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To Connect With CMOs, Stop Selling And Start Helping
Published in Forbes by Pete Krainik, Founder, The CMO Club
As I travel the world hosting CMO dinners and speaking at marketing events, I am constantly asked by agencies, PR firms, and marketing platform and services companies, what’s the best way to connect with CMOs on a regular basis?
Why? CMOs in most cases own the largest budgets in a corporation, are under significant pressure to make quick decisions on new ways to build, differentiate, and grow brands, and if not specifically the decision maker on marketing spend, influence decisions within the entire organization. In addition they have the best feel for strategic growth strategies within their organization.
Eight Steps for Connecting with CMOs
1. Don't Sell Them The number of stories shared at dinners of vendors following CMOs to bathrooms, cars, or offices, is increasing. Think of the number of sales pitches a CMO listens too in a month. If you want to see eyes role, be the 300thperson to go into sales mode. Don't bait and switch. Everyone I meet that wants my help to get in front of CMOs starts with “I’m not into selling them, just building relationships and networking.” Then when they get in front of CMOs it turns into elevator pitches during intros and thinly disguised sales pitches. CMOs are much smarter than you think and see right through this.
2. Understand their challenges, and have every conversation with them help solve those challenges. Do you know their specific challenges and hot buttons? Do they have the credibility and support of their CEO? Are they tasked to lead the growth agenda for their companies? How successful are they in leading the brand beyond the marketing department? It’s critical to know their top challenges and focus every conversation and connection on helping them solves their biggest challenges. Share real best practices. CMOs love to hear what others are doing and about the data that’s helping them do it.
3. It’s all about ROI. The biggest pressure many CMOs have these days with CEO and boards is the ability to deliver on resources received and demonstrate the value delivered. You want CMOs to spend time with you? Help them improve and communicate ROI returned on marketing investments. Don’t push unproven or general ROI value props and insights. They must be real and proven. Everyone tells CMOs about their ability to drive ROI; very few actually have the ability to demonstrate it.
4. Help CMOs educate themselves and their C-level peers and board. Technology, media, customers and economies are changing more rapidly than ever. CMOs own understanding and being the company expert on customer insights and customer engagement vehicles. If you are really on top of what’s going on around social media, changing customer patterns, etc., offer to help CMOs stay up to date on these critical areas and educate and keep their peers and board up to speed. To lead the brand beyond the marketing department, they need their C-level peers and CEO to understand the impact of changing media and helping them will only help you.
5. Connect them to others. CMOs are connectors and their success many times is the result of relationships with experts and other CMOs. You know the best social media expert? Share the contact with a CMO. Leverage your customer base CMOs to introduce them to other CMOs. Hear about a great new startup that could help a CMO engage customers more effectively or improve ROI on their marketing spend? Introduce them. Also be a source of talent. CMOs are always upgrading their teams. Pay it forward works with CMOs.
6. Go deep not wide. Telling CMOs that your company can do everything for everyone, has a large solution footprint and with the large umbrella of solutions, that you don’t have any real competitors, does not differentiate you or your company. CMOs react to specific insights and solutions that help them fix a specific problem. Help them fix something and show them how you do it, don’t tell them all the things you can do and have them figure out what they need.
7. “Strategic and new” trumps executional and me-too. CMOs are in their roles vs. VP marketing roles for their strategic influence and expertise as an officer of their company. That’s what the best CEOs look for and expect from their CMOs. I am continuously surprised at the number of vendors that meet with CMOs and focus on detailed execution ideas and the same buzz words and conversations that were hot 6-10 years ago. Think “CMO Worthy” conversations. You want to share something they can’t read about in marketing publication or blog. CMOs are always on the lookout for “what’s new” or different they can leverage within their organizations.
8. CMOs change jobs frequently, don’t get caught up in Currently Employed Syndrome. It’s always interesting to watch how companies approach CMOs from large brands once they leave that company. All too often, I see companies invite CMOs to dinners, share content with them, then once they leave a company, the invitations and contact decreases significantly. Sticking with someone between gigs improves the relationship significantly. They will move to another great brand and you will have been there for them.
CMOs are busy, under extreme pressure to lead the growth agenda, and continually stay on top of latest media and approaches for engaging with customers and maximizing ROI on marketing spend. If you want to building meaningful relationships with CMOs, help them, don’t sell them.