New CMO? Seminal Advice for Marketing Leaders

I know you know this, but I’m going to say it any way — As CMOs we don’t have long. CMO tenure is 44 months. My spider senses say it is less in Silicon Valley / The Tech World.

We come into companies with much enthusiasm and tons of CEO and board support. Within 2 years or so, our IQs drop to our shoe sizes and they are starting to think about firing us. So we have to work fast! ;-)

In the 1st 90 days set up 3 teams to tackle two tactical areas and one strategic.

In the 1st 90 days tactically, find three things that increase revenue. Could be:

  • growth hacking
  • lead generation
  • website performance
  • social marketing
  • killer demo/new presentation for the salesforce
  • product bundle/pricing change
  • sales channel programs/incentives
  • sales training, etc

In most companies there is low hanging fruit that will make a noticeable improvement in revenue quickly. CEOs, CFOs and CROs want results now. Give it to them. Don’t be confused, revenue is the CMO’s job — even if you have a VP of Sales/CRO/CSO.

Driving revenue is the CMO’s job.

In the 1st 90 days tactically, find three things that decrease cost. Could be:

  • trade show budget (events are often the biggest expense)
  • ad budget
  • head count
  • PR
  • travel, etc

The CEOs and CFO love costs reductions and improving productivity. Just like on the revenue side, in most companies there is low hanging fruit that will make a noticeable improvement in cost. Cut some costs. Make it happen. Cost reduction is our job.

In the 1st 90 days strategically partner with the CEO & exec team to design a category design strategy by addressing:

  • how we are taking control of the agenda in our category
  • how we want the category to think about problems and solutions
  • how to frame and evangelize the problem powerful
  • create a provocative point of view that sets a new agenda and grab the attention of the space
  • de-position all of our competition as the “from” and us as the “to”
  • mobilize the whole company to become the category king & win

Legendary CMOs are category designers. They don’t just do marketing within markets — they create the markets.

Who would you rather be, Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer?

(one guy designed categories, the other guy competed in existing markets).

Legends do not position their brand against existing companies in existing categories with a “we are better than them” strategy. They design new categories with their rules, so they can win with a “we are different from them” strategy.

For the love of God, Please don’t fall into the re-branding trap.

Many CMOs think branding fixes everything. NO. Categories make brands, not the other way around.

Google is a great brand because it is the category king of a great category — “search”. But in the category of “social network” its brand Google Plus is a dog, because Facebook is the brand people care about — because Facebook is the category king.

Categories make brands. And CMOs that embed a legendary branding strategy into their category design are the ones doing legendary work. CMOs doing branding, inside a category designed by someone else are lighting money on fire.

The Large Pile of Money CMOs Light on Fire When They Do Branding Without Category Design.

Winning CMOs today market the category, by framing a problem, not just marketing a solution.

Once the public understands the problem, people latch onto the most popular solution. We know, based on research, that the company that best frames a problem is the company that often comes to own the category — think:

  • Google
  • Salesforce
  • 5 Hour Energy
  • SnapChat

Category designer CMOs educate the world to look at problems and solutions differently (Netflix Vs. Blockbuster). They cause markets to move. They change the way customers think. They tilt the agenda to their advantage.

Make sure to work with CEO & exec team to make the category strategy a company initiative, not just a marketing. Make the CEO the leader of the category strategy, inside and outside of the company.

Give your CEO ALL THE CREDIT. Get used to saying stuff like, “she’s the genius, I just work here.” You want to mobilize the whole place to become the market leader.

Winning is about, “prosecuting the magic triangle”. Category kings get product, company and category right.

Savvy CMOs understand that if you’re playing for revenue in a category you did not design, by definition you’re playing someone else’s game.

If your company builds truly innovative products, those products deserve to be placed into innovative categories. New categories that capture the imagination and attention of a large market, while at the same time de-positioning everything that came before as history.

Good luck in your 1st 90 days &

Be legendary,

Christopher