Trust and credibility are crucial to ensuring a healthy relationship between a CMO and the CEO and board. Building such trust can be complicated, as a company’s dynamics and expectations are often changing and complex.
Tasked with choreographing this intricate tango, the CMO has to juggle marketing needs along with meeting business goals, ensuring customer satisfaction, staying on message and more. Here are a few tidbits of relationship advice from CMOs who have fostered productive and happy relationships within their companies.
1. Give and Take—Colin Hall, Allen Edmonds:
“We have new owners and a new board as of last Thanksgiving when the company transitioned from one PE firm to another. Like any new owner, they have a lot of questions and their own ideas. Rather than bog down a board meeting with very detailed marketing questions, I began “Marketing Milestone” meetings separate of the board meetings. These meetings allow the board and others to ask a lot of questions, get a great understanding of what we’re doing and why, and allows them to be involved. When we get to the board meetings we spend very little time on marketing as they’re up to speed and feel the marketing team is on top of things. This allows the board to focus on other agenda items.
“I am lucky to have a great CEO. We have worked together for 6 years and completely trust each other. I over communicate with him to ensure he knows what’s going on. Over time I have developed a great sense as to what he needs to know and when. At the end of the day, we both do what’s right for the brand.”
2. Timing, Timing, Timing—Lisa Armstrong, Pentair:
“A CMO builds credibility by being connected to what the C-suite and board are facing each quarter and asking how marketing can help. You can lose credibility by proposing initiatives at the wrong time. The challenge for marketers is that we often face the “what have you done for me lately” pressure so we have to be consistently maintaining our credibility.”
3. Communicate Clearly and Confidently—Kate Chinn, Tishman Speyer:
“Because we work for a real estate company, we have to take the time to explain the necessity of marketing these non-core businesses. As long as we are very, very clear and confident on what we need and why, they tend to trust our marketing expertise, especially given the success of similar businesses such as Top of the Rock and the event venue 620 Loft & Garden.”
4. Learn What They Need—Shannon Smith, J. Crew:
“You need to know what’s important to the CEO, and to present marketing results and accomplishments in a way that will resonate with his/her values. If the CEO is an analytical, metrics-driven leader, the marketer would be best-served providing a numbers-driven communication about metrics and performance. If the CEO is more creative and emotional, the marketing leader should speak to results in terms of positive impact on the customer, building connection to the brand, etc., and how this supports the company’s growth. What I’d say is to be avoided is trying to communicate things in a way that is important to the marketing leader – but isn’t important to the CEO.”