#CMO2020 — Client Relations: How to Win, Keep and Enjoy the Relationship

Insights from Karen Hayward, CMO of Chief Outsiders, on how to create and sustain a positive CMO/Agency relationship.

At the start of this year, Eastwick began its educational program “CMO2020” with the goal of understanding the mind of modern CMOs. As we continue to build our skills and collective knowledge as an integrated communications firm, we want to educate ourselves as an agency on the motivations and concerns of a technology company’s CMO and how they deal with their own shifting priorities.

Karen Hayward came to our office this week to speak to us about her experience working with different agencies and how a communications firm can best support a CMO, including how to win, keep, and enjoy the relationship. Karen has experience running both sales and marketing organizations, but now focuses on marketing. After spending 20 years at Xerox, and a mix of other leadership positions, she is now the founder and CMO of Chief Outsiders, a company for start-ups needing part-time, or interim CMOs.

Below are CMO insights from Karen to help create and sustain a positive CMO/Agency relationship.

What are some of most difficult parts about a CMO’s job?

The board and executive leadership expect us to always do more — they don’t understand what we do, and even less what PR does. To add to that, the “time to result” is compressing, increasing the speed needed to yield results. The larger the organization, the more time you have; but in startup mode, it is an extremely fast cadence.

How do you win over a business?

Getting a client and keeping a client require very different skill sets. When you sell a service, the only thing you are really selling is trust, especially for a communications agency. The more you move on the spectrum from product to service, the more it is about selling trust. You need to spend a lot more time on the problem than selling you as a brand.

Contrary to what people say, customers do not buy just because of pain. Customers will buy with you when you are a priority, the pain/problem drops you to the ‘used car salesman” status. Show them you are the expert in their industry, and the high-value of your relationship.

What is the best way to measure your achievements for the CMO?

Make sure you establish a baseline that aligns with your CMO’s goals and constantly sync your achievements directly to those goals. If they are using old or outdated measurements such as impressions, get them in front of another CMO to help coach. If they haven’t listened to you, they are not going to, and you need a third party to convince them.

How do you as the agency keep the CMO happy?

Make the relationship enjoyable and fun for the CMO. As their public relations team, you are probably the highlight of the day if you do it right and are positive. The CMO has an incredibly hard job, and it is partially your job to make this easier and lighter. Be interested in their projects versus just interesting. Your ability to drive a deeper relationship is essential. Be memorable, authentic, and engaging.

Also, understand their background and skillset, as everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Where do they want to be more informed? Invite them to events they are interested in learning more about. If they have expressed interest in learning more about social, and you find an inexpensive lunch about Twitter strategies, invite them! Don’t just invite them to lunch, or they will feel like you are pitching them.

How do you keep and nurture the relationship?

Help them stop, breathe, and celebrate their accomplishments. Be their cheer squad. Remember that the board breathing down his/her neck and it is a very stressful job. When they believe that they are more worried about keeping the board happy than you are, that is when there is conflict.

As the CMO, I expect you to know my business as much as I know my business, which can be harder for mid-market agencies. But the more you can come across as a market expert and provide perspective, the more trust you build. Create a “think tank” or brainstorm when you are unsure on your grasp of subject, and do this early.

What are the critical questions to ask the CMO/CEO?

Make sure you ask the CMO and CEO how they will measure your success as an agency. Ask the right questions up front, like “how do you see us delivering the biggest value to you? Why?” Also point at their fears in a casual way with a question like “what worries you the most about working with us?” If there seems to be some misalignment ask, “How could I be more useful to you?”

Finally, always remember to ask for referrals. People will not know you are looking for more business unless you ask.

Recommended Reading?

Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty” by Patrick Lencioni. The book gives you great structure to thinking like a consultant.

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Stay tuned for more CMO insights from our ongoing #CMO2020 program. Read more about the program and our integrated rebrand here.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram as well!

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