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Honesty, Engagement & Outcomes: The Keys to CMO Success


April 20, 2010 8:49 pm





It’s well known that CMO’s can have a short professional life-span and one commentator even jokingly suggested that “CMO” should stand for “Chief Masochistic Officer” because, as he put it, “the deck is stacked against the successful execution of this job.” From my perspective, while I think that the role of CMO, like any job, certainly has its challenges, I strongly disagree that the deck is stacked against the CMO and, frankly, think that’s kind of a cop out.

That being said, I do see the CMO role as fairly unique if for no other reason than that it’s highly matrixed, On top of that, a lot of people care and have opinions about marketing and they often feel entirely justified voicing those opinions or criticizing CMO performance. It’s like, “How hard can it be?”

I believe that, if you want to succeed in the role of CMO (and I really believe that success is possible here), you need to listen to these opinions, consider the criticism, and sincerely engage your well intended colleagues.  If you are honest and transparent with your stakeholders about what’s working and what isn’t it will not only be appreciated, you’re going to learn a lot and in the process generate a better result for your company.

In addition to being open and honest and engaged, however, the real key is continually bringing the conversation back around to specific outcomes you as CMO and the marketing organization as a whole can generate.

Here at Novell, we have three primary tools to create these outcomes and accordingly frame the conversation with stakeholders in terms of these capabilities, namely: Creating a distinctive and compelling brand for the company; generating qualified demand for our sales channels, either in terms of the direct sales force and/or our partners; and making Novell products easy to sell and easy to buy through training, education and tools.

1. Improving Brand Awareness at Every Level

The question we ask ourselves on the branding front is always, “Are we improving awareness and purchase consideration for Novell at every level – the company level, the market segment level, the solution level, the product level?”

When we’re talking to our folks selling Identity Management, for example, and they’re saying, “People don’t know we’re in Identity Management” or “Customers don’t have a preference for us over our competitors,” etc., we want to have an outcome-oriented conversation with these folks around what we can do to improve that awareness and influence consideration.

2. Generating Qualified Demand

Similarly on the demand generation side, we want to understand what results are expected of marketing and plan our activities accordingly around those results.

Let’s say we’re talking with the field and our partners and they are telling us, “We don’t have enough qualified opportunities for PlateSpin.” We want to have an outcome-based conversation focused on defining “qualified,” identifying how many opportunities they are looking for, and then, working backwards, figuring out how many people we need to engage to get to them that number of opportunities.

3. Education for Sales Enablement

Finally, to actually sell our products and solutions, it’s not only important that we have capacity in terms of enough people out selling, but we also need to make sure that we have the skills and capabilities to actually make the sale.

Once again our conversations and efforts in the training arena have to be outcome-oriented. We can’t just say, “We ran this webinar and distributed these decks,” we have to tie that to results that demonstrate the value. When we can tell people, “Partners who have trained with us for four quarters in a row produce revenue that’s 100% higher than those who don’t,” it kind of crystallizes things for people.

In all these areas you have to come up with the right activities and then execute on them, but developing said activities with specific outcomes in mind will always keep you focused and in tune with the needs of the organization. Never forget that those outcomes, those results, represent the real value that marketing brings to the organization.

And the ability to deliver and communicate that value is the truest measure of your success as CMO.


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Categories: Expert Views, PR Blog


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  1. John,

    As a Novell technology partner, we have been at the receiving end of Novell’s increased marketing effectiveness at building the Novell brand, expanding Novell’s presence into new areas, and bringing partners along for the ride to share.

    Richard Bliss
    SVP, Marketing Worldwide
    GWAVA, Inc

  2. By:Thor Johnson

    Thoughtful article focused on outcomes, rather than actions in marketing. Made me look back into his archive for other of his insights.

    Refreshing CMO talk, thank you.

    Thor Johnson