Four Traits of a Successful CMO
Consistently successful CMOs are indeed a rare breed, exhibiting four telltale traits of accomplished leaders, which I define as CATS: courageous, artful, thoughtful and scientific. One CMO who demonstrates these characteristics is Anthony Christie, CMO of Level 3 Communications, and recent winner of a prestigious Officer Award from The CMO Club.
Two years into Christie's tenure at Level 3, the company acquired TW Telecom. Anyone who's witnessed an acquisition firsthand knows that the transition can challenge even the most skilled of executive teams.
Under Christie's leadership, and with not a little bit of bravery, his department drove the integration process end-to-end, with his product management and development teams rationalizing their product portfolio and his strategy and communications teams integrating targeting strategies and all aspects of communication around the brand merger. "A year into the integration process," says Christie, "the company has achieved our major milestones and is meeting stakeholder expectations."
In another show of courage, after having learned "the hard way" that improving Level 3's customer experience wouldn't happen in a silo, Christie tells me that responsibility for customer experience strategy was moved to global marketing. Risky, perhaps, but smart. Christie says the decision was based on his belief "that customer experience is intrinsically tied to brand and a comprehensive view of the customer journey."
Here's something else that I've noticed when a CMO effectively deals with change: In addition to courage, organizational creativity often plays a part. I call this being "artful." To illustrate, Christie points out that in a situation like an acquisition or responsibility shift, it's critical to understand needs across the enterprise, especially from a cross-functional stakeholder's point of view. To tackle these challenges within Level 3 -- an organization with over 10,000 employees -- Christie helped develop the CMO-CIO-CTO triumvirate. He calls this formation a "three-legged stool," where each leader relies upon the other two to move the business forward. "This relationship has become a deliberate part of our operating model," says Christie.
Besides the successful CMO's penchant for crafting new processes, thoughtfulness often helps the CMO deftly limit risk. For example, to ensure that Level 3's new brand would resonate with all parties (employees, customers and prospects), Christie and his team began with the employee's perspective, knowing that their support would be absolutely integral to the brand's long-term success.
After testing it for the other groups, they then launched the new brand internally and equipped employees with a plethora of programs and communications to engage them. "These efforts helped to instill a sense of pride and to give them context for how important each and every one of their jobs are to 'own it' and be accountable to their contributions to the company, with the end goal of enabling our customers' business success," Christie says.
Lastly, Christie demonstrates what I call the scientific side of the effective CMO. That is, an innate curiosity for and understanding of the intricacies that power smart marketing. It also means knowing when and where to focus his efforts. When it comes to brand awareness, Christie tells me that, being a b-to-b enterprise, his team eschews efforts in the wider marketplace and instead wields a variety of tools -- thought leadership, events, social media, hyper-targeted efforts -- to drive inbound and outbound activity. And of course, Christie pays careful attention to the numbers. "We have evidence through our brand tracker and campaign results that this approach is working," he says.