For the past two weeks, the Sochi Olympic Winter Games showcased the best athletes in the world competing to win Olympic gold and be recognized as the best in the world. So, what does it really take to be an Olympian? A commitment to understanding the competitive environment to find your edge along with a willingness to put in the hard work to continuously excel above the rest.
Four years between Olympic Games is a lifetime in competitive sports. Yet from time to time, we find success stories such as Apolo Ohno (2002, 2006, 2010), the US women’s hockey team (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), Dick Button (1948, 1952), and Bonnie Blair (four Olympic Games between 1984 and 1994) staying at the stop of their sport year and after year. How do these Olympians succeed when so many others have tried and failed? These unique stars understand that they must learn, grow, and evolve as the sport they play in changes. Beyond keeping up with the daily physical demands and competitive nature of the competition, they understand that staying at the top and winning requires them to be agile, evolve their skills, and always be looking just ahead of the curve.
Second only to March Madness (with the latest from Warren Buffet), this is my favorite time of year for sports — conference championship weekend and the run-up to the Super Bowl. While the Patriots fell short this past Sunday and Belichick is far from my favorite coach, I have to admit that his belief that the team must continuously understand the field they play in and adapt their game plan to win hit home for me as lessons that marketers can learn.
While X’s and O’s matter in the NFL game, as I discussed in my “How To Build A Strong B2B Brand“ report (subscription required), for business-to-business (B2B) marketers, maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is the key to meet empowered buyers’ changing needs head-on and win the battle of mindshare and wallet share. As a B2B marketer or sales enablement professional, it’s time to put your brand and go-to-market message front and center — and make sure that it accurately provides value to your customers across all of the stages of the buying journey.
As we end 2013 and look toward 2014, there is an old Japanese proverb that, in its simplicity, conveys some very profound truths. It goes something like this:
“If you sit on a rock for three years, it will get so warm that you will get used to it.”
What exactly does that mean? It means that accepting the status quo and staying within the familiar confines of 2013’s comfort zone can lead to complacency that CMOs cannot afford. The pace of change is accelerating all around you. Empowered business-to-business (B2B) customer behavior, the proliferation of engagement channels, and technology advancements all demand that B2B CMOs recognize, respond to, and exploit these changes — transforming them into opportunities for 2014 business growth.
Base 2014 strategies and plans on a strong data foundation.B2B CMOs must base product, messaging, and marketing execution decisions on data insights. Gut feelings, instinct, or “we’ve always done it this way” won’t cut it any longer.
Regardless of your politics, you had to be amazed at the depth and breadth of the discussion around the impact on the Republican brand during the recent government shutdown. At times, it seemed that the health, survival, and credibility of the Republican brand generated more press than potential resolutions to the crisis at hand. And with good reason. The strength of the party’s brand — and the messages it represents — will have a significant impact on its success going forward.
Maintaining a strong brand with a clear, compelling, and relevant message is a universal challenge, whether you’re marketing a Fortune 500 company or a political party. As a business-to-business (B2B) CMO, it’s time to put your brand front and center — and make sure that it accurately represents your company strategy, provides value to your customers, and delivers on its promises. Why now?
Strong brands deliver strong results. B2B companies with strong brands deliver 20% higher financial returns than those with weaker brands. Case in point, IBM, the world’s strongest B2B brand, has consistently grown its brand value since 2006. In a world where CMOs are held increasingly accountable for business growth, developing and strengthening your brand must be a key focus.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of moderating panel discussions on the importance of a strong working relationship between CMOs and CIOs at the Direct Marketing Association 2013 Strategic Summit and the Forbes CMO Summit. Both panels were composed of a mix of CMOs and CIOs from some of the best-known organizations including Google, IBM, Microsoft, Akamai, Motorola Solutions, Collective and more. All of the participants reinforced the critical need to find a way to work together more closely. But they describe it more as a marriage of necessity than a relationship they are excited about.
It’s clear these two C-execs haven’t reached power couple status quite yet. In fact, a recent Accenture report confirms that while on the surface, CMOs and CIOs seem to agree, only one in 10 marketing and IT executives in that study said collaboration is at the right level. Taken together with my panel participant’s comments, it’s clear that only some progress is being made to align. In my new report, The CMO And CIO Must Accelerate On Their Path To Better Collaboration (subscription required) for which we partnered with Forbes to do our own investigation into this couple’s dynamics, we find that more collaboration is still needed. In other words, the relationship between CMOs and CIOs is in need of serious couple’s therapy.
