17 No-Brainers For 2014 From 17 Award-Winning Marketers

The author interviewed 17 recent winners of the CMO Awards. Here are their must-do ideas for getting ahead next year.

Marketing may not be brain surgery but talk to enough leading marketers and you’ll find an increasingly complex matrix of considerations that might give even the neurologists at Johns Hopkins a daily migraine. From strategy to metrics, targets to media channels, culture to managing up, down and sideways, the options are many and success is a moving target.

So when the CMO Club invited me to interview 17 recent winners of the CMO Awards, I had visions of a Vulcan mind-meld, an unprecedented transfer of marketing wisdom from those who have it to those who seek it. And while wisdom alone does not a surgeon make, having a checklist like the one below from some of the best in the business is probably not a bad place to start.

1. Rally Around Your Purpose, Not Your Tools

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is aligning internal and external activities unless, of course, they are all informed by a clearly articulated brand purpose. Kyle Schlegel, CMO of Hillerich & Bradsby, the makers of Louisville Slugger baseball bats, hit upon the brand purpose, “We exist to make players great,” to launch the first fully integrated marketing plan in its 129-year history.

2. Rehab Your Target Definition

Having a target is a no-brainer. Finding a tight descriptor that can drive all your marketing activities, however, is pure genius. Rose Hamilton, EVP & CMO at Pet360, could have used the term “pet owner,” but instead, she defines her target as “pet parents” with all the challenges and needs of human parents. This profoundly simply target redefinition means Hamilton can focus on “solving un-met pet parent needs.”

3. Know the Pain Points

Henry Ford and Steve Jobs notwithstanding, most marketers profit more by listening to their customers than ignoring them. John Costello, president, Global Marketing & Innovation at Dunkin' Brands, has customer input at the top of Dunkin’s five key principles that drive marketing investments. As he explains, “There’s really no substitute for truly understanding your customer pain points and how you can address them.”

4. Turn Patients into Promoters

Most brands will never have 37 million fans on Facebook or get tagged in hundreds of thousands of Instagram photos like Converse. But perhaps if they shared Geoff Cottrill, Converse’s CMO’s belief that the “brand belongs to the people who wear it,” they’d have a good place to start. “Real success,” adds Cottrill, “is defined by our ability to build meaningful relationships.”

5. Make No Bones About Consistency

Henry Thoreau may have given the thumbs-down to consistency but accomplished marketers, not so much. Louise Camuto, CMO of the Camuto Group, believes that crafting a singular global experience across all channels is essential for a successful luxury brand. “I have spent a lot of time over the past year ensuring that the brand voices are consistent with the brand DNA,” she adds.

6. Transplant Customer Service Into Marketing

More and more marketers are seeing service as the linchpin of their brand reputation, especially since a single “bad” experience amplified on social can undo years of “good” marketing. Accordingly, Julie Garlikov, CMO of Torani, moved customer service into her marketing department this year, noting, “We’re now able to have one seamless approach to the [customer] experience.”

7. Rearrange Your Operating Room

When it comes to marketing departments, organization often defines output. Divide staffing by discipline and inevitably you’ll have silos. In response to this problem, Stephanie Anderson, CMO at Time Warner Cable Business Class, recently implemented what she calls an “outside-in” structure that puts their customers and the segments they serve at the core, while realigning staff accordingly.

8. Prescribe a Dose of Experimentation

Ask any marketer and they’ll tell you that budgets are tight and there’s rarely margin for error. Nonetheless, innovative marketers like Beth Comstock, CMO of GE, see experimentation as a necessity to find new ways to connect and engage their audiences. Explains Comstock, “I’m a big believer in carving out a percentage of your budget to develop new models.”

9. Cultivate a Culture of Innovation

Small companies innovate out of necessity, while bigger ones find it tough to take the risks required to try new things. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, saw this problem and declared, “We need to innovate the discipline of marketing.” Initially, Becher thought an elite Innovation Group would be the cure but later disbanded that idea in favor of a department-wide culture shift that “pushed boundaries and embraced changes, even ones that are not completely successful.”

10. Heal Thyself Through Optimization

In the absence of a silver bullet, which most practitioners agree simply doesn’t exist, marketers need to optimize the ongoing process of finding what works and building upon that foundation. Reports John DeVincent, CMO of eMoney Advisor, who has 12-15 moving parts in his communications plan, “We put something out there, monitor, test, and adjust (or not adjust) accordingly.”

11. Move Social to the Heart

Though social media is top-of-mind for most marketers these days, it is often handled as a secondary channel through which to push ad-like content. Acknowledging a deepening focus on all things digital that lead to its new #GoInSix campaign, Antonio Lucio, VISA’s Chief Brand Officer, advises, “We are incorporating social in the very heart of our marketing, not merely during the execution phase.”

12. Bring Outsiders Into the Operating Room

Self-reliance is not a bad thing—unless you run a marketing department that is trying to stay on top of the latest digital developments. Marty St. George, SVP, Marketing and Commercial Strategy at JetBlue, combats such insularity with an annual “digital day.” Explains an enlightened St. George, “We have found several exciting new technologies and channels just through an open ‘casting call.’”

13. Place Lifetime Value (not CPA) Under the Microscope

Marketers who focus mainly on cost-per-acquisition often find themselves on an endless treadmill of replacing expired customers with new ones. Michael Lacorazza, SVP Brand & Advertising at Wells Fargo, offers a different vision for marketers “building lifelong relationships, one customer at a time.” In Lacorazza’s model, service becomes an integral part of marketing, leading to greater customer satisfaction and higher retention rates.

14. Put on a Clinic With Content

Content marketing is all the rage BUT please don’t mistake that attention as a trendy fad. Creating content that your customers and prospects find useful is an unquestionably strong way of driving site traffic and engagement. As Raj Rao, VP of Global eTransformation at 3M concurs, “We do believe that content marketing holds the key to success with our top two digital priorities."

15. Make Your Mark Early

While top marketers agree that just about “everything is marketing and marketing is everything,” few CMOs earn the organizational clout needed to orchestrate a fully integrated brand experience. Chris Brull, CMO at Kawasaki, credited his ability to pull off the company’s first global product launch with some early successes. Recalls Brull, “We were heretics within the company at the time but ultimately, we were prophets and the strategy proved itself to be wildly successful.” Brull thus gained the credibility required to sell an encompassing brand experience later in his career.

16. Infuse Your Marketing with Service

Just as actions have always spoken louder than words, marketers who focus on what they do versus what they say simply make more powerful connections with their customers. American Express’s Small Business Saturday and OPEN Forum are two great examples of this approach. John Hayes, AmEx’s long-time CMO, says, “If you’re in the service business, every interaction with a prospect or customer should be a service interaction.”

17. Cut Through with a Cause

Pragmatic marketers think in terms of campaigns and tactics while the idealists contemplate causes and movements. Though neither is necessarily wrong, when it comes to motivating an army of salespeople, the idealists often carry the day. Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO of Mary Kay, united a bevy of independent sales reps behind the powerful mantra “One Women Can,” which was both a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding and a charitable program that gave away $5,000 grants on behalf of 50 contest winners.

Final note: Before you’re discharged, please note that the highly skilled marketing “operators” quoted above offered far more insights than I could squeeze into this article. To see the larger “body of work,” saunter on over to TheDrewBlog.com in the coming weeks.

[Image: Flickr user Port of San Diego]

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