How To Engage With The CMO
(Post 4 of 4 in the series on Scaling CMOs – other posts are, When to Hire your First Chief Marketing Officer, What Does Great Look like in a Chief Marketing Officer and Signs your Chief Marketing Officer isn’t Scaling)
Similar to interactions with all CXOs, you’ll have to capitalize on your moments but there are a few ways I’ve typically spent the most time or gotten the most value out of CMOs over the years.
One of the key ways to engage with the CMO is to include them in meetings with the rest of the go-to-market (GTM) executives as a group, not in a silo. While of course I have always had 1:1 meetings with my CMO, I find that the most valuable conversations are the ones with the GTM group as a group, talking about shared objectives and the underlying drivers and coordination points to get there. You might say, “Well, Matt, that’s true of all the GTM executives,” but I disagree. It’s even more important to have the CMO in the same room as the other GTM roles like Sales, Account Management, and Partnerships because marketing needs to be on the leading edge of GTM, not just a function working in a silo at the direction of the other GTM leaders. A lot of what happens in the GTM meetings is nuanced and since Marketing has to somehow make everything tangible, the earlier they hear about it and can start thinking about it the better off the whole company is.
On the other end of the spectrum, I find it very useful to create a thinking session with the CMO, where we take time away from the day-to-day to do deep dives on strategic topics like the company’s positioning, voice, or brand. Sometimes I like to do these in the context of reading a relevant marketing book or business journal article, or after reading something I ran across on the internet, or something I learned at a conference—something that piqued my interest. Sometimes I don’t have a perspective or an idea, but the thinking session is valuable either way. I find that the most creative thinking and ideas happen in some of these longer form, unstructured conversations. These sessions are not limited to ideas, positioning, or branding because even the quantitative part of marketing involves a lot of creativity. So, the thinking session can be wide open in terms of agenda, but it needs to be scheduled and done, otherwise all these ideas just ramble around and we don’t make as much progress.
Finally, a lot of my engagement with the CMO is actually a continuation of a longer relationship, before they become the CMO. Let me explain what I mean. For years, we went through CMOs at Return Path at the same clip as other companies: every 1-2 years we’d make a change and bring in the new flavor-of-the-month CMO and we had a pattern of hiring them from the outside. Over time, though, we realized that we would be much better served by having more continuity in marketing by investing in our own people and promoting them from within. The last few CMOs we had at Return Path were all promoted into the role — so I got to know them pretty extensively ahead of time. I was not only thrilled to give them a shot at the top job, but I was in a great place to understand their strengths and weaknesses coming into the role so I could most effectively mentor them. Of course, you can say the same thing for the other functional departments, but marketing is more acute based on the average tenure of CMOs.
(You can find this post on the Bolster blog here).