5 Wake-Up Calls for the Chief Marketing OfficerBy Jeannie Walters

I feel badly for executives right now, particularly the chief marketing officer.

Many did everything they were supposed to do to rise up the ranks. They learned the business, delivered results, and led teams effectively.

And then the world changed.

It wasn’t that long ago when marketing as a discipline was very different. It was more linear, more defined, and more accepted.

Now, it’s a mess.

Instead of worrying about a well-defined campaign, the chief marketing officer must look at the globalization of small things, and the trend of how small affects big. The savvy executives saw this coming, invested in the future, and learned by doing. But there are still a lot out there who haven’t quite caught up.

Marketing, in its blurry new definition, is a huge part of the customer experience, which is part of marketing. (Anyone who knows me knows I can’t go more than 12 minutes without mentioning the overall customer experience.)

It’s time for the chief marketing officer to wake up to how their role is becoming less about building awareness, and more about building promises.

1. Dear Chief Marketing Officer: Get Creative!

Chances are, we’ve seen it before. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of what worked for others, unless you can do it in a different and innovative way.

How many marketers had “real time” strategies for this year’s Superbowl based on the brilliant success of Oreo with the blackout in 2013?

How many worked?

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s still just copying.

2. You are Actually in Charge of that, Too.

Organizations are really struggling right now with where to draw the line between one person’s responsibility and the next.

I’ve seen CMOs say things such as “we’re not responsible for the web” with a straight face.

The best chief marketing officer really understands the customer’s journey.

They don’t see marketing as a hand-off to sales.

They see it as a way to get to know their customers. Responding to what they learn about what customers are seeking is where they can really add value.

 3. The Big Agency You Hired isn’t Always Right.

The chief marketing officer used to be able to get drinks with the agency guys and let them worry about the “creative.”

Many agencies are really great at what they do and provide a lot of value, but they sometimes offer solutions before identifying the real problem.

It’s up to the executive to say no, that won’t work for our community, and present the evidence to support the decision.

4. Change for Change’s Sake is Silly.

Consider every one of your prospects and customers as an avid watcher of Mad Men. They see how this works. They know those “small changes” are million dollar investments. And they also know that while you were busy working on the new logo, they were suffering through an experience needing serious improvements.

My favorite example of this was when American Airlines changed their logo and called it an improvement to the customer experience. Their actual customers called foul on social media in astonishing numbers.

 5. Always Make Promises You Can Keep.

A brand promise should mean something. If you promise one thing in your marketing and deliver another in the actual experience, your customers will see it as a mission to warn others.

What are you really promising in your communications?

What is actually happening?

The chief marketing officer has to know where the gaps are, and what’s being done to close them.

Your customers already know the answers, so you had better catch up!

Today’s business environment is changing at a pace some say only happened during the industrial revolution. That’s pretty intense. The good news is we have more access to one another than ever before. Locking the executives in the tower doesn’t stop customers from shouting at them on social media. But the best part is how the leaders can now learn and respond.

Will your chief marketing officer keep up?

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

View all posts by Jeannie Walters