Fast Company

Effective Leadership Strategies for Chief Marketing Officers

According to Greg Welch of Spencer Stuart, the average Chief Marketing Officer tenure in 2008 was 28 months, up four months since 2004. In comparison, the average CIO lasts 38 months, and no other c-level executive checks in under 46.  Earlier this year, Forbes.com discussed why Chief Marketing Officers have a short life.

CMOs have to balance their responsibility to drive business performance and brand development over the long-run, with the need for short-term results.  In the quick-turn world of CMOs, sometimes tactics drive strategies. Seth Godin does a nice job of illustrating a world dependent on tactics in “when tactics drown out strategy.”  Everyone needs results NOW, so CMOs are often stuck in the loop of trying to drive immediate results instead of creating a plan that could work but may take months to come to fruition.

For aspiring CMOs, newly appointed CMOs, or those who have managed to survive in this difficult environment, we share our perspective on key areas of focus in providing marketing leadership.

The Customer is #1
Your customer is the buyer and the decision maker.  The best CMOs immerse themselves in the customer mindset.  Learn as much as you can about your customer through research, collecting customer data, considering competitive options, and understanding the overall market reality from your customer’s perspective.  Beyond this, great marketers proactively get out of the office and get out of the conference/focus group rooms to watch consumers in their homes, in their cars and offices, in the retail environments.  Watching the consumer interact with the brand (or competing brand offerings) in real-life yields observations (reactions, emotions, work-arounds, combinations with other products/services) that offer insight into the “real” concerns, issues, and joys of the consumer - and the things that that are often unable to articulate.

This may sound obvious and easy, but it can be quite challenging.  There are so many channels to listen to your customer.  For example, are you doing a good job of monitoring customer feedback online?  Are your databases advanced?  Are you asking the right questions in focus groups?  Are you even talking to the right customer groups (don’t underestimate the importance of segmentation, targeting, and consumer profiles).  Bottom line: make it a priority to talk to current and prospective customer to understand why they love/hate your product along with the competitors.

Make an Emotional Connection
Imagine that you are providing commentary to a Japanese tourist at a Russian wedding and your native language is English. Indeed, sometimes it seems like you need to be a world-class interpreter in order to effectively market.  The bride and groom speak Russian and embody Russian mores, habits, etc. The tourist speaks Japanese and embodies those mores, habits, etc. Now you must take the essence of this joyous occasion in Russian and convey the full emotional aspect to the Japanese tourist. The fact is that businesses and customers don’t always speak the same language, but...

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