I’m a marketer and I’ve been one for years, regardless of what my title was or where I worked. In my career I learned one inalienable truth; that if you want to be a successful marketer, you need to learn how to sell.
Most people don’t have “sales” in their title, but selling is at the heart of what we do. If you’re not good at selling then you can never be good at marketing. Marketing is all about the development of the message, but selling is the art of delivering that message. Selling is about reading the room, understanding the reactions and responding with the right slant to generate “epiphanies” in the eyes of your audience. They need to “get it” and see the value, and most importantly they need to see the value to them, and that only comes from customizing the message to meet their needs. The best marketers are the ones who go out into the field and experience the customers. They join the sales team on sales calls. They actually get involved in the back and forth that can only arise in a customer setting.
The worst marketers are the ones who sit on high from their ivory throne rooms and dictate messaging without ever joining the “feet on the street”. I’ve heard of CMO’s at Ad Tech companies who deliver positioning and sales materials that the sales teams despise. I’ve heard of taglines being delivered that literally make account executives cringe knowing they’re expected to be the ones to deliver these corny one liners while being taken seriously by their customers and prospects. Marketing is hard enough. It doesn’t need to be unnecessarily complicated by the development of messaging without practical knowledge from the field.
Marketing is indeed an art form and like any art, it takes practice. You have to hone your craft and you have to re-evaluate the way you approach things. I like to develop a hypothesis, review the landscape of the competition, engage with customers to test out your hypothesis and use the feedback to further refine the strategy until I get something I think will work. Once I have an idea that I think will work, I move to execute against that strategy with an open mind towards continued evaluation and refinement of the strategy. The more you engage with your audience, the more opportunity you have to integrate their feedback and once you feel you’ve gotten things to the perfect place and its working smoothly – that’s the best time to start over anew.
People think I’m crazy based on that last statement. I believe in disruption. I believe in the “hangin’ curveball”, so to speak (and to quote Bull Durham). I like to throw the curveball to switch things up a bit because as soon as you rest on your laurels is when the market will pass you by. It doesn’t mean you have throw out what’s been working. It means you need to be willing to throw it out if a better hypothesis comes along and can be proven through testing in the field. According to a recent article I read, the average tenure of a CMO has increased from 23 months to around 43 months and I think its because more CMO’s agree with me. The short term CMO’s are the ones who think they’ve got it all figured out whereas the long term CMO’s are more like me – they’re always on the lookout for something new.
Which brings me back to the original statement – the best way to judge whether your strategy is working is to go out and sell it to your audience and your CMO should be doing that as well. Take them through the thinking and listen attentively to their feedback. The old saying goes “the customer is always right” for a reason - they’re the ones with the money. If they don’t buy your story, then they certainly won’t buy your products or services. And if your CMO isn’t willing to go out and sell those ideas, then its very possible they don’t believe in the story either.
Heard any good horror stories about Ad Tech CMO’s? Post them on the Spin Board but please leave off the names to protect the innocent. Remember – nothing is anonymous when you write it on the web.