CMOs Are From Mars, CEOs Are From Venus. What Planet Are You From?

When it comes to conversations with the CEO, marketing leaders are often speaking a different language. Here’s why.

What is your current relationship with your CEO? Do you feel like a fish out of water, or are you swimming in the same direction?

If you responded “fish, ” you are not alone. When it comes to conversations with the CEO, marketing leaders often speak Greek.

Persuasion and effective communication are skills that CEOs can often take for granted when they hire a marketing leader. In the past, I was guilty of making the same assumption. Aren’t CMOs natural-born champions of language, and experts of enticement? Not necessarily.

When we ignore the core elements that refine our persuasion abilities, we miss out on the opportunity to evolve into the Super CMO role. Based on my ongoing discussions with marketing leaders in my peer groups, I have discovered three qualities that define Super CMOs. They include:


1. Customer Focus–this reflects a solid understanding of buyer behavior, positioning, marketing automation, CRM, and analytics to align campaigns with buyer behaviors.

2. Persuasion–the ability to communicate effectively with customers, Board, and teams using appropriate analytical and reporting tools to help you get what you want and appease their self-interest.

3. Agility–the ability to adapt to new competitors, changes in customer behaviors and priorities, nascent technology trends, shifts in strategy, employee attrition, and personal setbacks.Absence of mastery in any of these areas leads to irrelevance (1), ineffectiveness (2), or inflexibility (3). I have been searching for the causes of these dysfunctional trends. That’s why I recently met with Joe Payne, former CEO of Eloqua (now owned by Oracle). After years with Verisign, MicroStrategy, and Coca-Cola, Joe became the CEO of Eloqua in 2007. Eloqua became a rising star in automating demand generation. Eloqua went public in August 2012. Six months later, Oracle acquired Eloqua.

While Joe may be remembered for this blockbuster success at Eloqua, I applaud him for his unique career history. He has led organizations in both a CMO and CEO capacity. As a result, Joe has a natural affinity and compassion for the CMO role. In Joe’s words, “The CMO role is the least respected in most companies. This perpetuates the ‘CEOs are from Mars; CMOs are from Venus’ mentality.”

Several bad behaviors create even more tension between the CEO and marketing leaders:

1. Data is the new black. Payne commented that “what’s different today from 10 years ago is that businesses used to run on hunches of smart people. Today, you can do the same thing, but you can test your assumptions. Every aspect of the business today collects more data than ever before. The data to support a direction are always available.” As a marketing leader, how often do you seek evidence, benchmarks, and industry data to support your position, versus just your gut and experience?

2. Marketing leaders revel in their use of unique language. While the CFO and the VP of Sales report on pipeline, revenue, backlog, and return on investment, Marketing uses different language, such as campaigns, lead scoring, social media, publicity buzz, and events. This causes dissonance with other functional leads in the organization.

3. Marketing ignores the reporting cadence of the rest of the organization. The entire organization follows a reporting cadence that is weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Think about the staff meetings you attend. The VP of Sales reports how you are tracking against forecast. The CFO reports on how earnings, revenues, renewals, and (possibly) Net Promoter Score compare to previous quarters. The milestones don’t change at random intervals.

Conversely, the VP of Marketing may report on the latest Twitter campaign results at one meeting, and the number of leads from a big trade show at the next.

If that describes you, then you are swimming against the current within your organization. Our next post will provide strategies to help you secure a seat in the “power circle” without needing a life preserver.

Related Posts:
Why Today’s Marketing Planning Models Fail To Deliver In The C-Suite
What The Next Generation Of Star CMOs Have In Common
Why CMOs Also Have To Be Thought Leaders
6 Questions All CMOs Need To Ask Themselves

[Image: Flickr user Moyan Brenn]

Copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

This post originally appeared in FastCompany.

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