The rules of engagement for marketing are constantly evolving, spurred on even further by the past year’s crisis and socio-economic upheaval.

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have truly been put to the test to engage with employees, customers, and entire communities in new ways. But only a handful of CMOs have demonstrated their ability to meet these challenges head-on with thoughtful, innovative, cut-through approaches.

Nothing beats first-hand pointers from the best in the game. So, we’ve done the research and have fished deep for insights that really stand out to us here at Chief Nation. We’ve also picked the creative and dynamic brains of CMOs in the industry that we’ve been lucky enough to work with over the years from some of the world’s leading technology companies and global enterprises, to bring you this piece that delves straight into the mindset of influential CMOs.

What are the growth priorities, game-changing technologies, experience, engagement, and brand building tactics that are taking businesses to the next level? What makes these senior marketers tick? And what have they learnt, sometimes, the hard way?

tip 1

Transparency is the best policy

Most CMOs will tell you transparency is no longer an option, but a marketing requirement. Establishing and maintaining trust-based relationship between brands and their customers has and always will be at the core of the enterprise and remains the primary intent of any good CMO.

“Adding transparency through advertising ‘is a worm hole’. Building long-term trust takes time and can be lost in a heartbeat. Collaboration and communication between in-house teams and external agencies is critical. The sharing of insights between internal tech and development teams working side by side with marketing teams can be a challenge,” – David Pugh-Jones, CMO of

It’s also true that technology has made customers more wary, more sceptical, and harder for businesses to gain their trust.

“Essentially, this is a conversation about trust, which operates at two levels. Can marketers be trusted by their organisation to spend their budgets wisely, and can consumers trust the authenticity of the advertising that marketers produce? When both things align, transparency is a natural consequence. As a pre-condition, you need the right learning and development environment in which marketers learn the hard skills of ROI and the soft skills to empathise with consumers.” – Mark Evans, Managing Director, Marketing & Digital of Direct Line.

So, positioning any change as necessary, focusing on the results at hand, and allowing the whole organisation to take an unfiltered look into existing demand generation performance will make it easier to create buy-in around the need for change. In other words…

Tip 2

All metrics matter for organisational alignment

Part of embracing transparency is to not hide the figures that are, perhaps, lagging. In fact, doing this can assist with organisational alignment. The best form of leadership is one that celebrates failures as well as successes and learns from them.

“You’ve got to have alignment amongst the C-suite because I talk to so many CMOs who are struggling to help other C-suite executives understand what the benefits are going to be of digital transformation. So, you’ve got to go in with the plan to: ‘What’s in for the company? What are the business benefits? What is the ROI?’ And then help the other members of the C-suite see what’s in it [for them] from their perspective and their language so that you can get that alignment from the top down.” – Paige O’Neill, CMO at Sitecore on The Show.

From messaging, to prioritisation, to managing and understanding what is important to people and corporate cultures, CMOs should really look to count win rates, contract value and retention as KPIs for alignment, rather than gravitating towards impressions and clicks-throughs – discovering improvements from the figures that are falling behind are more valuable than the good statistics and help create leadership team alignment which is crucial to any successful account-based marketing execution.

How do you define success?

Coming up with imaginative ways of measuring the things that aren’t as straightforward to measure is an invaluable skill to have. For instance, impressions on a social media post are much easier to attain data from than, say, gauging the success and drive from a company rebrand.

Nothing is unmeasurable and finding new ways to measure these things will provide perspective and drive to marketing decisions, boosting company growth in the long run.

Economic pressures, technological demands and customer expectations are constantly increasing. How are top CMOs facing these challenges?

Tip 3

If you can’t fix it, feature it

In the same light as ‘all publicity is good publicity’, CMOs that are worth their salt know how to utilise and overturn any problems into things to showcase to their advantage. One CMO who is most certainly worth their salt, and who we refer to time and time again for that exact reason, is Paige O’Neill of Sitecore, who explains this brilliantly:

“I’ve found it to be so true over the course of my career. Meaning, how can we turn things that seem to be obstacles into things we can highlight — customer issues? Use it as an opportunity to solicit feedback, build a stronger relationship, and incorporate the voice of the customer going forward and then showcase the work and improvements.

I always think of the Four Seasons in Austin as a great example of this. They have literally millions of bats that come out at dusk right in the hotel’s backyard. This could be perceived as off-putting for a 5-star hotel, but they’ve turned it into a marketing highlight with viewing times, marketing in the rooms, and a celebration!”.

Incorporating the process of fundamentally owning weaknesses and turning them into strengths will help focus all marketing. It provides a defence and another reason for customers to buy into the brand.

Tip 4

Building the right marketing team doesn’t happen overnight

Hiring is hard. As Cadillac CMO, Deborah Wahl says “a team that comes from many different skillsets is much more powerful.” CMOs across the board will agree that hiring for the right talent for marketing is a challenge. But at a time when the industry is growing so rapidly, CMOS must set up talent in a way that generates value — reducing repetitive tasks and increasing strategic work that creates company momentum and growth.

Placing people with specialised skillsets in purposeful roles will allow them to be the most effective. Scott Gainey, CMO of Cherwell “found that marketers love to talk about the tactics and technologies they’re using, but don’t always give their people adequate time in the spotlight.

It sounds simple but can be easier said than done. Taking time for team building and empowering the right people will show.

Tip 5

And of course, be brave

Having ‘nothing to lose’ isn’t quite true. However, taking chances is part of any good marketing effort. Bravery is the key element to clever marketing.

No one sums this up better than CMO of Emerson, Kathy Bell: “To get attention, you have to be brave and take risks when you communicate. And you have to enjoy yourself, or you are in the wrong job”.

This only underlines that there are some truly brilliant people leading marketing today and that there’s not just one route to their success. We hope these golden nuggets of advice, as told straight from the C-suite, can be applied to any marketer’s strategy to bring a fresh stance to marketing schemes across the enterprise.

Looking for more B2B insights?

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