Digital LeadersCMOs are desperate for leaders – Here’s how to be one

CMOs are desperate for leaders - Here's how to be one

Liveclicker's Kenna Hilburn addresses the perceived lack of leadership amongst CMOs, and challenges marketers to get out of their comfort zone in order to lead change.

30-second summary:

  • A recent report from Korn/Ferry shows that 84% of CMOs are concerned that they have no obvious successor in their organization.
  • Marketers always have an opportunity to be courageous in the short term, even in little ways. An easy first start to ask partners, agencies and vendors what tricks they have up their sleeves that don’t require a lot of development.
  • The big wins always come from longer bets. Marketers should always be on the lookout for growth opportunities that can start to create incremental value later with low investment now.
  • Today, some long-term bets that marketers should be thinking about are mobile commerce, cross-channel personalization, AI-driven analysis, smart TVs, and experiential marketing.

Brenee Brown’s book Dare to Lead says, “Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage.”

In our day-to-day work lives, we can often lose sight of the courage that’s needed not just to hit our goals, but to grow past them. I don’t mean like that cheesy poster of an eagle flying over a mountain. CMOs need team members to drive change and improvement every day.  If they don’t have it, their brand is going to be left behind.

CMOs are in need of more leaders. A recent report from Korn/Ferry shows that 84% of CMOs are concerned that they have no obvious successor in their organization. They are most in need of talent to drive digital transformation and performance marketing.

This need shows itself every day. CMOs can’t just have a sales goal for Cyber Monday, they also need to have a plan in place for how to upsell BOPIS shoppers. They can’t just have a target for email ROI, they also need to work on a model that includes mobile to make sure they’re getting value across channels.

It takes courage for marketers to move across the little barriers that exist in every organization, but often, there is a lot to be rewarded for those who do it.

Getting a new perspective of risk

You’ve got a big campaign to put together, and sales are a little sluggish, so your boss is freaking out about the results. Your IT department is totally backed up and can’t make time for hot fixes or new projects. Seems like courage is beside the point. Time to just execute. Right?

No way!  Marketers always have an opportunity to be courageous in the short term, even in little ways. An easy first start to ask partners, agencies and vendors what tricks they have up their sleeves that don’t require a lot of development.

For example, some personalization companies offer out-of-the box segmentation that doesn’t require any backend work or new data. Some creative agencies have fancy dynamic templates they developed for one brand that they’d be happy to share with other brands.

A mobile partner might have the ability to add a widget to a client’s home page without needing access to the CMS. Same with internal resources. I’ve seen scrappy loyalty marketers create sophisticated targeting campaigns that the acquisition team was then able to scale across their own efforts. Marketers won’t know until they ask around.

Here’s another typical situation: Your team has a good rhythm going and you have a marketing plan that supports sales goals without costing too much money. Everyone is OK with the status quo. Again, courage doesn’t seem to have a place here. Right?

Wrong again! The big wins always come from longer bets. An article from Harvard Business Review uses Corning Glass as a case study. The company invented an amazing new product, but other teams, such as marketing and distribution, stuck to the status quo, and they had trouble scaling.

Marketers should always be on the lookout for growth opportunities that can start to create incremental value later with low investment now.

Experience in Beta

Today, some long-term bets that marketers should be thinking about are mobile commerce, cross-channel personalization, AI-driven analysis, smart TVs, and experiential marketing. Not every innovation makes sense for every brand. Individual marketers can help companies make low risk bets with small tests, lots of research, and a willingness to share results.

The agency SetCreative recommends a process called Experience in Beta for brands that want to learn more about experiential marketing ideas without taking too much risk. They recommend small pop-ups, for example, to test retail ideas without investing in lengthy leases or full time staff.

This same concept can be repurposed online as well. For example, brands can test the value of location-based targeting in a single email campaign before adding the capability to their app or website.

A courageous marketer isn’t afraid to share what they learned. Pop-up didn’t drive much traffic? There might be a good reason that will go towards a better test next time. Location data a flop? Maybe the segments were too broad to make a difference. Time to go for more localized targeting.

These small steps forward can go a long way to driving transformation for the whole department. Even if the team culture is to follow the status quo, CMOs need courageous leaders. Make it your New Year’s resolution to be one of them.

Kenna Hilburn is the Chief Operating Officer at Liveclicker, where she is responsible for the growth and success of an international client base. Kenna has been with Liveclicker for eight years, leading account teams and managing client and partner success. Before Liviclicker, Kenna worked at major retail and consumer brands including Petco. 

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