I was fortunate to participate in a recent Forbes CMO Network invitation only event designed to explore how technology is presenting new ways for CMOs to think about, plan, and execute their marketing strategies.
The event, “Funding the Next Wave of Digital Disruption: An Insider’s View of the New Companies & Technologies Transforming Marketing,” hosted at the offices of leading venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) provided a unique insider’s view of the newest cutting-edge companies and technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.
I left the event with an even stronger belief that marketing and technology are forever intertwined. And, as highlighted in my "The CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing" report (subscription required), it’s time to ramp up your technology IQ now or risk being left behind. Why now?
I was fortunate to take an extended vacation this summer to visit my daughter who is serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, with a stop in South Africa and Victoria Falls on the way. Although you see amazing animals while on safari, experience the incredible power of Victoria Falls, and find the undiscovered treasures of Madagascar, it was the beauty of the night that really struck me. Without city light pollution, you find yourself immersed in a night sky full of the most incredible stars. A clear view of a streaking Milky Way and a strong Southern Cross just takes your breath away. Night after night, the stars are there to light up the sky.
But being in the Southern hemisphere, the North Star that I am so used to seeing was nowhere to be found. That got me thinking about how comfortable we are in this half of the world with having the North Star to act as a beacon to guide navigation to true north.
When I first became a marketing executive responsible for leading a team, life was simple. All we needed to worry about was having a solid marketing strategy and then doing a good job of executing against it with engaging creative and the right offer. In those days, technology was someone else’s concern. The most we worried about was the condition of the direct marketing file or rented list and the percentage of responses we were able to get. Pretty easy, right?
Fast-forward to today and that simple life is a thing of the past. The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power, putting customers in charge. Marketers live in a brave new world where customer understanding and the ability to provide value to customers in their buying journey across the exploding number of engagement channels are now the name of the game. And now technology is everywhere touching all of these aspects of marketing and more.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been honored to speak at NYC Internet Week’s Cardinal Path and Google's Building a Data-Driven Culture opening panel and the Ad Age Marketing + Technology Summit; as well as at several Forrester client events in the US and Europe on the topic of marketing technology and the CMO role in the strategy development, vendor selection, and execution process. And one thing that I stressed across all of the discussions at these events is this — CMOs must accept that it’s no longer possible to run the business of marketing without technology. Technology is now necessary to help your marketing team handle the external fragmentation and internal data sources that drive decisions and results.
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I love to write about sports analogies to help marketers get a new perspective on the issues they deal with. But, although we’re in the midst of what most likely will be our world champion Miami Heat’s march to its second NBA championship in 2013, I’m going to turn left and mix things up a bit in this post.
I’ve been married to an architect for 25 years (as of this May 29th), so it probably won’t surprise you that I also often think of things in terms of designing and building. Considering what goes into creating a building, it provides a fitting analogy to think about how you should approach building your relationship with your chief information officer (CIO); similar to the way architects needs to work with their clients.
Of course, one can’t construct a solid and sustainable building alone or with just anyone. It requires the unique contribution of a diverse group of professionals with specific areas of expertise — the creative vision of the architect; the construction team’s ability to execute; and the specialized skills of concrete workers, carpenters, roofers, and plasterers. And let’s not forget the importance throughout the process of interior design experts as well as the technical insights from structural engineers to ensure that the building is and remains hurricane- and/or quake-resistant.
So how does constructing a strong, yet flexible, building apply to CMOs and the relationship you should have with your CIO?
I recently was invited to attend a meeting of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), a group of board-of-director members from the country’s most prestigious companies. The topic of the meeting was how to keep corporate boards relevant in the 21st century.
What promised to be a dry conversation about financials and governance turned out to be anything but that. The discussion that morning focused on the need to respond to and keep pace with the rapid change in customer behavior to stay competitive. It also addressed how current board members could keep up with the evolution of customer touchpoints to understand the new digitally-based strategies that are increasingly being shared with them.
What I found striking about the discussion after some reflection was that the realization of the critical importance of customer behavior on the future success of top companies has made it all the way to the boardroom. The age of the customer that Forrester first identified in 2011 has really arrived and goes well beyond marketing.
Why now? Corporate boards are starting to realize that to provide the strategic guidance and governance that their role requires, they need to better understand customers and how the relationship between them and the companies they direct are changing. And they need to understand it fast. The market is moving and changing too rapidly to be left behind.