Marketing leadership is about setting long-term vision while focusing on achieving near-term targets. Those near term targets could be lead generation for sales, lowering marketing spend or launching new campaigns. It is easy for leaders to get caught up in the short term targets while completely missing out on setting long-term marketing goals like building team, coaching and mentoring, elevating brand and collaborating with other leaders across the organization.
We recently sat down with Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C Insights to discuss what it takes to be a successful Chief Marketing Officer. Here are some of the excerpts from our discussion.
The Evolution of the Digital Marketing World
Aaron Goldman has a successful track record working in a variety of different companies, even at the ancient name of “Ask Jeeves.” With Aaron’s 20 years experience in marketing, he’s seen so many changes when it comes to Digital. I asked Aaron what the biggest shift or change he’s seen in 10 years in the industry and his answer may surprise you.
Aaron: Things kind of came in full circle, what was fundamentally different and what made search such a high growth channel was that it changed the way that we thought about how brands can reach people. Prior to that it was all based on context.
So whatever page I was on the web or channel I was on television or page in the magazine or the title of the magazine that was what we used as inputs to put plans together,
I want to reach someone who is a sports fan, I’m going to advertise on ESPN, maybe a radio, print, television and in digital.
What search taught us is that we can pass some of that out and begin targeting people based on what they’re looking for at a given moment. And that changed the way we really thought about how we can connect with our audiences and what it means to be in the moment with our marketing. And then from there we had the whole sort of programmatic era where we went all the way down to you know targeting people at these very precise nano moments with very precise messaging and then social came along and added a whole different set of things that we can target based on what people are interested in or who they’re connected to. And now here we are coming into 2020 it’s almost like we’ve come all the way back now to where context is really important again. We’ve over optimized and over indexed on this precision marketing and we’ve built these we’ve built essentially a house of cards based off of cookies and all this data that is getting tougher to manage in some cases getting illegal to use it. So some of that was what’s old is new again in terms of how we think about where our audiences and what’s the right way to reach them and engage them.
7 Marketing Leadership Lessons – The 7P’s of Marketing
There are so many marketing leadership lessons to learn, as all marketers think, lead and work in a variety of different ways. In this instance, I wanted to get Aaron’s insights and his take on the 7Ps of marketing.
No matter what stage you are in the life cycle of your company your role, your market, having the right people is critical to success and that is both in terms of attracting talent but more importantly keeping them engaged. Putting people in the right roles to play to their strengths but challenging them just enough. It’s important to be able to put your ego aside so that people can bring new ideas to the table, creating an environment where there is collaboration and then ultimately helping people find ways to be helped and to hold themselves accountable. It’s nnot always about “cracking the whip” as a manager, but creating a framework where your people can really flourish because they know exactly what’s expected of them. This is important for your people to know exactly what’s expected of them, so they can do their best and push the organization forward.
3 ways to Better Manage Your People
- Put people in the right roles
- Create an Environment where there is collaboration
- Help people find ways to be helped and to hold themselves accountable.
Process to Best Attract Good Talent
Get to understand people on a personal level. It starts from the first interview, to the first anniversary, showing interest and treating them as people.
Remember that every person is different, the way you manage one person won’t work with another, learn what makes them tick, what makes them motivated, what are their personal passions outside of work. Get to know your people so you can help foster them and create an environment where there’s enough balance and people get excited to come in to work every day.
Now that you have the right people in place and in the right seats, now you have to figure out a process by which everybody can operate consistently.
It goes back to our last P, it’s about how you hold people accountable and that’s why it’s important to set very clear objectives for the team, then translate down to the individual level. Once you’ve completed that process, this will create a structure by which everybody can be aligned towards that common goal.
It could be anything as tactical as the project management software that you use to keep everybody clear on what the next step is and who has to approve certain things all the way through to just how you communicate. For example, Aaron explained at 4C Insight, is that they try to actually in some ways you know I think the best process is very little process. So we try to keep things much less formal so that everybody can over index on just doing the work versus thinking about how we manage the work.
How you Convert Creative Processes into Habits
Aaron explains how his team turns creative processes into a habit.
We have a weekly team meeting and it started as a sort of a status type of meeting and everyone would come in and we would around the table and you know, what’s everybody working on. This is essential to have at the start.
