The Gist

  • CMO value. A CMO brings unique value to a company that goes beyond the role of a head of marketing or VP of marketing.
  • People power. CMOs are leaders of people and must be role models for hiring, managing, and decision-making.
  • Dig deeper beyond marketing. CMOs drive business strategy, encourage broad thinking and improvement within the organization, and have a deep understanding of business levers beyond marketing. 

I had a great conversation last month with an adviser about the value proposition of our product. We sell a marketing technology product and in general, our buyer is someone from the marketing operations team of a large enterprise organization.

Our adviser, Ian, challenged me to elevate our value messaging by considering other stakeholders and in particular the chief marketing officer (CMO). Ian suggested that we start by envisioning the CMO presenting to their board of directors and thinking about what they would be presenting, the questions they would be asked, and how we could articulate our value in a way that could contribute to, and support a meaningful exchange between the board and CMO.

Elevating Value Proposition: Understanding the CMO's Perspective

After some semi-heated back and forth with me arguing that we don’t sell to the CMO, I capitulated and agreed to give it a try. Not only was it an excellent exercise but from now on I’m going to make it a standard part of my marketing methodology. If you believe, as I do, that marketing is fundamentally critical to achieving a company’s business objectives, it’s important to understand and articulate how and where you fit into that picture and how you contribute to marketing’s success.

Over my career I’ve been a CMO presenting to a board, a CEO who has brought in a CMO to present to a board and a board member questioning a CMO. Typically, a CMO will address marketing’s performance by presenting on the following topics:

  1. Marketing and brand strategy and how it aligns with the company’s business goals.
  2. Market trends that will impact strategy.
  3. Major campaign plans and campaign results.
  4. Customer satisfaction.
  5. Key KPIs that indicate marketing success or failure.
  6. Budget vs. actual spending.
  7. The marketing technology plan.

Related Article: Uncharted Waters of 2023: Top CMO Challenges and Opportunities

The Strategic Role of Marketing Technology in CMO Presentations

As an aside, based on recent conversations, I’m not sure how many CMOs are actually presenting on the marketing technology plan, but if they aren’t they should be. Everything that marketing does is now enabled by technology.

If the technology stack is not performing, it will negatively impact marketing’s performance. Technology should be viewed as a strategic asset that serves as the foundation/infrastructure for marketing’s success.

Related Article: Why CMOs Need a Strategic Growth Blueprint

Learning Opportunities

Helping the CMO Defend Marketing

Another thing to consider is how you might be able to add value in assisting the CMO in defending marketing. If a business is not doing as expected, there will be discussion in the board meeting about cost cutting and justification for expenses and initiatives. Unfortunately, marketing is frequently targeted first in these situations.

There are two ways to think about adding value in this scenario:

  1. Can you clearly present a case for justifying the expense of your product if questioned?
  2. Is there additional data that you can provide that will help the CMO communicate the value of what marketing is doing?

I found working through this exercise to be a useful way to provide our actual buyers (marketing operations personnel) with a construct for communicating the value of our product in a way that is meaningful to the CMO. Secondly, I found it extremely useful in articulating the upstream impact that our product has in supporting marketing and business objectives.

Overall, it helped me expand my thinking with regard to our value proposition. This may not be valuable in every use case but stepping back every now and then and considering tangential stakeholders and how you create value for them is a good way to create and refine your value proposition.

Now on to repeating this exercise with the CFO as the target!

An additional note: Shortly after submitting this article I received an email notification about the latest episode of Erica Seidel’s THE GET podcast, “The Savvy CMO’s Guide to Upgrading the Dialogue with the Board.” In this episode, Erica’s guest, Kelly Ford Buckley, from Edison Partners, offers actionable advice for upgrading the CMO board dynamic. It’s definitely worth a listen!

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