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9 rules for cmo success

June 25, 2010

Ten days ago, Mark Barden of Eat Big Fish sat down to dinner with a handful of CMOs and ex-CMOs to discover the secrets of CMO success.

The conversation focused around the importance of internal success and the ways in which it can be achieved.

While agencies might obsess about getting to a big idea that can change the company, that could be easier said than done, if the organization and its CEO isn’t willing to accept and empower the CMO and therefore the agency’s big idea.

Here are Mark’s 9 rules for CMO success that came out of the dinner conversation.

1. Know what you want
. There’s just no substitute
for a clear plan and some definite asks. Ambiguity kills progress faster
than a Republican filibuster. Get the story down, rehearse it, deliver
it with confidence.

2. Be relentlessly positive. People want to believe.
Belief and purpose are a basic human need and all the latest data
reinforces that people — and brands — need it. Yet fear in the face of change is just as real and
makes everyone feel nervous and appear schizophrenic as they inevitably
shrink from the difficult mission. You have to stay on it. Think of it
as an internal campaign.

3. Apply all the same skills and rigor of your outbound
marketing to your internal marketing
it is just as important and just as difficult to get
right. Who are the audiences? What are their motivations, needs and
biases? How do you craft your message to get their attention? What
‘media’ do you choose

4. Get to the top. Suss out the CEO and where s/he’s
coming from — if you don’t have a CEO that gets the importance of
identity and culture this will be a fool’s errand. And find that
personal avenue. They need to “find themselves in the story” or they
won’t care, so your pitch must be as personal as it is professional.
Yes, there must be a robust business case, advanced using the language
of the CFO. But unless you can connect the organizations core belief to
the CEO’s personal story, they’ll find it hard to walk the talk with you
in a way that is authentic

5. Work the Internal Influencer Model — just as in
the outside world, there is an Influencer Model at work internally. The
CEO’s opinions are always shaped by 2-3 trusted advisors. Know who they
are and what’s on their agenda. If you can get one of them to advocate
for you, do it and get out of their way. If you are one of the trusted
advisors leverage it hard. If you have done all the hard work to define a
meaningful, purpose-driven strategy to this point, what is more
important than this? Commit.

6. Use Fear & Greed — these are still the most
powerful drivers of behavior, especially at the top. What’s keeping them
up at night? Help them with that. How will this help them succeed? Your
identity must clearly connect to that.

7. Do NOT take their word for it. The only way to
know for sure that the CEO is really on board is to have the identity
drive substantial change to the product/service offering. If s/he is
still on board after you have changed that, then you know it’s for real.
So do that and do it quick. Until that’s done a change of heart could
pull the rug from under you. There are other short-term things that you
can do to move in the right direction — launch events, an internal
venture fund where you make your marketing dollars available for
people’s ideas on how to bring the purpose to life internally — but
there’s no more powerful signal than the “product”.

8. Change how and where people work — few things
work better than taking down walls, having people not sit in functional
silos. The identity needs to unite all your people and there are
physical, tangible ways to encourage that unity. Make them identify with
the organization, not their function.

9. Change who you hire — Marketing should run
recruitment, simple as that. Your ability to execute the strategy is all
about having people who come to you “pre-aligned”!

Posted by Ed Cotton

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