Chief Market Officers: Own Your Role And Win, as seen on Forbes

July 14, 2020 Latane Conant

Woman-in-the-mirror moments are uncomfortable. I had a big one when, after an eye-opening retreat with women chief marketing officers (CMOs), I dug into how I spent my time as 6sense’s CMO. I analyzed a manic year of activity — blogs, press releases, events and speaking engagements. 

I poured my soul into it, but was I really leading as I should’ve? Did I own the market and the role, or was I wasting hours on low-impact activities?  

So, I became a chief market officer. It was a change in both title and behavior, in how to act and lead companies. I had to make this shift, and I believe the CMO profession should make it, too.

I’m still responsible for marketing — becoming a chief market officer doesn’t mean shirking my team and functional responsibilities. But I shifted my focus and mindset. CMOs often let day-to-day operations cloud more impactful responsibilities. 

In the 2020 “The State of B2B Women CMOs” report, Christine Heckart, a CMO turned CEO, noted CMOs are the only executive defined by activity, not expertise. The ‘ing’ at the end of the title automatically signals tactical things. Instead, we must embrace our role as an executive and represent our teams and the market. “To put the ‘market’ back in marketing,” as she says.

Four Focus Areas For Chief Market Officers

The title change and executive empowerment are just the first steps. If we’re representing the voice of the market, we must own that voice and bring all we’ve got. Based on my industry experiences and conversations with brilliant chief market officers, here are four areas I’m focusing on:

1. Strategy

A great place to start is the strategic plan. It’s the living plan of how the company will succeed and what it’ll take to get there.

I’ve seen CMOs develop high-level plans with objectives and key results (OKRs) galore over a three-year span — tough given most CMOs will be gone before the end of their third year.

Consider a shorter timeline for establishing company priorities. Ask yourself questions like:

• What are we going to do in a year? In a quarter?

• How do those priorities transfer inter-departmentally?

• How do we inspire teams?

• How will we measure success?

• How do we improve our business daily?

“Vision and values, methods, obstacles, measures” (V2MOM) is my go-to strategic planning method, as it answers these questions and more. But it’s most important to nail down and tackle your priorities.

2. Customer Insights

You’ve got your strategic plan; now it’s time to deepen your company’s understanding of the market. To do that, become an expert in customer insights. 

It’s difficult to completely understand the customer journey and critical insights when more than 70% of the buying process happens anonymously. And surveys, interviews and journey mapping only get you so far.  

Technology is your friend here. Use advanced solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to analyze historical patterns and gain real-time customer insights about your ideal customer profile (ICP), how they’re changing and what that means for your company. Tech also helps you specify which ICP accounts are in-market, what content they consume, critical keywords and their buying team’s makeup. This input focuses your go-to-market engine and strategy, and it provides a living, breathing persona map to tailor your messaging and experience.

3. Category Design

This is probably the biggest undertaking CMOs have, as it requires lots of communication and unification across the organization. Without designing our category and providing structure, alignment, repetition and great assets, we instead create a vacuum filled with random stuff. To build structure, I’ve found success by establishing these key elements:

• Brand: Understand, document and share what you stand for. Your brand provides consistency even when the product category and point of view change. From your look and feel to how you write and what you invest in, your brand guides your company’s every move.

• Category Point Of View: This covers all your product can and will be, including partnerships. It’s the end state of what the market needs. Think of it as designing a house with an unfinished basement: You may not have your dream house today, but you want plans that show what it will be and let you easily build it. 

• “Marketecture”: The slide stacks and graphics telling the world about your amazing product. It’s not a feature list but rather the critical capabilities needed to get to your promised land. Ideally, new products and enhancements will build upon an established marketecture. 

4. Culture 

CMOs are born and bred for company culture. They rally people around common goals and serve as cheerleaders for the brand, category and company.

It makes sense: In the age of the customer, it’s all about how we empower and engage customers. CMOs are already passionate about customer experience, so they should be equally excited about equipping employees to engage customers through amazing experiences. I call this process of customer and employee empowerment the “virtuous cycle.” 

Culture is the secret sauce to fulfilling the virtuous cycle and creating your movement, and CMOs can foster it.

• Communicate with your executive team and rally around one purpose. Ensure everyone gets V2MOM and their role to complete it.

• Get sales teams excited about their jobs. Publicly recognize business development representatives who accomplish incredible things.

• Be transparent with open doors and accountability. Use communication tech like Slack to publicly express your objectives, achievements and lessons from mistakes.

• Live your values and expect others to do the same.

I believe showing up in these four areas will help you shift from chief marketing officer to chief market officer. Own your role and empower your company and its people to succeed.

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