Celebrated marketer Larry Light suggests in “It is CMO Wake-Up Time” that many CMOs are making a mistake by calling themselves storytellers. Instead, he recommends focusing on “propelling brand-business growth” and creating a brand-business scorecard to track how branding efforts are helping the business get Bigger, Better and Stronger.
To get to that Bigger, Better and Stronger is largely dependent on the CEO’s understanding of why marketing matters, which was the focus of our second CMO Super Huddle this March. Over 40 “huddlers” gathered together to hear from 3 CEOs and talk shop about how to strengthen the CEO-CMO relationship, build trust and continue to lead brands to success. It was an awesome 2-hour session—check out the 5 big takeaways below.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
“What’s the billboard?” That’s the question that Wasabi’s CEO and founder David Friend asks of a brand, asserting that there’s usually not enough time for an elevator pitch. Getting your brand’s point across in 6 seconds or less is no easy task, which is exactly why it’s the CMO’s job to simplify. “What appears simple to a CEO may be totally incomprehensible for other people,” shares David. “The key to marketing and the key to the relationship between a CMO and a CEO is focusing on that very short succinct message about who you are, why you’re here, why you exist, and why somebody should care what you’re doing.”
Trust in Trust
Trust is the foundation of a successful CEO/CMO relationship. This is managing up 101: it’s incumbent upon the CMO to ensure that the CEO trusts in marketing (even if they don’t “get” it). Centric CEO Larry English shared that their company had voted down spending money on marketing 2 years in a row—but then they realized that they were losing out. After engaging a patient education process and building an agile strategy development plan, there’s now a direct correlation to how much the company spends and how much business they get. Larry summed things up succinctly when he shared the value of bringing on a CMO who understands his own lack of marketing expertise: “Vulnerability is a shortcut to trust.”
Once that trust is earned, you can really go places. CEO Rana el Kaliouby of Affectiva explained that she and her CMO Gabi Zijderveld are “thought partners” fully aligned on strategic priorities and core values. As Rana’s chief “know” officer & “no” officer, Gabi’s marketing savvy has been instrumental in turning Rana into a brand ambassador for a category they created: Emotion AI. On top of not being afraid to say no, here are a few of the many gems discussed in our breakout session: Align to your CEO’s communication style. Get to know them on a personal level. Don’t bring problems without solutions. Hit the road together to rip off and duplicate.
When Metrics Meet Meaning
Along with the rise of digital marketing, B2B companies have a massive digital x-ray of how they’re doing—but it takes a specialist to find which metrics actually matter to overall health and will satisfy the CEO. In the last breakout session of the Super Huddle, CMOs were tasked with creating the perfect CEO dashboard using no more than 6 key performance metrics. We drilled down the answers into three key areas: Growth (i.e., pipeline, conversion rates), Brand Health (i.e., awareness, site traffic), and Customer Health (i.e., churn, c-sat). One thing worth noting: no one mentioned any employee metrics! This might be something worth bringing to the CEO’s radar. After all, a brand is nothing without its employees.
Build a Business of Belonging
Forrester notably recommended that today’s leaders “build businesses of belonging.” CMOs can certainly play a crucial role in these efforts by driving DE&I initiatives in their departments if not across the entire organization. As Natalie Gullatt, the Founder of Black Marketer’s Association of America (BMAA) shared at the Super Huddle, “In order to get to equality, you’ve got to get through equity first.” How? Through self-education and true, transparent sponsorship and advocacy for black marketers. To learn more and get involved, check out BMAA’s partnership opportunities.