When we were first bringing people in and everyone was kind of new and we had to make sure that everybody knew what everyone else was doing. But then we got to a point where we say OK we’re in each other’s head now we now have some process to be able to keep track of some of these moving parts. We don’t have to spend our time in person actually just running down and reiterating what we’ve already done or what we’re doing next week. We can start to dig in on some of the things to discuss or brainstorm. And I think in that case you know it became very clear when the time was to turn our weekly from just a status meeting into a true collaboration session.
So now we have the people in the process to operate within. How do we put a plan together that’s ultimately going to help the company meet its objectives. In our case here from a 4c perspective the marketing team is very focused on helping attract new customers to come onto our platform and also retain and grow our current customers. So you know like many other B2B marketers we are very focused on supporting revenue and helping drive customer satisfaction. And so the plans that we put together have to be very precise in supporting the goals of the company and in particular the revenue client service teams. And so there’s any number of tactics that we can try and when we put a plan together we try to be fluid about it. We do set annual plans I’m sure like many companies but we don’t get locked in and we’re always making changes on a daily and weekly basis based on what’s working, what’s trending. And if some of the other business realities are changing as well in the environment.
Aaron: “First have a plan but with flexibility for change”
How to measure people based on objectives
Aaron’s take on OKRs: OKR (Objectives & Key Results) are a big part of our culture here at 4C. We do anchor on those, we set them quarterly and discuss them no less than weekly. So yes everyone has their individual OKRS that ladder up to a departmental OKR, Which ladders us up to a company. OKR. We’re a very transparent culture so everybody’s OKRS are visible and we’re always as we check in. We actually use a platform called 7Geese to implement our OKRs and everyone can see everybody’s and we can see how we’re tracking along. You can watch the little goose flying across the screen as we’re marching towards our goal.
Product is not always tangible, it can be your service, your team or software.
From a marketing perspective you may or may not have ownership over product development. In my case I don’t, have a great partner I know a pop group that is our chief product officer who looks after the product both in terms of thinking ahead the roadmap and just making sure current capabilities are there. But there’s a lot of cross pollination between our teams and our outputs run in the front lines out there in the marketplace looking after the positioning and understanding what other folks are doing. And so as we can bring back those inputs to the team we can have a big hand in helping shape how this product delivers for our customers. I think anyone in marketing who does not have a vested interest in product won’t have a very long career in marketing and it doesn’t have to work. Technology company or product doesn’t have to be something tangible that you know actually like you know in a box or in our case software you know, you’re your product could be the team, if you’re if you’re working for an agency you know and you’re selling a service that is your product.
Questions to ask yourself:
How do you shape your product in a way that the value proposition becomes very clear?
How can you continually remind people the benefits you’re delivering to them?
How to Make your Brand Come to Life?
Each interaction with the product is very important.
How is that helping reinforce your brand and reiterate to the customer how they’re getting value and there’s lots of ways you can take that. In our case we just try and be very thoughtful about each interaction, each screen within the platform. Each invoice that somebody gets. How is that helping making the brand come to life and ultimately drive satisfaction.
How to Align your Marketing and Product Team
It’s important to align your marketing and product team with continued communication and collaboration. If both teams are aligned with a common purpose and there is transparency between the teams, it’s easy to attain your desired objectives. Aaron explains that he recruits , attracts and retains talent based around the companies four key values. Knowing that we’re all kind of cut from the same cloth and focused on prioritizing the same types of things helps create trust upon which we can build.
Your product team may be in another state, or even country but face time is critical to build relationships and connect with your team on a personal level. It’s not always just about what’s the next thing on the agenda or the spreadsheet or the roadmap but actually about forming a relationship which will translate into the best possible product.
So here it’s thinking about how you’ve taken what you’ve built and that can be inclusive of you know people, process, products and packaged up in a way where the value proposition is immediately obvious very clear and benefit driven.
Put the hat on of your customer. What’s something that they’re going to respond to in our case. I’m actually quite fortunate because my audience, my customer is me. It’s the CMO at other companies and so I have in some ways a unique insight. We’re not always so blessed to work in a to market products where we’re the intended target audience right. Sometimes you know you might be working on the PNG account and you know you might be you know in your early 20s and trying to market diapers to you know people who are you know 10 and 20 years and pulling different stage of life and so you have to really work hard to get in their heads and say All right you know what. What makes them tick. In my case I don’t have to work as hard and I can vary what would attract my attention. You know just like everybody else we’re very busy times at a premium the inbox is full.
