Much has been written about the ever-evolving and challenging role of chief marketing officers (CMOs) and senior marketing leaders. I’ve read many articles on this and have found that they all boil down to one simple problem a recent Harvard Business Review article (subscription required) articulated well: “CMOs aren’t given enough authority to do what’s expected of them.”
I’ve seen and personally experienced this myself, and I’ve given a lot of thought to how marketers can overcome this challenge. There’s much that can be done to level-set expectations prior to accepting a new role, but most of us find ourselves already in a role, struggling to find alignment, support and resources.
So, what’s a marketer to do?
Clarify your business case.
Many will say getting buy-in for your new strategy, quarterly plan or initiative is all about communication — something most marketing leaders already do well — but my advice is to take one step back to clarity. Seems obvious, right? But, I’m often amazed when my staff and even my peers aren’t able to clearly articulate why something matters, how they’ll execute and what success will look like.
I’ve built my M.O. around my favorite quote attributed to Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I see every problem in an invisible business case matrix and I coach my team to organize their thinking using the following criteria:
• Why (your objective).
• How (execution activities).
• What (success metrics).
• Assumptions (dependencies for success).
You have to challenge yourself to boil your idea down to its essence. Write your business case free form using the above framework. Take a break for a walk or for a day, and then return to it and cut it in half. My mantra is “Editing is everything.”
Force yourself to be succinct; don’t fall in love with your words or with the mechanics of how — because the reality is, whether you’re sending an initial email or giving a presentation, you have less than five minutes to convince someone your idea is worth their attention.
Become a leadership linchpin.
What’s a linchpin? There are many variations on the definition of a linchpin (and a great book by that name), but my favorite comes from Merriam-Webster: “One that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit.”
Here’s the truth about the new rules of marketing leadership: You must become a company linchpin. This is your job now.
You might be thinking, “That’s not my job,” or “This is too much responsibility.” Well, in the wise words of one of my mentors, “Get over it and work smarter.” As modern marketers, we’re now at the apex of technology, marketing and finance. And technological advancements have impacted the realm of marketing the most, which means you have to step up to the plate and connect the dots for every department, up and down the organizational structure.
Identify and secure success dependencies.
Once you’ve honed your succinct business case, it’s time to find your allies. Need more levers to pull to hit your revenue targets? Talk to the head of product development to ensure there are enough new product lines or features being released so your team can target additional revenue streams. Need to increase conversion rates to lower your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and hit your numbers? Talk to the head of sales to ensure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish and that their processes will amplify your team’s efforts. There’s nothing worse than driving a ton of opportunities that get lost in the cracks or that are nurtured incorrectly.
At this stage, it’s critical to emphasize your assumptions. If success is impossible without the members of the sales team leveling-up their processes, or if increasing revenue means launching new product lines, make that crystal clear to everyone on the leadership team.
Turn your colleagues into evangelists.
Assuming you secure the leadership support you need to be successful, the next step is to turn the entire company into evangelists. Start with your immediate team, and ensure they understand the why, how and what of your plan and its alignment with companywide business goals.
Then pull the whole company together and illustrate how your plan will touch every single department in the company. Make it about them: Give tangible examples that make them see they are a part of driving growth no matter what their role is.
Keep it simple.
As technology tools, artificial intelligence and customer expectations get more and more complex, your job as a marketer is to communicate complexity in simple language. Much like the tagline, value proposition and messaging you’re charged with developing as a marketer, you also now have to take on communicating the why of your marketing efforts clearly to the entire company.
Does this make the marketer’s job harder than ever? Maybe, but I’d argue that if you can learn to shift your efforts from the minutia of the how toward the clarity of the why, you’ll master the new rules of marketing leadership.