Five Habits of Highly Effective CMOs

How Adaptive Marketers Win Where Traditional Marketers Fail

By Published on .

Chris Stutzman
Chris Stutzman
Why are some CMOs better than others at adapting to the digital era? After many discussions with some of the most successful marketing executives and thought leaders out there, it boils down to this: Marketing leaders who successfully navigate change and uncertainty are willing to part ways with outdated practices. That doesn't mean they abandon the fundamentals of traditional marketing. Rather, they retain its best parts while shedding its five bad habits: complacency, conformity, analysis paralysis, hands-off management and knowledge silos.

Successful CMOs adopt these five good habits that will enable them to create an adaptive organization:

Experiment. Traditional marketers have become complacent about success, assuming that what works today will work tomorrow. Adaptive marketers take a more flexible approach by experimenting with their organizational structure, emerging media and new technology. This helps them prepare for the unexpected and stay one step ahead of the competition. But how can they help the entire organization accept the new world order ahead of the competition?

One suggestion is to keep employees nimble by creating rotating roles that offer new learning opportunities. Procter & Gamble is building its digital DNA from the ground up by transitioning employees from a matrix role in digital marketing or e-commerce to the position of digital assistant brand manager. By the time these digital ABMs are ready to become brand managers, the entire organization will be digitally minded as a rule, not an exception.

Challenge the status quo. Traditional marketers don't rock the boat. Adaptive marketers challenge the status quo. They act as change agents who strive to create new brand experiences, encourage innovative thinking and use technology to their advantage.

Ford Motor Co. has been breaking tradition with TV-heavy media plans and investing more than 25% in digital advertising (almost three times the industry average). When they launched the Fiesta in the U.S., they built early awareness for the car through a network of 100 bloggers who tested the car and then wrote about it for their readers. And in 2010, they added to the movement by launching the Fiesta Project, an effort to capture user-generated video. As a result, Ford learned they could reduce the cost of subsequent launch efforts by as much as 90%.

Act continuously. Traditional marketers miss out on opportunities by becoming so overwhelmed with new options that it leads to indecision. Adaptive marketers place a premium on speed and action when it comes to using new channels or taking on new customer-facing initiatives.

Agility's important when implementing technology-driven marketing. This means marketers need to think big, take small steps and grow rapidly. For example, the San Francisco Giants broke from the tradition of using one ticket price throughout the season and implemented dynamic pricing to entice more fans to attend home games. They realized that not every baseball game is equally appealing to attend, so they priced games based on factors such as weather conditions, pitching match-ups and the appeal of the visiting team. After piloting the idea in 2009, they rolled it out for the entire 2010 season and saw average revenue per seat increase by 7% to 8%.

Participate personally by giving everyone a role in shaping the brand experience. Traditional marketers live in a world of top-down, command-and-control organizations that remain detached from the frontlines. Adaptive marketers get personally involved in new media and marketing innovations in addition to empowering their teams to take a personal stake in shaping the brand experience.

CMOs need to mandate that employees become fluent in emerging media and technology. Forrester calls this creating a HERO-powered business, where organizations empower employees to solve customer problems. And to support workers acting resourcefully, marketers must supply them with technology. For example, at Sunbelt Rentals, field reps received iPhones with an app for inventory and pricing, which resulted in a 30% decrease in phone calls to the branch office and a 3.5% increase in rental rates.

Tear down boundaries by creating incentives for collaboration. Traditional marketers perpetuate silos that stifle creativity and collaboration. Adaptive marketers redefine organizational boundaries by motivating people to join forces in new ways, rewarding them for sharing knowledge and equipping them with the tools to stay connected with each other.

CMOs must break down organizational silos that prevent critical information from being shared, using social technologies to disseminate knowledge across these silos. Verizon Business took this challenge seriously and rolled out an entire arsenal of digital and social tools across the organization, called vTools. This included vTube, which broadcasts success stories, training videos and executive briefings, as well as vConnect, which is an internal community that gives frontline sales engineers unparalleled access to the collective knowledge of thousands of engineers from around the globe.

With the groundswell creating change in organizations from the bottom up, companies are in need of clear direction and support from the top. Enter CMOs -- who must employ these five habits as the new mandate for marketing.

Chris Stutzman is a principal analyst at Forrester Research serving CMOs and marketing leadership professionals.
Most Popular
In this article: