If I’m going to shout anyone’s quotes from the rooftops, I’m glad they’re Thomas Barta’s. Why? Well, it’s not often you have an hour-long chat with someone who has enjoyed (and is enjoying) such a storied career. He was a partner and senior marketer at McKinsey, led the world’s largest study of marketing leadership (68,000 assessments—not too shabby!), published a book on the subject, and is a regular contributor for multiple news outlets. He’s consulted and marketed for 20+ years, in 14 industries, across 45 countries.
That’s a pretty serious resume. I, and a handful of elite CMOs, got a chance to pick his brain on a recent episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite, and we had a fantastic discussion about what it takes to be not just a good marketing leader, but a great one. I cut out a few choice quotes from the yet-to-be-released interview (and fought the urge to include just about every other sentence). Take a look, and really consider how (and if) they apply to your own organizations and teams, and keep an eye out for the full interview soon!
The Customer Voice is King.
“I always learn the most from consumers, if I’m very honest. Those are the people who tell us what we need to do. Those are the people who know what is really important. The struggle over time is getting that customer view right inside the company. Whenever I’m proud of or happy with my marketing, it’s when I’ve made that happen. Usually when I’m unhappy about something in marketing, it’s when I failed to do that.”
Marketing your marketing is an uphill battle.
“I believe marketing is the toughest job in the business world. We talk about the future. Future revenue, future profits, future customer behavior. How do you react to some who promises they know the future? You just laugh. So, right away, we sound less credible, less reliable than folks from finance. That’s just a reality.”
The CEO should be your best friend, but often isn’t.
“The alignment between the marketer and the CEO is often poor. The reason is, the CEO does not know exactly what they’re looking for. They hear these things like ‘customer focus’ and what have you, and then they think there’s someone coming in who has this magic wand and can make it happen. In reality, it’s a change management job. It’s a tough job. We work with everybody, and the CEO needs to understand this. But they don’t always.”
CMOs need to see themselves as leaders.
“Most CMOs are very good at figuring out what the company needs when they put their mind to it. What’s a little bit harder for a lot of CMOs, is seeing themselves as role models, as people that have to mobilize the team. You can have all the skills, but you need to be a very energetic person, and a very inspiring person. That’s what will help put it together in the right way.”
Company-wide digital strategy is often overlooked and underdeveloped.
“There is a vacuum in almost every organization with digital strategy—and I don’t mean in marketing. I mean in the company. A lot of CEOs are struggling to get help, because if you think about the firm, you have the operations, the offer, and then you have the whole business model; digital can play a role everywhere.
Effective attribution comes from simplicity.
“Effective attribution comes from two things. One is a simple model. Work with the finance guys, get them on board. Have them challenge it, make sure it’s something they can understand. The second thing is similar: the language. Keep the language basic. Things like revenue, customers, and profit. Keep the language clean so everyone can understand.”
As always, we welcome your feedback.