standing on the edge

CMO Advice: You Have to Take Calculated Risks

3 minute read
Kent Huffman avatar

Disruption and innovation go hand in hand with a CMO’s ability to help his organization build close relationships with its customers.

It’s about transformation, reinvention and leadership. But this can be painful. In many cases, it means moving away from the very things that made the company successful.

Being willing to take calculated risks is key.

Looking for Opportunities

My Chief Outsiders colleague Beth Somplatsky-Martori found herself in that very scenario. But she led her company to a huge success because she was willing to take just such a risk.

As a fractional CMO, Somplatsky-Martori specializes in packaged, durable and electronic consumer and industrial goods. Her experience includes leadership roles at Philips Lighting, Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath and Overhead Door Corp.

It was at Overhead Door that Beth helped bring smart technology to an unlikely place: the garage.

“People don’t realize the garage door is the second-most-used home appliance after the refrigerator,” Beth said.

“In 2008, the garage door was still operating on 1980’s technology: Your remote communicated in one direction with the opener, telling it to open and close. What we did was allow it to communicate back to a wall console, and then to any connected device.”

That innovation was a huge convenience for consumers, who now could turn on lights from the car or check from their phone if they put the door down.

The console could be connected to a video camera. The technology also recorded the number of times the door went up and down, creating opportunities for service alerts and replacements of the powerful garage door springs.

Then came the ability to partner with security companies, that now could be connected to this popular option for unauthorized entry.

Learning Opportunities

Seems like a no-brainer now, right? But as Somplatsky-Martori noted, “When you start making investments in technology and taking the company in a new direction, there are a lot of things to think about beyond just marketing, product development and sales.”

Selling the Concept

One of the first hurdles is convincing the C-suite to make the investment in the capabilities that would be needed across the organization.

“We spent an awful lot of time making the business case and identifying the risks. We did a lot of work on contingencies and risk planning. We even asked what would happen if we didn't do this, all the way down from the product, the company, the competitors, and even what would happen with our customers,” she said.

Somplatsky-Martori, who shares my focus on customer experience, cited a prediction from Gartner that more than half of product and service R&D investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.

“I think that's especially important for marketing, because we're talking about two of the four Ps: price and product. Now we're talking about customer experience. To get to the customer experience, it's going to take technology,” she continued.

“In many cases, that’s a big disruption, not just for the CMO, but for the whole company. It means that the marketing leader needs to step up and not just lead marketing, but lead the business strategy.”

And as we know, sometimes leaders have to take risks. It’s part of what makes them leaders.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a five-part series. Read the first two posts here and be sure to check back for the full series.

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About the author

Kent Huffman

Kent Huffman is the CEO & Fractional CMO for DigiMark Partners and East Texas Marketing, LLC. Huffman is a results-oriented B2B and B2C marketing executive, brand builder, growth driver, customer experience advocate, change agent, and published book author.