Despite all the advancements in lead generation, lead scoring and automated lead nurturing, the age-old tension between marketing and sales is alive and well. CMOs still complain that sales can’t keep to the script and close the deal, while sales directors still complain that many of the leads they get from marketing are useless garbage because the targeting and messaging is wrong. Ironically, when this tension is at its worst, the probable culprit, inferior product and/or service, is often lost in the kerfuffle.
Hoping to rise above the usual infighting, Barry Nolan, chief marketing officer at Swrve, a leading mobile marketing automation platform, with apologies to Lou Reed, suggests taking a walk on the sales side. Not willing to accept a second-hand view of the customer, Nolan recommends that every CMO roll up their sleeves, grind out a pitch deck and then do at least one presentation themselves. This head-on approach, as Nolan explains in our interview below, will not only ease the tensions between marketing and sales but also—and more importantly—make the CMO smarter about the customer and better able to create content of genuine value for them.
What is the primary role of the CMO?
I would boil it down to five things. Create a narrative as to why a company or a prospect would want your service. Express that to those individuals in an enterprise who will purchase the service and create content and cascade content to said personas. Rinse and repeat.
Do you think that the big opportunity for marketers is to spend more on marketing automation and worry less about the big brand idea and the way it’s communicated?
No. Not at all. It all starts with a narrative, which is: “Why do you exist?” Marketing articulates that company narrative and the narrative isn’t an algorithm or it isn’t a widget. It’s things like, “Why change and why change now?” The best way to do that is to contrast an existing situation with a pervasive vision of the future. That’s always going to be a human process. It also has to be an authentic process. That’s the core of it, and that’s a human creative process. The more authentic it is in terms of articulating how you meet that need is super important. Where the machines work and automation works are in how that message is cascaded and delivered to individuals. Far too much content is clickbait and BS, to be honest with you. It’s just feeding this massive content machine.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
It’s combined, my favorite and least favorite. And I’m actually in it right now. My favorite part of the job as a CMO, and I believe every CMO should do this, is leading the pitch to large enterprises and speaking to customers, explaining what you do and convincing them that they need you. My least favorite part is preparing that pitch. I’ve got one of these big pitches in London in two days. And metaphorically we’re staring at the blank sheet of paper because they have some unusual requirements and a pitch always looks polished at the end. But the grind (of creating these pitches) is the least favorite part of the job.
What was your top priority in the first hundred days as a CMO?
To give some backdrop, we’re a b-to-b company, and we’re a startup that speaks to very large enterprises. But I think that the key imperative for a CMO in the first hundred days is to lead some of your most strategic pitches. Let me explain why. Marketers have herd instincts to sit back in the cheap seats, read all the analyst’s reports, read all the buzzy PR puffery and repeat phrases and regurgitate the latest buzzwords. And nothing slays that instinct like having to sit in front of a prospect and explain why they’re going to invest their future in you. So, if you’re a b-to-b CMO, you need to be able to lead these pitches because it removes all these instincts and it gets to the essence of what your company is. It crystallizes your narrative and everything you need in that process,not just in the initial pitch but in the in the subsequent closing. It’s a bit unusual. I think CMOs should do that. It’s an incredibly important part of the process. Very few do, which is very curious to me.
This approach certainly makes the CMO more informed. Does it also help address the typical tension between marketing and sales?
Yes, but it’s more than that. If you’ve made sales calls and you’re successful, that does give you the authority to address the sales conversation. But it’s much more about sitting in front of customers, listening to them and understanding their problems. That inspires a lot of content. Just to go back to my point that there is a disconnect between the echo chamber of PR releases and the echo chamber of analysts on what’s going on and where enterprises are. And there’s always quite a big gap. Just to hear that first hand is incredibly important.