The conversation zipped along like a beach ball at a rock concert. All of the 25 award-winning CMOs in attendance participated in the dialogue at the 2016 CMO Club Awards, adding insights, asking for details or just soaking up the collective wisdom. It was a feast for the mind, especially the inquiring type. The discussion topic – How CMOs Can Drive Change Beyond the Marketing Department – lent itself to the exploration of the seemingly boundless role of senior marketers. And explore we did.
In the end, Antonio Lucio, CMO of HP (and that evening’s inductee into the CMO Hall of Fame), challenged his fellow CMOs to focus on three things that only they could do. For Lucio, these were not bound by the traditional limits of marketing and instead focused on big-picture business strategy and hiring a team that could execute the vision.
To help you get a sense of the different approaches to driving change, here is advice from ten of the award-winners, in their own words:
“See Your Role More Broadly” – Lee Applbaum, CMO, Patrón Spirits
Marketing is often the end of the proverbial whip. The fact is, that if the fundamental product or service isn’t sound, or – as in the case of B2C – the customer experience is not superior, all the marketing in the world won’t make a (sustainable) difference. A CMO and his/her team must see their role in the organization more broadly. Often, marketers say that they are the “voice of the consumer,” but I think that’s partially a fallacy and often creates a disconnect with the balance of the organization. Everyone has a responsibility to listen to the end consumer. Yes, marketing often has unique tools with which to listen to the consumer, but they are no different than a retail sales organization (that arguably is most directly connected to consumers at the point of purchase each and every day). Marketers should spend as much time thinking about the end consumer as they do their internal customers – sales, merchants, operations, etc. Our job should be to help galvanize the whole organization around opportunities to best create brand and enterprise value. Those can be through marketing or through product, experience, supply chain, and any number of other opportunities.
“Pilot to Prove Your Case” – Alma Derricks, VP Sales & Marketing Resident Shows Division, Cirque du Soleil
Find a discrete “pilot” project that can be owned and operated end-to-end to clearly demonstrate the benefits of a holistic, customer-centric strategy; results earn and fuel marketers’ leverage across the organization.
“Be the Change You Want” – Elissa Fink, CMO, Tableau Software
I think it’s like a lot of things. To drive change, there’s what you need to do internally (in this case, inside your department) and externally (outside your department). So, first be the change you want. You can then speak and act authentically on the matter. And then be someone who supports and helps other areas of your organization achieve change in their departments, too. When you help others achieve what they are looking for, they often will help you achieve what you’re looking for. Ideally, in a healthy organization, your drive for change is consistent with their drive for change. But even if it’s not, it still applies: be the change you want and support an amenable colleague in their drive, too.
“Stay Connected and Listen” – Rich Honiball, CMO, Navy Exchange
The easy answer is to make sure that we stay connected with the departments with whom we engage directly – and also those that may only have an indirect impact on the customer or the organization. We can’t assume that different departments know what is going on, so we need to take the time to make sure that we are communicating our strategies on a regular basis. The more difficult challenge, but I think also one that can have a greater impact, is to take the time to listen and engage with other areas and even allow them the opportunity to influence the strategy. As marketers, we may be good at giving updates or presentations on strategies. But, how good are we at asking others “What can we do to help you in your area?” or “How do you think we can improve?” The more we engage and support others in the organization, the more support I think we ultimately get for what we are trying to achieve.
“Get Employees on Board” – Gina McDuffie, CMO, VER
It depends on the change, but in all cases, I’d say that internal communication doesn’t get enough respect. Big change can’t happen if employees aren’t on board. It is much easier when the employee base feels secure, trusts leadership and has love for the brand. Building this takes time and a lot of communication – digitally and in person. Employees need to be reminded of the company’s purpose and their place in it, and they need to be spoken to honestly. Though this may not be in the CEO’s comfort zone or his/her biggest priority, it’s imperative that authentic communication comes from the top.
“Prove Your Approach Works” – Patti Newcomer, VP Marketing, Intuit ProConnect Group
“Start Small and Build a Fan Base” – Dara Royer, CMO, Mercy Corps
Recognize that the road to revolution comes through evolution. Gone are the days of the big reveal. We all remember standing in front of the global team and launching finished work that answered every question and was 100% complete. Now, iteration is king, particularly as it relates to brand development and stewardship and especially in large, dynamic organizations. While a core group of individuals may help shape the brand strategy and how it comes to life, it’s impossible to anticipate all of the ways the brand will need to be expressed. When team members from across the organization can get their hands dirty in it – can show the marketing department new ways they are activating the brand – that’s powerful. It leads to authentic storytelling, to greater buy-in and, ultimately, to a stronger organizational identity. So forget the 500-page brand book, start smaller and build as you go with the help of those at the front lines of your mission or business who truly own the organization’s identity.
“It All Starts with a Vision” – Jane Wakely, CMO, Global Chocolate, Mars
There are two things we seek to build with our marketeers – functional excellence and cross-functional leadership. To drive change beyond marketing, a CMO needs to create a vision for growth that is not just consumer-centric but also focused on customers, channels and portfolios. This means the CMO has to drive a function that collaborates with their sales, R&D, and supply colleagues, and takes an enterprise-wide approach to growth. Together, these leaders need to create a shared vision for the future and drive deep alignment on the key growth levers for the business – shifting and aligning their resources behind those bold choices.
“Peak Curiosity” – Melinda Welsh, CMO, Chase Home and Auto Finance
Try to peak curiosity – bring other functions into brainstorming sessions and get many different perspectives. True intellectual curiosity and passion around a topic drives the most change and buy-in, and, in the end, creates a better product.
“Think Broadly About Your Competition” – Arra Yerganian, CMO, Sutter Health
First, communication plays the most vital role in driving change. Second, a company must be nimble and willing to take thoughtful risks. A third element to driving change beyond the marketing department is defining one’s competitive set more broadly. From a Sutter Health perspective, we’re shifting the perception of the greater marketing discipline from that of a “cost center” to one that adds value and accretive growth to the organization. For example, digital marketing helps connect people to healthcare services in a very measurable and cost-effective way.