is a perfect example of a CMO who has failed to be effective in his role, perpetuating the feeling that marketing is not truly valued within the organization.  Why?  Because the CEO, the CFO and the CRO are all focused on revenue… THE KEY METRIC.

CMOs must commit to speaking the language of their peers, the language of revenue. They must hold their teams accountable for revenue metrics.  If marketing is to be respected and more effective, this language and measurement is a must.

2.  Be Socially Engaged

If the prediction from Gartner is true, then in less than eight years 85% of the B2B buying process will be done with no human interaction.  There is no clearer indication that the buyer has changed and that the open access to online and social information is where buyers will spend the majority of their buying cycle.

As buyers are spending the majority of their time engaging socially, it is imperative that CMOs begin to engage within this medium as well.  The content delivered over social media will be the difference between a buyer choosing one vendor over another. Why?  Because this is where engagement happens.  This is where meaningful dialogue occurs. This where a vendor can exchange ideas and help shape the conversation. CMOs who shy away from using social media as a key channel in their demand generation strategy will soon come to find themselves far behind their competition who have embraced it.  To effectively engage, CMOs must go to where the buyer is… online.

3. Connect With Sales

“Sales does not respect us.”
“We have a love/hate relationship with sales – they love to hate us.”
“I cannot get sales to pay any attention to me.”

These are quotes I’ve heard at one time or another describing the relationship of marketing and sales.  In most of these cases it’s due to the fact that sales does not get the necessary support it needs from marketing to help them hit their number.  As one sales person once told me, “Maybe if I knew how the opens and clicks were helping us generate high quality leads, I would care. But nobody seems to know how marketing is helping us.”

In order for CMOs to be effective, they must connect with their sales counterpart and begin driving towards a common goal.  Without the connection to sales, marketing’s role will be severely diminished.

If you’re a CMO wondering how to start that dialogue, let me suggest the following statement to get you going:

“I know that in the past marketing has not lived up to the expectations, nor worked with sales in a collaborative fashion.  Heading into this year it is time to change all that. We want to work with you to help drive new business and attain quota.  When can we begin meeting about this and develop the right processes needed to ensure we meet these goals together?”

4. Know Your Customer

Often when I am presenting, I will ask the marketers in the room how many of them make a habit of connecting with their customers by phone or in person.  This is more than just accompanying sales on a sales call, but truly being with and understanding their customers.  The few number of hands that go up continues to astonish me.

Today’s buyer is looking for a vendor who understands them, one who can discuss their issues without always talking about product features and functions. They want a partner who is knowledgeable about their space.  As a marketer, this means creating conversations, both online and face-to-face, where you ask, listen, then respond based on what THEY need, not what YOU want. If you want to truly connect with your customer (and ultimately develop the content that is relevant to them), make sure you know them intimately. Anything less is simple small talk.

5. Be a Leader

In all the years I worked in the technology space, I only met one CMO who I felt was a true leader who made a difference.  Today, more often than not, I see too many CMOs who refuse to or are afraid to lead. But the role of marketing is too vital in the B2B space today for CMOs to relinquish this responsibility.  CMOs must step up and begin to lead their organizations.

One aspect that this leadership will certainly include will be leading change.  For marketing to be effective in the new world of Buyer 2.0, it will take a new way of thinking, engaging, measuring and acting.  This will require patience and steadiness (this change does not happen overnight). It requires defined processes (no technology purchase will bring this about). It requires equipping the right people with the right skills.  It requires removing those who are stuck in their old ways and replacing them with those who will embrace a new culture.  It requires a leader who will have the courage to make the decisions that will bring all of this about.

CMOs, the time is now.  Don’t be the one who will be sitting here a year from now, wishing you had been more effective.  Here’s to hoping that 2012 will be remembered as the “Year of the CMO”.

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