Why CMOs Also Have To Be Thought Leaders

I recently hosted the first annual CMO Wine Reception in Washington, DC.Twenty-one top CMOs from the region participated.

The session was entitled “You’ve Got a Revenue Quota — NOW What? Demand Creation Secrets from Top-Performing CMOs.” Here are some highlights you can use.

Jignesh Shah and Lisa Nirell wine reception 2013
Lisa with Jignesh Shah of Metalogix

Summary of Session

 An increasing number of B-to-B
marketing leaders now have responsibility for some portion of their
organization’s sales pipeline creation. To do this effectively, they will have
to work extensively with their sales counterparts to build a demand engine that
is repeatable and predictable.

session explored the underpinning strategies, processes and technologies that
drive high performing b-to-b demand engines, and how high-performing CMOs have
prepared themselves for the changes in their function that are required.

Session Objectives

1.    Strengthen relationships with internal constituents

2.    Understand the importance of shared process between
marketing and sales

3.    Select the ideal metrics

4.    Understand the increasingly important role of
teleprospecting in the demand schematic


founder of EnergizeGrowth® and Marketing Leaders of DC

, Co-Founder of Vorsight,
an Inc. 5000 company based in Rosslyn, VA

Tony Jaros, Sr.
VP of Research at SiriusDecisions.


CMOs from 21 companies participated from industries
which included Software, Publishing, Research, Not for Profit, Telecommunications, Government
Contracting, Security, Health Care, and Commercial Real Estate/Finance.  Two-thirds either currently carry some revenue
quota, or expect to secure one within the next 12 months.

Wine Reception April 2013
Monica Parham, Kerry Morgan, and Jeanine Callahan

Fast Facts

  • 7.5% = Projected
    growth in inside sales positions from an MIT and SKK University study for the
    period 2009-2012. This contrasts with .5% growth in outside sales positions.
  • 44.6% = Less
    than half of 1,200 surveyed by Lattice Engines in 2012 see any improvement in
    sales and marketing’s ability to prioritize leads, EVEN THOUGH access to “sales
    intelligence” rose from 62% to 67% over the time period they studied.
  •  In
    spite of the increased use of prospecting tools, LinkedIN, and other online
    resources used to fuel demand, 20%
    of a salesperson’s week
    one full day–is still spent researching
    new prospects. This leaves little time to nurture existing leads who have
    expressed interest in their products and services.

Five Demand Creation

  1. Culture – Do our internal constituents support
    Marketing’s intentions to create and accelerate demand?
  2. Customer – Are our customers accepting of Marketing’s
    involvement in the buying process?
  3. Consistency – How would we rate our current, documented
    demand creation process? What is the speed and consistency of that
  4. Continuity – What is the best way to measure the efficacy
    of our process?
  5. Capability – How skilled and responsive is our current
    team to drive the process?

participants confirmed that their number one obstacle to enabling demand is a lack
of consistency (#3).

Culture Considerations

  1. Before embarking on any demand creation
    initiative, determine whether Sales is willing to support and accept your
    contributions. They are often the toughest constituents to engage in the demand
    creation discussion.
  2. Interview stakeholders at multiple
    levels to identify how wide the gap is between core values (stated ways of doing business) and operating values (what happens on the
    front line). How much dissonance exists between the two? This will determine
    your probability of success with a demand creation initiative.
  3. Blackboard and other companies have successfully
    established Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with their sales constituents. This can codify the
    relationship and clarifies expectations.


  1. Few companies have started combining
    “top of the funnel” demand creation (market research and data
    gathering) with voice of the customer insights (post sales). This is an
    emerging industry, especially among B2B companies. JetBlue and EMC are pioneers
    in this arena. They have found that just as many upsell opportunities exist
    from studying VoC information as with new opportunity data and leads.
  2. Lead decay should be avoided at all
    costs. Leads are highly time sensitive. Steve Richard shared research that
    shows high buying preference to companies who respond within minutes of the inbound lead arriving.

presented the Sirius Decisions Waterfall
While several participants
recognized the model, a few participants have chosen not to show this model to
their CEO. They called it “too complex.” Others did not see value in the shape of the
waterfall because it does not address demand
that can be generated from existing customers (which can often surface from Voice of the Customer initiatives).

