4 ways CMOs can improve board impact

I recently wrapped up a three-year post on a nonprofit board. It was enlightening, energizing—and sometimes contentious.

But I’m proud of what we collectively accomplished. We made it through the worst pandemic moments by taking some courageous steps.

We improved our accountability systems, doubled down on digital content, and dramatically improved our grant writing efforts. The result: we dramatically increased cash reserves, won a prized community award, and attracted some strong new board talent.

Whether you’re a nonprofit executive or a corporate leader, it’s your job to be effective with your board. I recently sat down with Jim Schleckser, bestselling author, founder of Inc. CEO Project, and friend, and we explored this topic.

These are my 4 biggest takeaways from our LinkedIn Life Stream:

  1. Skip the back stories. I recently coached a senior executive who prepared 18 slides for a session with a General Manager. It was an invitation to snooze. We worked together and turned it into 6 pages with key takeaways. Jim agreed, “Keep it short. I don’t need the whole dang story. Don’t tell me how the watch was made. Keep it graphic, and not so cute that I think you spent an hour on the darn slide.”
  2. Measure team potential with this unique metric: the talk/do” ratio. If you were to assess your ability to “tell them what you are going to do” against “what you deliver,” how would you score yourself? One of the biggest red flags I’ve experienced as a board member is when marketing over-promises the impact of a new branding or lead gen initiative. One Atlanta CMO invested heavily in a re-branding campaign and made big promises to the board. In retrospect, they under-invested resources in gaining stakeholder commitment, and over-invested in his agency relationships. As a result of his single threaded focus, other priorities suffered. The board lost faith in him, and the CMO “resigned” within 18 months.
  3. Accept that vanity is ugly. Vanity metrics, such as number of followers and livestream viewers, don’t matter to board members. I shared my views in a recent post here.
  4. Create a tribe of mentors. Jim doesn’t turn down the opportunity to mentor younger professionals who need help. Jim suggests that “if you’ve got somebody you think, Wow, if I could know what that person knows, or get some guidance from that individual? That would be amazing. Pick up the phone, send the email, and ask.”

I believe that marketing leaders can have the greatest impact on growth discussions within the boardroom. They understand the customer journey, growth strategy, revenue sources, product marketing, and sales alignment imperatives.

Don’t let a good crisis go to waste and return to your “marketing swim lane” as we emerge from the pandemic.

Here is the livestream link.

How do you build strong bonds with your board? Drop me a note and share your own tips.

Comments open: True

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