CMOs face an uncertain future. Reasons why include the blurring lines of responsibility across functional groups and a fever-pitch pressure on marketing to demonstrate ROI, according to Lisa Nirell.
Nirell, chief energy officer of EnergizeGrowth, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing consulting firm, said she has observed much suffering among marketing leaders, but doing more is not the answer--being more is. Decisions should not be deferred to analytics and big data because they take the place of the very human traits of empathy and consciousness. To do so neglects the key qualities that make marketers so brilliant.
CMO.com spoke to Nirell--whose latest book, “The Mindful Marketer: How to Stay Present and Profitable in a Data-Driven World,” was published last month--about the importance of becoming an innovative “market maker” as opposed to an order taker,” three ways CMOs and CFOs can better align, and how to find your inner marketing guru.
CMO.com: What are some unproductive habits marketers have?
Nirell: Typically, you see three categories: The first, which is the most egregious violator or biggest cause of mindless marketing that I’ve observed in the past 15 years, is multitasking. That can be anything from text messaging excessively and emailing people in meetings, Web surfing while talking on the phone--and we won’t even talk about texting while driving. The second is making every corner of their home an extension of their office, so they bring their laptop to bed, checking email while sitting and dining with friends and family, and not being capable of shutting off. The third is zero time dedicated to allocation and allowing ourselves, as marketers, to focus on the emails and urgencies of the day, and never being able to stop and pause and say, ‘What’s next’ and what is possible?
Finding one or two areas where you need to improve and finding an accountability partner who can call you on it when you’re falling back on bad habits is really a good first step.
CMO.com: How can marketers derive the most from big data residing in their systems? What advice would you give them as they analyze customer information?
Nirell: The first thing I would encourage people to do is team or partner with others who are really successful at hiring data scientists and have good success stories with big data. Be wary of big promises that big data companies give you. Big data has its place and its value, but you still need to invest time and resources, and spend time face to face and voice to voice with customers. Nothing can replace the value of that.
The other thing I want to mention is human consciousness. You still need to trigger and tap into your natural ability to be human to drive the right actions from whatever your big data reports are generating. That’s something no Hadoop server farm can emulate.
CMO.com: What do you mean by the statement that marketers need to change the perception of being an “order taker to market maker”?
Nirell: I’ve spent the past three years conducting private meetings with my community of CMOs, which comprises over 700 leaders. I learned that their priorities and key concerns haven’t changed; they have too many projects being thrown at them and never enough resources; and that the sheer volume of customer data is only growing in size. When I started this journey of talking with CMOs and guiding them through peer groups, I thought for sure we’d be spending a lot of time talking about the latest trends in big data or marketing automation.
What I discovered are the topics that are the most critical to them are: How do I deal with the CFO who keeps asking me for ROI proof when we conduct an initiative? How do I deal with a CEO who really thinks she understands marketing better than I do and keeps throwing new projects at me? [A CMO told me], and this is a direct quote, “I feel like a McDonald’s drive-through window.” This whole feeling of being an order taker keeps them locked into this mode of dealing with the daily demands. In order to really thrive in the next wave of the CMO role, being a market maker, and having a seat at the table for new initiatives well before they’ve been baked or designed, is going to be an essential way for CMOs to feel more fulfilled in their careers.
CMO.com: How has the role of the CMO changed? What trends are you seeing?
Nirell: One is that data about your customer will only grow in volume, and it is not all discoverable through big data. No. two is the lines between sales, marketing, and customer service will only continue to blur as we see this convergence of CRM, lead scoring, marketing automation, customer experience management, and even customer community management technologies. As we see that convergence happening and more industry consolidation happening over time, it’s going to be even more important that CMOs develop stronger relationships with other stakeholders, such as the VPs of sales and customer service and finance.
The next item I can’t stress enough is CMOs have to consciously make the shift from order taker to market maker—it’s not about doing more, but about being more. How do you step into the mind-set of, “I am an innovative marketer. I am bringing value to the boardroom and to the customer, and it’s something I’m really passionate about.” Becoming a market maker is no longer about more Twitter followers, higher Klout scores, and more customer data. It’s really finding a middle path between mindfulness and market acceleration.
What I help my clients pepper or sprinkle into their roles as market leaders are various ways of being, such as being more mindful, investigating and learning how to ask better questions, managing their energy levels, and finding equanimity in what they do; the ability to adapt and recognize how fluid our jobs really have become. All of these concepts are ancient Asian concepts with roots in Buddhism and other things. I’m not suggesting people believe in any philosophy or spiritual principle, but I suggest they listen to some of these principles and pick ones that work for you and throw out the rest. Those are qualities of someone who has discovered their inner marketing guru.
CMO.com: A lot has been written about the adversarial relationship between the CMO and CFO. Why do you think it is often a difficult one, and what can be done to change it?
Nirell: Three things have to happen for the CFO and CMO to be allies: The first one is about language. How many times do CMOs attend staff meetings using the latest terminology that CFOs don’t understand, talking about Twitter campaigns, or the latest lead scoring methodology or hand-off to sales. All of these various terms that are not in the vernacular of finance. That’s the first thing, looking at your language and aligning your language with how finance thinks and how the rest of the company measures success. Number two is the cadence of reporting. Oftentimes marketing comes to the table with a whole new set of reports or programs. It really puts people in a tailspin because there’s no historical pattern. The third is being proactive.
There are two different kinds of CMO: One comes in and says, “These are my marketing projects—I’ve got them under control, and I’ll report back to you if I have any questions or problems.” Another is the CMO who comes in and says, “My primary focus besides protecting and guarding the brand is to drive more sales and help sales be really successful. I want to learn more about how finance operates, and I would like one of your financial planning and analysis professionals to be part of our brainstorming meetings. How can we make that happen?”
That’s what I call being proactive—those are the things that move the dial and help a marketer be more mindful and intentional with their stakeholders.
CMO.com: What are the main takeaways you’d like people to have from your book?
Nirell: The pace of change is not going to slow down. It’s time for us to slow down, take a pause and reflect on what’s really important, and to be able to turn off the noise coming at us as marketers. That’s the real difference between an order taker and market maker. We also have to find our inner marketing gurus to have a more fulfilling career and a more fulfilling life. We need to have the tools and ancient wisdom available to us that we can tap into and leverage to be more mindful marketers. As Joan Baez said in one of her songs, “Take what you need and leave the rest.”