For marketing leaders everywhere, today’s landscape presents a lot of challenges. According to the Harvard Business Review, 57% of CMOs have been in their jobs for fewer than three years, and the average tenure of today’s CMO is by far the shortest of any C-suite role, at just 4.1 years.
As Harvard Business Review writer Keith Ferazzi puts it, “Although the role of a CMO has been evolving and expanding, people on executive teams still seem to think the CMO must have expertise in every element of her role. In most cases that is a prescription for failure.”
Success instead comes from embracing a role as the facilitator of growth for the business, he writes.
In the first installment of our CMO blog series, we talked about how the role of the CMO is changing, and has become one of the most complicated roles in the C-suite. In this second blog, we’ll explore how marketing leaders can succeed in today’s climate. Let’s start with four practical strategies.
1. Develop a vision and communicate it with all teams
It’s rare that you will step into an organization that isn’t affected (at least in part) by silo mentality. Avoid the common pitfall many marketing leaders make: only communicating with certain departments or organizational leaders.
“When faced with the evolving demands of the role, many CMOs steadfastly cling to the one thing they know best. Too often this is a co-creation with the CEO who hired them,” Ferazzi writes. “Because the CEO happens to have a strong point of view, they are reluctant to step up within the executive team and say what the CEO needs to hear. They fear that if they do, they invite trouble.”
Instead of subscribing to a singular vision, be intentional about co-creating a vision you can share with your team and the organization. This is Forbes writer Brent Gleeson’s number one recommendation for breaking the silo mentality.
The good news is, as a marketing leader, you’ve already got the skills to accomplish this. Building trust with key decision makers is no different than what a brand tries to do with consumers. Start with the end in mind and work backwards. Once you and your team know your ultimate goal, you can communicate your goal and how it will benefit other departments within the company, increasing your likelihood of garnering support from all areas of the organization.
Remember, departments outside of marketing will be far more likely to support you when you show them how your efforts are relevant to them.
2. Push for transparency among all levels of the organization
Good marketing leaders realize they can contribute more than just marketing value to the company. They can help drive it into the future. Transparency is important in both getting support for your marketing efforts across the board, and moving the company forward.
Larry Alton of Entrepreneur magazine highlights the positive effects of transparency, writing, “Internal transparency—the practice of maintaining open lines of communication with employees, and remaining honest about company operations—is positively correlated with higher employee morale.”
When you partner with your C-suite cohorts to make transparency a top priority, it will help build trust among the organization and help employees feel that they’re working for a company with higher ethical standards. Plus, it opens the opportunity to delegate and collaborate appropriately.
“You don’t have to provide all of the leadership and direction in every area,” Ferazzi writes. In fact, if you try to do it all yourself, it will almost certainly lead to your downfall. However, “with good orchestration, the solutions will come from others.”
3. Be an (in-house) problem-solver
The CMO (and marketing leaders across the board) understands better than anybody how the company’s product impacts customers’ lives, and this knowledge can be leveraged to help problem-solve and improve the performance of all departments.
The best way you can forge a relationship with your peers and superiors is to provide solutions for their pain points. Your marketing expertise provides excellent tools to help problem-solve for organizational issues across the board:
- No one knows more about your company’s customers than you do – this knowledge could have a big impact on growth opportunities and more effective sales strategies.
- Driving optimization and efficiencies, the same principles you use in leveraging marketing data, can also apply to improving operations and accountability by better leveraging enterprise data (e.g. manufacturing, HR, finance, logistics).
- Your excellence in building and leveraging your brands in the marketplace can also pay big dividends in building your company/corporate brand. Help your CEO boost the value of your company’s corporate brand equities.
Remember, the most successful business and marketing leaders are problem-solving shape-shifters, constantly adapting and evolving in the face of new technologies, consumer preferences and perceptions and even current events.
4. Take calculated risks
Finding new strategies to better serve the organization involves some risk-taking. And the ability to take risks is woven into the DNA of every successful organization.
But exploring new opportunities and better ways of doing something doesn’t have to mean spending huge portions of the budget on projects that may not pan out.
One successful model for calculated risks is the 60-30-10 approach. Use 60% of your budget for programs you know will deliver predictable results. Use 30% for newer programs that have shown the potential for very promising results. And take the last 10% to test brand new channels that could “redefine” or have huge upside. This way you are always testing and learning, while still hedging your bets. And if the 10% programs work out? You can fold them into next year’s 30% budget, and the same goes for the programs covered by the 30% portion.
Finally, if you’re having trouble getting buy-in on new programs, talk about what will happen if your organization doesn’t pursue new opportunities, and what the opportunity cost of not taking this risk is.
There’s more where that came from. Check in with us soon to learn how to harness the power of data as a marketing leader.