This is the second of two posts about CMOs and the challenges they face. In first post, we reviewed our thoughts about how CMOs obtain their jobs; and we posed a question about how to approach that first day in the office. In this post, we’ll try to answer that question, especially in the context of fixing a broken marketing organization.
First – and most important – keep your finger off the “reboot” button. New executives sometimes feel a compulsion to clean house and start with a blank slate. Don’t do that. In spite what you heard in your interviews, offline gossip, etc., you may not fully understand your team’s fundamental issues or the company’s expectations. Making changes without a substantial period of listening and observing is a high risk approach that has a relatively low probability of success. Your new team is a rich source of information.
Take a deep breath, play a soothing melody in your head, and make the obvious rounds: CEO, VP of Sales, the sales team, customer support, and product teams. Find out what’s working; what’s not; and as much as possible about perceptions. Some questions to keep in mind:
- Are marketing’s objectives aligned with those of other organizations, especially sales?
- What’s the state of metrics reporting and dashboards, particularly where ROI is concerned?
- Are workflow processes organized and documented; and are accountabilities for executing those processes clear?
- How strong is the existing marketing team? Who are the top performers?
- What financial controls are in place? (For example: budgets, advertisement versus event spend)
Answering these questions will provide a clearer picture of your organization’s status and allow you to define precisely the gap between the current and desired future state. Equally important is understanding the executive team’s expectations. This includes the official line AND the not-so-visible agendas that exist in every company.
Your next step is to develop a strategic plan to bring the organization to that desired state over the longer term. Next, focus on tactics to bridge the gap, e.g., short term wins and steps to boost morale. Review these strategies and tactics with the management team first.
After locking in full management support, present the overall plan to your inherited team. This is a critical step because their unconditional backing and engagement will make or break your effort. Focus on quick wins to enhance your credibility, which in turn will allow you more flexibility to make changes, bring in proven performers, and so forth. Use this period to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the team. Ensure that each individual is accountable for deliverables that suit his/her skills and talents.
Two areas need special attention: You must have good people on the team who can define, generate and report metrics. As well, you need one or more people who can produce high quality written content. Get them in place quickly if they aren’t already there.
The next step should be evaluating your external providers, e.g., public relations, SEO consultant, SEM agency, design firm, website consultant, and content writers. There may an opportunity to reduce costs by consolidating. Even more important: You may want to bring some of these tasks back into your organization to enable more hands-on control. The resulting flexibility and speed may be worth the extra expense. For example, having an in-house website manager allows your team to make frequent and rapid changes without worrying about bureaucracy and ongoing incremental costs.
One of the last steps in your assessment will be an evaluation of tools and technologies that support your organization’s processes. General guidelines for this process are difficult because each context is unique. There may be some opportunities to automate manual processes; but nowadays it’s just as likely that an organization may have the wrong – or too many – software solutions. Or the tools may be unconnected or operate in spheres of isolation. Don’t get lost in the details. You may need broad and out-of-box thinking to revamp those investments for improved productivity or reduced costs.
Don’t confuse poor processes (or the lack of defined processes) with the poor implementation of tools. In the same vein, you may not able to assess the efficacy of a solution (or set of solutions) until you find a way to measure its performance. Strong opinions, often disguised as blame, are rarely good substitutes for hard facts.
Finally, never forget this point: You must focus on defining and refining marketing processes on a continuing basis. A marketer is also a scientist: You need to experiment constantly with channels, content and programs to understand what’s effective, what scales, and what “sticks”. There is no substitute for ongoing testing and measurement.