Go here to check out coverage of the recent panel session I did in New York City at the CMO Club summit. Overall, I enjoyed participating on the panel and want to thank both Pete from the CMO Club for inviting me and the other panelists for the fun debate.
(From left to right, me; Jarvis Cromwell, CMO of StormExchange; and Barry Herstein CMO of PayPal.)
The panel was about career management for CMOs and I was there to provide the “from CMO to CEO” angle. Not surprisingly with a bunch of marketing people, I had trouble getting a word in edgewise. :-)
Here are some of the points that I made which are covered in the blog post:
- Marketing is struggling for relevance. Product and sales groups are very powerful. Marketing gets relegated to a communications role.
- Present yourself as a business person, not a marketing person. Be with a successful company. People will ask you why you stayed so long with a losing company.
- Your job is to make sales easier. Don’t be in the way. Surprisingly it’s very hard to get that alignment.
Overall, I’d make a few additional points of advice to my fellow marketers (while I’ve been a CEO for 4 years I nevertheless still consider myself a marketing guy and probably always will):
- Talk less, listen more. We marketers are a chatty bunch and need to be self-aware.
- Align to the business. Make this a never-ending quest. See point 1 for help in doing it.
- Remember that for the sales VP and the CEO, it really is all about the numbers. It’s easy to preach about long-term investments, brand-values, and other lofty things. Do so once in a while as it’s your role, but do so with care. Choose your battles.
- Market for your sales force, not for other marketers. Marketing is a self-congratulatory discipline. Lots of campaigns that win awards don’t move the sales needle an inch.
I have one story from the panel that I think contains a rather pointed lesson. It goes like this:
Audience member: I have a question — how many people in this room, panelists included, have ever carried a bag in sales (i.e., had a sales job and sales quota)?
About 10% of the hands go up. Mine is not one of them. But I think the woman’s begging a great question: can you, and how can you — if you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes — support sales? It’s a great topic. I’m ready to riff on it. (My favorite riff is about the poor salesperson who joins marketing or sales operations thinking sales will continue to see him/her as “us” when unbeknownst to them, in the eyes of their former quota-carrying colleagues, they transition from “us” to “them” approximately 10 nanoseconds after renouncing their quota.)
I’m ready to go, thinking this is going to be great.
Moderator: OK, now let’s talk about “the brand called me” in managing your career.
Me: Wait a minute. You, in the audience, where were you headed with that sales question?
Audience member: I was thinking about how we can support sales if we’ve never done sales, and that maybe people would be interested in discussing that?
[Sound of crickets chirping]
Moderator: OK, now let’s talk about “the brand call me”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in the whole “brand called me” thing and agree that people should treat themselves as marketable products (from a resume perspective) and establish clear positioning and differentiation. That’s all great.
But isn’t there something wrong when a bunch of marketing people would rather talk about the “brand called me” than sales? Isn’t that part of the problem?
My closing comments on the panel were as follows:
- For career success as a marketer first realize that as CMO you inherently have a dual role: head marketer and e-staff contributor.
- Build a very strong team that you can basically leave alone to run marketing
- Then put your effort into the e-staff contributor role to help you both develop as a business person and contribute to your company’s success.
- And finally, I want to know why only me and the woman dressed in black want to talk about sales. (She’s my bet for the next CEO in the crowd.)