B2B insights

From CMO to CEO: The Journey and the Destination – Synopsis of a Strategy & Leadership (VIP) Interview (Part II)

Propolis’ Sue Mizera summarises her Ignite London session on the differences between CMOs and CEOs and how you can take the next big leap. Part II.

Check out part I here.

3. A harsh question perhaps, but is there a chief failing, or blind spot, of the CMO?

Didier was very forthcoming on this issue. We all have our confirmation biases, he said, we are human. We talk too much, we are marketing folks after all, and this comes with being “chief entertainers”. And we’ve become so good at telling stories and believing our own narratives that they can start to define us. This can be derailing, at the very least. We can come to see ourselves as more important, more central, than we really are. What’s really important, however, is how we are perceived: How do our Management Team colleagues perceive us? What is their view of us? This is what matters, not our own view.

The solution? This is where we need to go back to the concept of personal brand – Brand Manager, manage thyself! Think of your colleagues as your target audiences, tailor your brand messages to them; speak their language, not only yours. Move them up and down your value chain. Be sensitive to their differences and particularities, as you would your commercial target audiences. Think of dealing with them, and communicating with them, with careful articulations and nuances. Even think of “riding shot-gun with them:” you’re all heading in the same direction and to the same place; you all need one another to get there.

  • It is not only your CEO whom you need to consider, although how do you think they feel if you do 80% of the talking? Remember: listening, empathy, and “business- and data-speak,”
  • Your CFO. Don’t assume they don’t want to spend company cash or always want to cut your budget. Do they think marketing is only an expense? Not the best of them, they well know the right marketing brings returns, and is critical to promoting the company’s competitive edge, or launch of the next breakthrough .Think how you can communicate that. Be ready to discuss CAPEX and OPEX, at least at a high level, and identify where the creation of your marketing assets, and the support of your marketing investments, lie. Think returns, like linking with sales for more returns.
  • Your CCO. Between Marketing and Sales, there are legendary issues of turf and ownership revolving around the customer; there’s no denying this. But sales’ connections with the customer and marketing’s connections with the customer are very different. one skews more transactional, the other skews more insightful and market-oriented. Keep these perspectives in mind, and this will also help you avoid what sometimes happens, speaking down to these colleagues.
  • Your HR partner – when’s the last time you connected with them? What’s on their mind? How can they be of value to you going forward especially as marketing becomes so broadened and complicated and yet so specialised? What’s their market intelligence on how marketing is hiring in other industries? Alternatively, anything you can offer towards, say, internal communications or brand training?

Remember: from deep down in your brand’s DNA, you know the customer, and we repeat, this is of tremendous value to your colleagues, and tremendous power to you. Root what you say to these colleagues, whenever you can, in this knowledge and insight – not to demonstrate any superiority, but rather to assist and inform and help them do their jobs better. And yes, to see how you’re doing, take the Jeff Bezos test upon return from your next business trip. But if opinions and perceptions don’t line up with your expectations, adjust your thinking. It’s their perceptions that count.

4. Any suggestions for personal and professional development for the CMO?

 We all strive to find purpose and lead a meaningful life. If being the CMO is yours, or being the CEO, or following the marketing path, then you have found your Ikigai. Likely a new concept for many, Ikigai is the Japanese word meaning “life purpose” or “raison d’être.” Ikigai refers to defining your personal meaning of life in relation to your loves, mission, talents, passions, and profession, as well as what you can give to the wider world. Ikigai poses four questions: 

  • Do you love what you do? 
  • Are you good at what you do? 
  • Does the world need what you do? 
  • Can you make money at what you do? 

Answers to these four critical questions provide a guide to personal satisfaction and fulfilment, and help identify gaps and absences that stand in the way. Importantly, the four questions also encourage us to take a holistic approach to personal and professional development. We are encouraged to get out of our comfort zones, to do something difficult and master it. How so?

  • Do something you have never done before, like going to a new place, engaging in a new activity, learning a new language, meeting new people
  • Do something you do well and do more of it, like super compensation in sports – 10 push ups, 20, 50? Running 1K, 5Ks, 10Ks a marathon, an ironman?
  • Do something that you think you are bad at and become better at it, really master it – cooking, ironing, dancing
  • Surround yourself with people who make you a better person, manager, leader.

Think of Ikigai as a marketing framework, CMO – marketing is and marketing does. It will help put you in touch with your personal brand, even as it helps you develop it. A strong personal character is the basis for a strong professional character – this gives confidence in so many situations. Be able to say, ‘Gee, I think I can do that’ – even if you never have.

5. Summing up, what must the CMO – as an individual, a professional – do to become indispensable, essential, and so earn a permanent chair at the Management Team table?

In a final tour de force, Didier created what he termed a “cheat sheet” for the Indispensable CMO. It is a summary of all that we discussed in our interview at the same time that it acknowledges the growing requirements and complexities of the CMO’s role and the primary needs, above all, in critical thinking, proactivity, personal brand and purposeful collaboration.

 Be Indispensable, in 13 words 

  1. I = Impeccable: In words and actions
  2. N = Network: Nothing is achieved alone, we don’t go far
  3. D = Decide: Could be simple, complicated, complex, chaotic – but better done than perfect; great is the enemy of good
  4. I = Innovate: Challenge the status quo, resist the usual
  5. S = Strategise: Choose a dominant strategy and alternative paths
  6. P = Prioritise: Focus; decide what not to do
  7. E = Ego: Hold this in check, it is the biggest career derailer
  8. N = Negotiate: Make it right instead of being right
  9. S = Smile: It makes you attractive
  10. A = Accountability: If not you, who?
  11. B = Brand: Stand out
  12. L = Learn: Knowing is better than guessing or hypothesising
  13. E = Excel: Do your best, think your Ikigai!

You will note that being Indispensable comes with Didier’s additional suggestions and supports drawn from multiple, state-of-the-art business practices and concepts. These include the Kano Model for developing products according to customer satisfaction and needs met; the Eisenhower Matrix, that prioritises time by “do now, do later, delegate or delete”; BATNA, a negotiating strategy that requires a “best alternative to negotiated strategies”; the Oz Principle, drawn from the famed film, that urges: “see it, own it, solve it, do it”; and the Brand Octagon, which defines brand with nine intangible elements that are evergreen sources of richness, renewal and abundance. There’s some homework in there, CMO!

What really matters: 

It’s not to be a CMO or a CEO, but rather, imagine being offered three wishes. Typically, anyone presented with three such wishes opts for health, wealth and peace, or some similar combination.

Didier suggested these are undoubtedly valuable wishes, but they are not ends in themselves, but rather results, the happy consequences, of a well-lived life. 

So, Didier suggests using your three wishes to ask for a long life, living the life you love, and finding the love of your life. It is as we said at the beginning, it comes down to you, and what you truly love. This is true for everyone.

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