HomeBlog Rise and Fall of a CMO: A Cautionary Tale

Rise and Fall of a CMO: A Cautionary Tale

January 15, 2014 | By Jay Gaines

Striving to align sales and marketing in an organization can be a huge challenge. A successful CMO must position marketing as a partner in driving profitable revenue growth, instead of a tactical support function.

What follows is a true story. Names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent.

Once there was a new chief marketing officer whom we will call Pat. S/he entered the role with great fanfare and raised hopes across the enterprise . . . except for sales; they were mostly indifferent, for they had been disappointed before.

Thankfully, this new marketing leader had a wise and benevolent CEO, who explained that the previous CMO had been let go after an internal survey showed that the perception of the entire sales team was that marketing provided little to no value. The CEO was also clear in her expectations of Pat – to align marketing as a close partner to sales and transform marketing into a measurable business contributor. With the mission clearly defined, Pat swung into action, determined to prove the value of marketing.

Pat’s first order of business was to meet with the head of sales, as well as multiple sales managers and individual reps. In each meeting s/he asked one simple question: What do you need from marketing? Pat received many, many answers to this question that all added up to one thing: better day-to-day support.

Pat didn’t hesitate:

  • Within 30 days, processes were defined and implemented to track every sales request for marketing support.
  • Within 60 days, marketing had entered into a service-level agreement with sales to respond to every sales request in one business day, providing an estimate for when each request would be fulfilled.
  • After six months, marketing had achieved a 98 percent fulfillment rate of every sales request within the estimated timeframe.
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    Nine months after s/he started, Pat was ready to survey sales to measure how much sentiment about marketing’s value had increased. The internal survey revealed that sales reps and leaders viewed marketing as contributing little to no value . . . again! Pat was let go before s/he had been there a year. Poor Pat.

    Clearly, Pat’s big mistake was positioning marketing as a tactical support function instead of a partner in driving profitable revenue growth. When Pat asked sales what it wanted from marketing, s/he effectively delivered the message that marketing has no idea what to do. In a world defined by empowered b-to-b buyers who typically don’t engage with sales until they are more than halfway through their buying process, Pat should have had a better idea of how marketing should align with sales vs. supporting every single ad hoc request from every single rep.

    While all sales organizations need support, and marketing absolutely must have proper resources and processes to do this, supporting random requests is not a meaningful or measurable contribution to the business.

    Essentially, Pat ensured that marketing would remain an opaque cost center. Don’t be a Pat. Unless your name is Pat . . . in which case carry on, while avoiding being Pat-like.

    Jay Gaines

    Jay Gaines is Chief Marketing Officer and Research Fellow at SiriusDecisions. His experience includes team building and leadership, marketing strategy and planning, marketing budget and operations management, demand creation, sales and marketing alignment, business development, product development and management, interactive marketing/advertising, inbound marketing and social media. Follow Jay on Twitter @izjay.

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