How do you breakthrough in that environment and really get a message that’s authentic and connects and that’s where the packaging comes into play and that’s everything from the words you choose to the visuals to the overall way that you tell your brand story. And if you can get that right sometimes you can even overcome some things that might be lacking in the product itself.
Aaron’s example “You know if you can package it out I’m sure you can pick on this even just in something you might have ordered you know off of Amazon or Target or Walmart another insert retailer here you know if it comes in a nice enough package and it deals premium and you feel like you’ve got a good deal even if it doesn’t do exactly what you thought based on the product description of the reviews your satisfaction can still be high.”
Making sure that the culture you’ve built is purpose driven is critical for success. Many times in B2B Marketing, unless you are working for a healthcare organization, you probably aren’t saving lives. However, that does not mean that Marketing isn’t important. You have to get your team excited about it by showing your own personal passion. Aaron mentioned that it could be anything from the way that you have structured your organization, give back days, or even just in the way you carry yourself as a manager and you know making sure that people understand that you care about them and your values are shared values.
One interesting point Aaron had was that when he first started out, 10-20 years ago, people didn’t bring their personal passions or core values into the workplace. Times have changed now however, as “if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing and people don’t really have an interest in you.”
So you can think about it in terms of a broader societal issues but even just at a micro level having a vision within your organization being very clear on what it is you’re trying to do and why that creates value for some people in the ecosystem that can be enough to really rally and motivate people or in our case you might find some interesting ways where you know I actually have to amend my comment earlier about we’re not saving lives here. We just had a team of our folks who are walking down by the Chicago River which is just across the street here and there was someone in distress and they stopped and they helped that person and perform in a it was able well I’ll leave them the details out but needless to say I can now say we actually are saving lives here at 4Cs.
Key Values that Help Companies Grow
Today’s consumers are driven by causes. We all want to see that our purchases make a meaningful impact on this planet. A classic case of cause based product is TOMS shoes. So the big question is when should marketing leaders look for cause based impact marketing by setting values within your organization. Essentially, what is that tipping point where as leaders we drive the values in our team – should it be based In terms of employee size or revenues?
To this Aaron had an interesting point to make “It starts all the way at the beginning because that’s how you’re going to build your team of people that aren’t going to you’re going to want to support this your mission are going to be ones who support your purpose. If you can be clear about what that is from the beginning, you’ll have the best chance to bring on the right people who will carry you to the subsequent phases of your lifecycle as a business. I don’t think it’s ever too early to come out with that you have to understand too that that might change over time and might adapt. You may have to pivot or in some cases just you know make some slight tweaks and you have to be OK with that actually one of our core values here at 4C is adaptability and the ability to when confronted with constraints you know be flexible enough to work your way around and make the necessary adjustments. And so we look for people who are comfortable with change because we know that change is inevitable and we look for people who turn that into opportunity and can thrive off of that.
You can’t be a marketer, If you haven’t talked about the ROI. Aaron’s last P was profit, but this is certainly not the least important. If you can conquer the first 6 Ps, then you’ll find yourself delivering profit for your organization or ultimately whatever you’re being held accountable for. Profit is going to mean different things in different contexts.
We have to remember that marketing is not an expense, marketing delivers revenues. Aaron advised that he spends a lot of time thinking about how his team can make sure that they’ve built all the right mechanisms such that each activity can be tracked and associated all the way through to revenue. So we have a proprietary scoring model and a bunch of different systems. We’ve integrated so that in any given time I can say, All right here’s what marketing is spending across all our various activities and here’s how that’s delivering on leads and opportunities. You do this so there is no doubt that the core part of marketing leadership is delivering on that but I think the way that you manage that process and the way you give visibility to your team and your peers into how you’re actually doing on that front is is half the battle. The other half of course is hitting the number.
It’s important to note that marketing has a lot of intangibles to measure. There is a direct contribution, such as how many deals did marketing get, but another attribution is product development, and customer support that also drives revenue.
Aaron gave a few examples of intangibles, and how he measures these factors. “We measure Net Promoter Score and that goes back to that you know thinking through each interaction with the product and making sure that that gives off an ultimately satisfactory experience. Those are all things that can play and that aren’t direct revenue metrics but are going to contribute to profit because you’re either gonna keep your clients happy and they’re going to stay with you or you’re not and they’re going to leave. So that all has to be taken into account.