When we rolled into 2021, the collective sigh of relief was audible. Surely at some point this year the pandemic will be behind us and hugs will abound. Yet right now we marketers find ourselves with one foot anchored in unyielding realities while the other strides optimistically towards a promise of normalcy. What to do in this managerial purgatory? My answer: huddle.
That’s right, huddle! Gather your peers and have a chat. You’d be amazed at how this will lower your blood pressure as you realize others are facing the same challenges. I started gathering CMOs virtually last April and launched CMO Huddles as a subscription service in October. It’s the most purposeful work of my career and provides a constant stream of issues and insights from and for CMOs. Here are a few that emerged in recent huddles.
Delegate, Rinse, Repeat
Although it may feel different at times, no CMO is an island. You are only as effective as the team you build. Several of the CMOs in a recent huddle expressed the desire to delegate more so they could focus on big picture items. It’s easy to get caught up in the proverbial weeds but that’s a trap sure to decrease longevity. Take a quick look at your to do list and ask yourself, what are the tasks that only you can do and delegate the rest. I know, easier said than done, but who said fulfilling resolution was easy?
Thinking big doesn’t always require doing big right at the start. Many CMOs used 2020 as a testing ground for smaller programs that could grow up into giant ones this year. If you didn’t do that, there’s still time! Among the things to try, giving away something free that gets you into the door of a high-value prospect. For SaaS brands, this often means having a freemium version of the product (think Zoom, Sprout Social, etc.). If it’s not your product, it could be a free evaluation or a community-building event series (see my interview with Latane Conant of 6Sense).
Look Inward (at Employees)
In 2021, many CMOs are recommitting to internal comms that rally the troops. One CMO discussed running new messaging by all employees 5 months ahead of the intended public launch. The employees got excited, but also provided heaps of helpful criticism and feedback. The public launch ended up better as a result. The alternative of not sharing doesn’t work. One CMO took messaging straight to prospects and got very mixed results. Naturally, having the internal team look first would have helped iron out the kinks.
Why So Serious?
The lack of humor and humanity in 98% of B2B communications is downright depressing. Why do so many brands act as if likability is not a factor in decision making? In a recent huddle, one CMO spoke to the surprising power of humor and making comms fun both for recruiting and sales generation, noting that one new employee joined because he loved the brand’s Instagram account. Kevin Sellers of Ping Identity also pointed to the power of humor to drive awareness in our recent podcast recording.
Speaking of awareness, one of the remarkable insights that came up in a recent huddle was the fact that many CMOs avoid using the word “brand” with other C-Suite execs. The reason, brand is often equated with intangibles that can’t be directly correlated to business growth and if you identify brand-building efforts in your budget, these will be cut first. While we could debate the merits of this association, savvy CMOs will plough ahead with euphemisms like “corporate marketing” or “category creation” or “messaging” knowing full well that without brand there is no demand!
I’d love to hear what you’re resolving to do in 2021. In the meantime, stay safe out there.