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Why Your CMO Doesn’t Like You

A cold shoulder in the hallway, a steely gaze in the weekly meeting: these are the signs that lead many marketers to ask, “Why doesn’t my CMO like me?”

Marketers might blame it on a clash of personalities or a personal grudge. But often personality isn’t the problem; it’s performance. And marketers can address these issues head on.

I asked a few Chief Marketing Officers to explain what gets under their skin. Tackle these and you’re far more likely to get the ear – maybe even the admiration – of the CMO.

Stick to the Strategy
Ideas are the currency of marketing. But if you fire off ideas without tying them to organizational goals, you’ll quickly irk the CMO.

“There are an infinite number of things we could do,” Jeff Whatcott, CMO of Brightcove, explained. “Strategy is about what we’re not going to do. People should be able to describe to me how what they’re doing is on strategy and how that connects to business goals for the organization.”

As Rod Brooks, CMO of PEMCO, put it, coming forward with tons of ideas that are disconnected to corporate strategy, is “almost like having no ideas at all.”










Don’t be a Victim
CMOs notice when a marketer looks like a deer in the headlights.

“People coming to me and saying, ‘What do you think we should do?’ drives me nuts,” said Jim Bell, CMO for Jaspersoft. “Take ownership of your area, whether it’s demand gen or product marketing or online marketing.”

If you want to impress the CMO, you need to take responsibility for projects and not ship the work off while expecting a great return.

“I find all too often that managers lacking experience expect others, or more commonly vendors, to go away and do the work and return it to them when it is done,” said John McAuliffe, CMO of VFM Leonardo. “They should be thinking – this is my responsibility and this is the team I have assembled to accomplish the project/task… how do I get everyone to be successful?”

Don’t Go By Anecdote
Marketing is all about telling a great story, right? Not if you’re a CMO. For them, it’s about telling a story that moves the needle.

“One of the things that can ‘quickly turn off a CMO’,” McAuliffe told me, “is anecdotal success measurement. If you don’t know how to measure it quantifiably, don’t do it.”

Marketers should still test new ideas, but they need to have a concrete way to measure the success of those ideas. A lot of marketers have “found their demise” by blindly repeating programs that worked in the past or throwing campaigns up “without any idea of what the quantifiable measurement is for ‘worked,’” McAuliffe added.

Know Thy Buyer
A CMO doesn’t want you to replicate the competition. They want you to know the buyer.

“It’s really easy to look around and see what other people are doing. But too often people aren’t asking the right questions,” said Bell.

The right questions are the ones that lead to understanding the pains and needs of your buyers, and then target campaigns specifically to them.


Think Like An Investor

If you want to get inside the CMO’s head, “you really need to think like an investor,” said Bell.

And investors have one thing on their minds: return on investment. For CMOs, their investment is the time, energy and resources they put into marketers.

To win over the CMO, you need to generate and show a return. “If you can provide that data, and some other budget owner can’t, then money and attention are going to come your way” said Bell.

Ask, How Can I Help You?

“It’s rare that anyone visits me that wants to help me,” Brooks said. “They want to know what I can do to help them.”

There’s a tendency to think of the CMO at the top of totem pole, not in need of help.

How can you make the CMO’s life easier? “If you’re contributing to his inventory of options, then you’re making his job easier,” Brooks said.

Are you a CMO who has a few pet peeves? Or a marketer who has gained the CMO's trust? Share your secrets in the comments!

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