Inside the C-Suite: Advice for the new CMO

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The CEO has laid out the short-term expectations. You’re pumped and ready to hit the ground running but do you know who you’re running with? No one can do the job alone and as the new CMO, you need to get to know your team and how to use them for maximum impact.

To do this, consider a pair of audits: one of your team and talent, the other of your partner agency. 

The Talent Audit of the Marketing Team

The better part of business success comes from effective team management and the winning deployment of available resources. So it is with marketing, with an interesting twist. Marketing is and always has been one-part practical—especially true in the age of digital disruption and business at web speed—and one-part creative. Each member of your team will naturally lean toward one or the other. Take advantage of these tendencies to bootstrap the team into position for the delivery of short-term results.

Start with an informal talent audit to determine where each member of your team sits on the marketing activity spectrum with practical and tactical at one end and creative and strategic at the other. You can do this through discussion and simple questions.

A favorite is to ask the team member to describe the project or campaign they are most proud of. The strategic and creative folks will use words like “ideas” and “concepts”. The practical and tactical people will talk about being on-time and on-budget.

This simple audit will enable you to re-align your talent to ensure your more practical people—the “doers”—are focused on executing immediate needs like active and pending campaigns. You will want your more creative and strategically inclined talent focused on concepts, designs, and plans for the long term, such as grand initiatives and go-to-market strategies. The unique few that show both practical and creative capabilities you will want to consider for program and project management roles.

The Resources Audit of The Partner Agencies

Every organization is different. Some maintain a self-sufficient internal marketing capability, although this is increasingly rare. More often, B2B companies outsource some or all of their marketing requirements. As a new CMO, you are duty-bound to evaluate your partner agencies.

A new CMO who is taking a look at their partner agencies should ask two questions: Can you work with the changes? And How?

As a new CMO, you can expect the answer to the first question to be yes (unless the changes mean a fundamental change in the nature of the partnership). It’s the answer to the second question that puts that yes to the test. You should be looking for something of a demonstration of how the agency will support any changes in marketing direction and priorities.

To elicit that demonstration, make the Resources Audit an official event with the mandatory participation of the agency team that works on your account. It won’t be enough to meet only with senior agency managers and account managers. While those individuals are vital to the success of the partnership, their focus is likely to be on business development and new project opportunities.

Instead, you’ll want to get a clear sense of the agency’s commitment and capabilities in face-to-face discussions with the people who are directly involved in your business—the people tasked with knowing the creative and marketing challenges inside and out: the account strategists, the creative and art directors, and the lead writer.

One tried-and-true approach to flushing out the facts is to ask agency people about the project most recently completed for your company. Ask what they see as that project’s most effective features and where they see room for improvement.

You’ll also want to know about the tasking process, briefs, and work descriptions. Did the process lead to a project delivered on time and on budget? If not, you’ll want to know how the agency thinks it can be improved to eliminate inefficiency and wasted effort.

And finally, you should be asking for the agency’s thoughts on your brand story and the way that the story is being delivered to the marketplace. A good agency will give you an honest assessment from their unique “outsider” perspective.

A good agency will give you an honest assessment from their unique “outsider” perspective.  -Photo via Flickr user Ricardo
A good agency will give you an honest assessment from their unique “outsider” perspective.
-Photo via Flickr user Ricardo

The Planning Workshop

The most efficient way to accomplish the Resources Audit is with a Planning Workshop. Put the agency’s account team and your marketing team into the same room for one day with a simple two-part agenda.

  • The Level-Setting Session: Have the members of your team make brief presentations that speak to what they know about your markets, your customers, and your prospective customers. What is driving revenue and what is preventing sales and where can marketing attention make a difference? Most important, you want to be sure that your team has a common view of the overall marketing goals and their individual objectives are properly aligned with those goals.
  • The Way-Ahead Session: Invite the agency team to propose marketing communications strategies, lead generation programs, and candidate messaging platforms, and to brainstorm on specific campaigns. Watching the agency team in action, thinking under pressure, will give you a good sense of the depth of expertise they bring to the table. And tempting as it will be, you shouldn’t be the one to lead your workshop. The opening and wrap-up spots on the agenda will be enough to reinforce your leadership role. You’ll actually get more from listening, observing, and participating—you’ll get the three things you need to be able to respond to your CEO’s near-term expectations:
  1. Understanding of your internal resources and how to deploy them
  2. Understanding of your agency’s capabilities and how to leverage them
  3. Understanding of where both are coming from

As the new CMO, your job will be to build on this foundation: make a plan to exceed expectations and hit the ground running.

Lead photo via businessproductivity.com

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Rob Hyams

Rob Hyams

Rob Hyams is president of Ottawa-based B2B creative agency McMillan. He holds a B.Comm in marketing and has 20 years experience in brand- and go-to-market strategy development for global B2B enterprises, including Commvault, LexisNexis, Unify, and HUB International.
Rob Hyams

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