Founder and CEO of Insightful and a lifelong techie with a passion for all things startup.
During a recent transition period – which occurred in the midst of the pandemic – I was my company’s interim chief marketing officer while actively recruiting a permanent replacement. The experience has revived my appreciation for the discipline of marketing and everything that comes with it in the CMO leadership role.
CMOs have the highest turnover rate in the C-suite, typically 35 to 41 months in a position. I experienced why first hand if I took the helm of this team.
CMOs lead with both sides of the brain.
I was quickly reminded that marketing is multifaceted and requires different left and right brain hemispheres. You’ll use the right side of your brain, the innovative side, for design and customer-centric creative work such as effective and exciting websites, engaging pitch deck resources, and engaging, multichannel content to interact with and engage with both prospects and customers.
You use the left side of your brain for data-driven and analytical tasks. Significant technological advancements have resulted in easily accessible and user-friendly tools to capture marketing metrics. As key executives responsible for driving growth, CMOs must select the right technology to measure marketing effectiveness. This requires a keen eye for data and analytics across the entire customer journey.
As I interacted with the various functions of the marketing team, I gained respect for how our budding CMO should switch brains several times a day every day.
Marketing affects the entire company.
Marketing must work with every other function in the business and connect all efforts to support a growing pipeline of customers. Marketing in charge of oversight and measurement gives a company’s functional departments a defined and collaborative framework to hold each other accountable for making the customer experience what it should be.
A special focus for the marketing team within our company is working closely with the sales team to develop marketing initiatives that create awareness of new solutions for our customers. As a stand-in CMO, I re-learned the value of selling new products and features to customers who were already doing business with us. Your chances of selling to an existing customer are 60% to 70%, compared to 5% to 20% when targeting new prospects. Furthermore, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products than new customers. That’s why it’s so important for marketing teams to spend a lot of time with customers.
Marketing initiatives should be based on consistent customer feedback.
As an interim CMO, I emphasized the importance of spending time with customers, as it is one of the best ways for marketing people to invest time and energy. I set the example for our marketing team by starting intentional customer conversations, starting with questions like, “What are the results you want to achieve from our partnership?” Then I let customer responses shape marketing initiatives to equip the other functions of our company to predictably deliver results that meet customer demands. What better measure of your marketing efforts than customers telling you you’ve helped them gain market share, improve their customer experience, grow faster, and build better employee relationships?
As a result of this engagement, I was open to adding a customer marketing function to our team when our new CMO suggested it, with a focus on customer advocacy, upselling and cross-selling.
The pace and prioritization of a CMO is similar to that of a CEO.
As an interim CMO, I was reminded daily that there should be no breaks in the pace of marketing. As with CEOs, there are a million things a CMO must do to keep up with the company. Marketing creates value for other functions in the company and is an integral part of the products and services the company provides. The marketing team creates content that contributes to a greater brand presence so that when a sales rep builds or expands territory, they are willing to engage in compelling conversations with the people who are ideal customers.
Key lessons from my time as a CMO
The main conclusion I came to when I delved into marketing is that the team is equipped to boost any position in the company. For example, product marketing can help everyone across the company speak better about the value you provide to your customers. It also helps in many other ways, including:
• Help you build a better product when feedback is shared about the results your customers want.
• Generate better documentation and prevent failures by unlocking the power of your platform.
• Remove friction from the buying process and help you match price to value.
• Assisting you in onboarding new employees.
My advice to other companies is this: if there is an opportunity or a lull in a position within your company, whether it be in marketing or any other role, use it as an opportunity to hire an employee from another department. to pull. You will find that this can add value on both sides: new ideas will be generated and different perspectives will be seen, ultimately creating a stronger team.
My time as interim CMO came to an end after a full year when we successfully hired an experienced leader for the role, and I was able to refocus my efforts on other teams. It was a fun ride and a great learning experience.