Last week at our annual company offsite in SF, we hosted a CMO panel to get right to the crux of what it’s like to be a chief marketer – what they really want from us, and what drives them nuts. The panelists were Joelle Kaufman from Clarizen, Natalie McCullough from ServiceSource, and Carl Tsukahara from ClairMail. Joelle and Natalie are current clients, Carl is a long time partner and past client.
Here is what stood out the most to me, a mix of great reminders and new insights for all agencies and communicators. With heightened engagement and the ability to measure just about anything, the opportunities to have a relationship with your prospect and your customer today are endless – and exciting. But being a CMO today is hard. The pressure on marketing is enormous. Joelle from Clarizen said, “We’re all in the growth business, so if you can do something to contribute meaningfully to that growth that’s all that matters. That’s all I spend my time doing everyday, figuring out how we’re going to grow the company today.”
In addition to visible contributions to growth, the suggestion was made that agencies need to self-audit more and to use the language and metrics of the CMO (not the agency). Hits, coverage and leads are almost meaningless – what would be most meaningful is a metric of awareness and reputation. Ah…the great measurement challenge that all agencies are trying to tackle!
Our panelists’ other big challenges are time, talent and focus.
- Time constraints are common to all of us, especially in the frenetic tech industry. But what can slow a chief marketer down is deciphering the signal from the noise and staying focused on the signal within their time constraints.
- Regarding talent, the challenge is to find the great leaders underneath the CMO so they don’t have to make all of the decisions.
- Focus is all about prioritization. And often once you get internal or community alignment around what you choose to prioritize, the market changes!
And what drives CMOS bananas? Here are our panelists’ agency pet peeves:
- The bait and switch – we’ve heard this one hundreds of times, but it bites when senior people do the pitch but don’t participate long term.
- Mediocre release drafts – if you need more time to make it a great piece of writing, just ask for it.
- Lack of follow through on ideas – speak up when you’re getting disconnected from the client and the players who can help you make things happen.
- Playing it safe – CMOs need their agency to be edgy and out in front of the business. Joelle said it better: “Do not kiss my ass, ever. I don’t pay you to be nice. Fight with me, push me, keep me accountable.”
As part of the discussion, we also previewed the initial findings from a study we just conducted with our partner Kelton Research. The CMO Challenge – to be released in July – surveyed almost 300 senior marketers and interviewed several CMOs across industries to uncover the myths, barriers and opportunities around integrated digital communications. Stay tuned for that study in a few weeks!