Marketing Principles for The Entrepreneurial CMO

26 Jan Marketing Principles for The Entrepreneurial CMO


By: Abe Kasbo

It’s high hubris and cliché to say CMOs and marketing leaders are under unprecedented pressures. Far better from the industry low in 2006 of 23 months, the average tenure of a CMO is 45 months according to a recent study cited by The Wall Street Journal, which is an improvement from Forbes’ 2012 study of 43 months.  However you look at it, the stark reality is that CMOs and marketing leaders have always been under pressure and always will. Business will always turn to marketing for growth, and growth is always expected (whether realistic or not, but that’s a topic for another post).
While literature is aflutter with marketing advice, the nature of marketing advice seems based on speed and not necessarily quality. When we look ahead in 2015, we believe the entrepreneurial CMO must be focused on execution by limiting the marketing noise in the marketplace.  We’re talking to our clients about their mindsets or belief systems that will drive their business in the near and medium terms. We believe these five mindsets will help entrepreneurial CMOs deliver a more fruitful direction for their organizations this year.

1. You’re Zen About Marketing Technology – Entrepreneurial CMOs do not chase technology. We know certain aspects of marketing technology looks promising. But, let’s not be enticed or distracted by articles like “The Future of Marketing,” and though it may feel a little unnatural, let’s slow down bit and get as much learning in this space as possible. With a plethora of marketing technologies, I am going to discuss two that are making lots of noise. The first is marketing automation. It’s breathing down people’s necks with ridiculous and, in my opinion, unreasonable urgency for adoption (like social media which came before it and has not produced the promised results). Marketing automation is sexy and highly touted with slick PR behind it manifesting itself in the form of anecdotal and spotty evidence via cool looking industry business cases and white papers. The same goes for mobile apps. “Surely if company X did this, and got this result, then you can replicate that with your team,” quips the sales executive.  If it’s in the industry rags, it must be good.  Right? Wrong.

When we talk with our clients who are using a range of marketing automation tools, from basic to complex; we hear marketing automation seems to be more of a hassle and appears to be “clogging” up their marketing efforts. Yep, yep…we’re fighting anecdotal evidence with anecdotal evidence. Here’s what we definitively know: marketing automation necessarily requires infrastructure within businesses to support it. Yet, the promise of marketing automation has not caught up with the reality of its implementation and operation.  Someone still has to create the strategy, content, implement the campaign, monitor analytics/behavior, interpret and report results. Rinse and repeat. The eco-system for marketing automation success must be developed and cultivated within your organization to help ensure success.

As for apps, research tells us that there is no magic formula to your apps success, though user experience and distribution are fundamental to success. You must be sure that your mobile app distribution plan is in place even before development, and you must calculate and estimate your cost per download, and cost of user acquisition (downloads and use are not the same). Be patient, marketing automation and mobile apps are useful, but in 2015 work from inside your organization out. Meaning, make more observations of what your business goals are, your capacity to implement, and organizational expertise in order to best position any marketing technology within your organization.

2. Less Social, More Network – The entrepreneurial CMO understands that social media, especially organic social media, is not about the “social” but about the “network.” He or she will better understand that the organic social enterprise is a marketing head fake and inefficient at best. It’s like a never-ending pit. (I know, I know, but Dunkin’ Donuts has 5 million likes, and so and so got 3 million Youtube views….give away free coffee and donuts and you’ll get 5 million too, and how many of the 3 million views are bought and faked?).  You keep feeding it with content and the majority of your customers don’t actually care. Not because your content isn’t relevant or engaging, but in the case of Facebook, your organic content is not reaching the people on your page. I am not picking on Facebook and don’t believe in its demise anytime soon, but Facebook has effectively turned itself into the world’s largest “television network” (we’ll discuss how to leverage social advertising another time). While there’s plenty of evidence and data, here’s one nugget that may help frame the organic social issue for CMOs. According to Forrester’s 2014 North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life Cycle Survey, “In fact, 45% of US adults stay in touch with the brands they like by visiting those brands websites, while just 16% stay in touch by visiting brand’s Facebook pages or becoming Facebook fans…” The entrepreneurial CMO also understands that in the social and digital space, it’s about owning your online properties; and social properties are feeders to drive organic social traffic to the business’ website. They also understand the reality that their social properties are effectively rented. Conversions should happen on your website because you own it, and frankly your site offers more relevancy to your customers anyway.

3. The Right Data Instead of Big Data – So, you have been, and are collecting data on your customers,  but does your organization have the capability to process and make business sense out of it? According to Slate, Gartner, the technology research group, put “Big Data near the top of the ‘peak of inflated expectations’ of its hype cycle, to be followed soon by a “trough of disillusionment.”  From the NSA, to Amazon to Google (although Google’s search algorithm is by far the most successful) the use of big data is spotty at best so far. Instead, find out what data you need to increase sales and go after that. Be it market intelligence or prospect databases. Put the right data in the hands of people who can use it, and drive sales and your brand through it.  No data scientists required.

4. No More Dropping Marketing & Creative Bombs – In our practice, this is a significant area of interest both in theoretically and practically. Focus on your integrated strategy by significantly reducing your tactical approaches. Build equity in your marketing enterprise through deliberate execution and solving for business key areas while keeping an eye on your short, medium and long-term organizational strategies. Easier said than done, but the hard part is in the discipline it takes to get this done.

Value creative for its ability to represent the personality of your brand. And if you value it, spend critical “thinking time” on it. Every word, every image, every feeling counts. The idea of pushing out “content” should die in its tracks, because there’s real equity in your brand, you can either build on it or degrade it, and creative is a key vehicle that can take you in either direction.

5. Seek More Value – Face it, the agency/client model is broken. Build your agency relationship on a partnership and consultative model rather than asset based relationships like media buying, web development, television commercials etc. In many ways, it could save you money and provide the agency with a more predictable customer experience (which is always desired). It could be good for everyone. In addition, it incentivizes your agency to be your “consigliere” and provocateur which is inherently more valuable, rather than just sell you “stuff.”