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Great Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) exceed expectations across all marketing and business disciplines often.  They understand the delicate balance between qualitative and quantitative results delivered with relentless attention to team dynamics and political finesse.  They truly believe that the smarter and harder they work, the luckier they get, because yes, luck does play a part in success.

Sounds easy, right? Trying delivering on that daily across geographic, cultural, vertical market and product boundaries.

Unfortunately because as consumers we are bombarded with “marketing” seemingly from every angle and at all times, everyone thinks they understand the nuances of marketing.  So I’m usually pleasantly surprised and a bit pleased when asked to describe what it takes to be a successful, world-class CMO. The requester is usually baffled by what it truly takes to gain the breadth and depth of experience necessary to consistently deliver measureable, quality results within specific timeframes under allotted budget constraints across global, cultural and economic boundaries.  In short, a world-class CMO needs to be expert in the following disciplines:

  • Branding: More than just developing a tagline and a compelling visual, world-class CMOs can dive into the depths of messaging, image look and feel, target personas, market segmentation and positioning as well as how to police brand style guide usage within the organization and across partner and customer boundaries.
  • Product: Yes, great CMOs do understand their products innately. They have the ability to hold deep technical conversations with engineering geeks then humanize that same discussion to the average senior executive.  They have lived the challenges of specifying, project managing delivery through engineering and launching numerous product cycles, including end-of-life at some point.
  • Influencer: Gladwell was very correct in Tipping Point when he pointed out that the best way to gain visibility was through key influencers or “tipping points” who can leverage their reach on your behalf. World-class CMOs cultivate these networks and utilize specific resources to maximize (unaided) recognition, recognized thought leadership and global reach.
  • Partners: Many organization separate Business Development and Channel functions but world-class CMOs own these and leverage them for higher value “ecosystem” positions as well as extra budget (Market Development Funds), resource (joint campaigns), and reach (their prospect/customer lists).
  • Demand gen programs: The heart and soul of why marketing ultimately exists is to start the selling process by generating leads. The great debate is what constitutes a lead, how is it determined to be qualified and what quantity is required to drive specific product, vertical, geographic impact?  Ultimately, knowing what tactic will drive what level of predictable result for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action in coordinated (and measurable) campaigns will separate the “marketing gods” from the “marketing pretenders”.
  • Measurements and dashboards: If you are not keeping score how do you know if you are winning or losing? Yes, marketing requires objective measurements to gauge success beyond the “visibility” and “feel good” aspects of doing stuff.  Surprisingly, this is the one area where most every CMO I’ve chatted with tend to miss by a country mile.  Measurements should be a real-time dashboard not a static report pulled together at random times by some marketing minion.

The acid test of success is when your CMO can actually run through all 6 of these disciplines for every strategy, campaign, and business initiative through to completion then use the measurements to make adjustments and run through them again with even greater results.