In my opinion, the Waterfall model is a perfectly fine approach to codify demand creation. The real issue may be that CMOs have not found an effective way to explain its value to the C-suite. Coincidentally, “Gaining Ground with Your CEO” will be the topic of our next session in June.

Lisa Wine Reception April 2013
Austin Wells and Jeanine Callahan

Additional Resources

for Managing the Changing CMO Role
– Eloqua blog

Four Essentials for Modern MarketersFastCompany blog

The ROI of Demand Creation – Sirius Decisions

11 Ideas to Guarantee Outsourced Appointment Setting
– Vorsight blog


copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

CMOs are experts at promoting their companies’ brands–but not always their own.

A handful of great CMOs in my community has lost their jobs. Why did it take almost a month for them to re-position themselves and generate interest from prospective employers? I think it’s because they have ignored the critical need to remain thought leaders in their own right, regardless of their employment status.

CMOs are experts at promoting their companies’ brands–but not always their own. Studies have shown that fewer than 20% of Fortune 250 CMOs are on Twitter. Can you imagine launching an online strategy for your company without actively using any of the social technologies? It’s like discovering your nutritionist secretly lives on candy bars and fast food.

ReinventingYou_300dpiDorie Clark, author of the newly–released Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, argues that it’s time for CMOs to take control of their professional reputation by putting themselves in the mix publicly. She offers three main reasons:

  • It’s beneficial for a company’s brand if individual executives within it have strong personal brands. That matters internally because people will know where their strengths and abilities lie and can tap them. Externally, it matters because it sends a message that your company attracts and retains top talent and industry pundits.
  • Telling your own story is just as important as being able to tell your company’s. Often, our internal image of what we’re capable of and want to do doesn’t match up with how others see us. We can begin to take control of our careers and reputations by creating narratives that explain how our existing skills can be applied in new, valuable ways.
  • Creating content is no longer optional for marketing leaders who want to be perceived as industry pacesetters. You have the ability–and the responsibility–to position yourself as a thought leader through multiple media outlets. The same principles you’re applying at the corporate level to distinguish the company’s brand should be applied to yourself.

Some might argue that CMOs should stay behind the scenes; doesn’t time promoting themselves mean time away from their core mission to promote their company? Both efforts are actually symbiotic. Clark posits that “companies want talented, motivated executives who truly understand social tools.” A CMO who deploys online and offline media effectively is an asset to the organization. They are likely to draw in both press coverage and new clients. They can often attribute their success to relationships she is able to cultivate online.”

I have encountered several socially adept CMOs since launching my CMO peer groups and private gatherings. Interestingly, all are male. While many CMOs are active on Twitter, it seems like few are blogging and publishing substantial content.

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO of Mindjet, launched Marketing Iteration in 2009 to help establish social profiles for his entire executive team while he worked at a previous employer. He stayed the course, and still blogs regularly today. He says that “I savor the freedom to write about what is important to me, regardless of whether it is to discuss Mindjet’s brand, or to share things that are just interesting for me.”

Charles Gold, CMO of Sonatype, publishes pithy observations and analysis on software marketing. Since 2010, Charles has enjoyed the benefits of maintaining a social persona. Although he launched his blog primarily to understand the mechanics behind it, he soon discovered many personal brand benefits. “My blog allows me to think through the meta-issues that affect me and my company. It has also led to marketing conference speaking engagements.”

Thought leadership is every CMO’s responsibility. If you have not embraced that role, now is the time. Start with tweeting five minutes a day, and see what evolves. Twenty smart CMOs can’t be wrong.

Related posts:

[Image: Flickr user Éamonn Ó Muirí]

copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

This post originally appeared in FastCompany.


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