Jerome Nadel CMO Rambus
Jerome Nadel

The role of today’s CMO needs to be about more than sales enablement and downstream marketing – CMOs must look upstream as well.

Jerome Nadel, CMO at Rambus, and Silicon Valley Chapter President for the CMO Club, led the recent virtual roundtable, The Modern CMO’s Influence Upstream: Product/Solution Design and Success.

“The modern marketer should be more the renaissance marketer,” Nadel said during the discussion. “We should be more connected to product strategy, product concepting, and product marketing.”

Instead, he finds many large organizations have codified the view of the CMO to be about sales enablement and downstream marketing, which he calls a mistake.

“You don’t necessarily, in a dotted line way, need to have management responsibility for product marketing to fundamentally influence it,” he said. “I do feel if our job is just to receive codified products, and package, pitch, and promote to do sales enablement, we’re missing much of the job that we should be responsible for.”

Nadel led the group through a discussion on design thinking for CMOs, which he termed a combination of “designing the right things” and “designing things right.” The diverging activities – expanding possibilities, ideation, and others, and the converging activities – screening the best options, prototyping, and others, creates the Double Diamond framework, which he credits to the Design Council.
Double Diamond framework

He said this can be summed up in three phases for marketers – think, design, and promote. Yet, at the same time, he argued CMOs seem to historically wrestle with only having influence in the promotion.

The CMO Club surveyed members about topics ranging from the CMO’s responsibility for product marketing, concepting and definition, to what made product launches successful within their organizations, to the techniques employed that led to a product launch.

Survey results showed a 50-50 split among CMOs who have the product marketing team reporting to them, but a closer look showed more provocative results.

Using self-reported success rates of product and service launches, they divided the results into those with a greater than 50 percent success rate and those with a less than 50 percent success rate, and then looked at their impact upstream and downstream.

When The CMO Club survey examined upstream marketing, it found perhaps the most interesting differences. The less successful CMOs reported heavier use of traditional market research, and the more successful CMOs invested more in developing use cases and user stories, along with prototyping and agile development processes – in line with Nadel’s beliefs.

Upsteam Tools Used
Upsteam Tools Used

Grant Ho, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at NetBrain Technologies, talked about the prior frustration he and his team felt in roles over the years because research was always six months to a year behind, and therefor really couldn’t be used for influence. He said there is push-back on research by constituencies inside companies who feel that research simply research, and not forward looking.

Ho, a big believer in use cases and user stories, said his team focuses on the end user – in their case, the network engineer – and that person’s day-to-day activities, rather than the buyers of the product.

“When we started to focus more on the end user – we built up use cases and user stories – that brought us more success than just focusing on economic buyers,” Ho said. “Understanding the end user makes us more successful in driving the position.”

Those who reported more success on average use more methods and processes to influence launch support and even go as far as market sales support.

Kirk Thompson, fractional CMO to medium and small-sized retail and hospitality businesses, with Chief Outsiders, and former CMO at IHOP, was part of the roundtable. He said focusing on value proposition was critical to success during his time at IHOP.

“If we didn’t pause and think about what the role of a given new product was for a value proposition, or how it would be promoted within the overall mix of the rest of the product line, it just sort of ended up being development for the sake of development rather than development for seeking a specific business opportunity,” he said. “And it made a profound difference in how successful the future development of future product lines were.”

Judy Arnold, Vice President of Marketing at Vitalyst, also joined the roundtable, and said that getting engaged with sales also cut down on confusion caused by eager sales people who would often pitch new products and services too early

“By being involved in the go-to-market planning and sales launches , we can help reign that in, better organize the process and provide sales with the right materials at the right time so that we get better results in the long run,” she said.