Three Ways to Increase Your Shelf Life as CMO

The average tenure of a chief marketing officer (CMO) is significantly shorter than that of any other C-suite position. Yes, that statistic is as dismal as it sounds, so CMOs, if you’re going to buck this trend, there are three things you need to do:

  • Know your brand and purpose
  • Free your army of advocates
  • Integrate ROI with marketing

Also, it doesn’t hurt to get the CEO on board with the above, as well.

Know your brand and purpose

Deciphering your own brand’s purpose is marketing’s secret weapon. Brands must look within to understand the roles they want to serve in market, and then go after like-minded consumers who share their values. To uncover your brand’s purpose, you must determine what inspires you and what role you see for yourself and the goods you deliver.

Take Charles Schwab. Discovering the brand’s purpose brought it back from dire financial straits. Schwab founded the company in 1973 based on the idea of convenience, and the company flourished. Then Schwab stepped down as CEO. He came back 18 months later to a 26 percent decline in revenue and a company that was floundering. Upon his return, Schwab highlighted the reasons he founded the company, and developed “12 Guiding Principles” for his employees to live by. It worked: Client assets have gone from $942 billion to $1.8 trillion, and brokerage accounts have grown 24 percent.

It’s important to help your organization understand its identity by developing a purpose and infusing it in every aspect of the company, from commerce to culture. Infusing purpose into every decision a brand makes is a choice that has consistently succeeded for brands in markedly different industries, including Panera, Seventh Generation, and Louisville Slugger, among many others.

Free your army of advocates

You have an army of evangelists standing in the wings ready for action, and you’re probably not even aware of it. Employees and consumer advocates are two groups of social supporters whom most companies rarely trust to speak out for them. This lack of trust typically results in paid media, where companies exert fierce control, instead of social media. However by failing to utilize social media to its full potential, companies miss out on opportunities to personally connect with their fans. Ultimately (and ironically), the conversation goes on socially regardless. The lost opportunity then is about failure to participate due to fear, and or participating but aiming to control the message to the point where the brand is perceived as inauthentic or self-interested. A brand that knows its purpose typically has an easier time liberating its advocates.

If you resist the temptation to control, you can liberate an entire army of people who would go to bat for your brand. Take Zappos, for example. Their employees have carte blanche to problem-solve as they see fit, resulting in some great success stories. One service rep sent flowers to a woman who ordered six different pairs of shoes because her feet were damaged by a medical condition, and one day a rep physically went to a rival shoe store to buy a pair of shoes for a customer when Zappos ran out of stock. As you can see, there certainly isn’t a script for this above-and-beyond type of service. However, for every brand that does this type of customer interaction well, there are 10 more that fail miserably, as anyone who has sat on the phone and talked to a machine can attest.

Encouraging dialogue with customers results in higher levels of engagement, loyalty, and trust. By trusting employees to speak with the company’s voice through social media, organic conversation can begin. There’s a mass of people out there who respond favorably to interaction with their beloved brands. By keeping a possessive fist on external communication, CMOs often make the mistake of shutting the doors to an entire army of advocates—and the kind of publicity and engagement that money cannot buy. 

Integrate ROI with marketing

Monitoring ROI has always been a big issue for marketers. CMOs often start with ROI, but fail to understand their brand’s purpose and the factors that contribute heavily to it. It is critical that marketers think through both tactics and the big picture. The quickest way to extend that short CMO shelf life is to fully integrate your marketing staff with the sales team. If marketing proves effective at filling the sales funnel, you can measure the value that your team brings to the organization. By asking the following questions, you can investigate the effect marketing has on the velocity of your business:

  1. What is the total margin and how is marketing improving that margin?
  2. What is the annual churn rate? Is marketing reducing this or at least keeping it static in a competitive environment?
  3. Is marketing finding more efficient means to acquire customers?
  4. How relevant is your brand and what kind of traffic are you driving?
  5. What revenue are you creating per invested marketing dollar?

Brands like Intuit excel at this by working closely with its IT and sales departments to align their data, schedules and agendas. By ensuring that the marketing strategy is consistent with business strategy across the board, it’s simpler for marketing to help fill the sales funnel and measure results.

Yes, the average tenure of a CMO can be a frightening statistic. Take the time to apply the above and convince your CEO to get onboard.  And once you do that?

Well, you may as well get comfortable in that plush office chair, because you’re going to be there a long time.

Scott Bennett is a partner at MEplusYOU

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