‘Don’t Get Stuck in a Marketing Bubble’ and Other Ways CMOs Become Leaders | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

‘Don’t Get Stuck in a Marketing Bubble’ and Other Ways CMOs Become Leaders

June 8, 2021

By Matthew Schwartz


Amy Summy, CMO at Labcorp, a global life sciences company, says she frequently meets with marketers who don't know what a profit and loss statement is or the meaning of basic financial terms.

Unfortunately, it's a fairly common lament in the marketing industry. CMOs and marketers, forever spooked by balance sheets, lean on right-brained activities like imagination and intuition, but lack left-brained tools such as mathematics and linear thinking.

As data management and online analytics play a bigger role in marketing and advertising, CMOs who don't get out of their comfort zone could pay a heavy price.

"Such a lack of understanding stalls your career progression, since most CMOs are being evaluated as business leaders, not just marketers," Summy says.

But there are several steps marketers can take to change the narrative, starting with seeing themselves as businesspeople first, and marketers second.

"Don't get stuck in a marketing bubble," Summy says. "Make an effort to learn and embrace the language of business and finance. Knowing the ins and outs of the financial side gives you a better sense of how marketing can impact a company's bottom line and move it forward."

Although many CEOs and other C-suite executives can be elusive, there's a growing onus on marketers to initiate legitimate change.

"To some extent, becoming a business leader does require support from others within your organization," Summy says. "But the marketer has to start the conversation. Frame your work in a way that highlights what matters to the business. Do that well, and people will listen."

Summy will share her insights about how marketers transition to business leadership roles at the 2021 ANA Masters of B2B Marketing Conference, July 21–23 in Phoenix, Ariz.

In the meantime, for some background on how marketers can improve their leadership chops, read these articles from ANA magazine.

  • Can B2B Marketers Take the Lead Post-Pandemic? Widespread vaccinations have helped to turn the tide in the U.S., albeit haltingly. As a sense of normalcy returns and pent-up demand among buyers starts to materialize, B2B marketers have what may be a unique opportunity to show their digital-marketing prowess and land bigger budgets. As Jaime Punishill, CMO at Lionbridge puts it, "Before the pandemic, some Lionbridge salespeople were unsure of how critical digital marketing was to revenue growth. [But] when they had to figure out how to operate in a totally digital world, they got an object lesson in just how effective it can be." The pandemic has been the great accelerator for online sales and marketing, of course. Marketers can spur sales by altering their mindset to focus on outcomes (rather than inputs) and having a sharper lens for marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and KPIs. Sales folks are going to have to meet marketers halfway, but marketers are going to have to rattle the cage first.
  • UPS Bakes Digital Transformation Into the Brand. Nurturing the "Transformation Tree." Fostering a nimble culture. Elevating data and analytics. These are just three of the key aspects for B2B marketers eager to steer change and take on a leadership position, according to Kevin Warren, CMO at UPS. Since taking charge in 2018, Warren has been rebuilding UPS's marketing organization around what he calls "the new digital imperative." UPS was laying the groundwork for digital transformation for nearly two years before the pandemic, as Warren generated higher-quality revenue and deployed technology to increase operating efficiency and enhance customer service. But the pandemic has only accelerated innovation, providing more runway for Warren and his team to strengthen their relationships outside of the marketing orbit, fuel the company's competitive juices, and tap into new SMB customers and prospects.
  • Conversant in the C-suite. It's a constant knock on B2B marketers: Once they land a seat at the table they don't know how to leverage it, and default to marketing-speak — clicks, views, and likes — rather than communicate in hard financial terms (KPIs, top-live revenue, outcomes). Akin to other areas of the business, being conversant in the C-suite requires cultivating relationships with other departments. "By understanding the role of the other departments, you will start to see where marketing can assist and how you can work together toward a common goal," Jen Jones, SVP of corporate marketing at Cision, told ANA magazine. Whether CMOs are able to succeed in the C-suite may depend on which one of three archetypes, per McKinsey, they embody: Friends, Loners, and Unifiers. Guess who smoked the competition when it comes to being more likely to have mutually accountable relationship within the C-suite and more likely to have a clearly defined role in the eyes of their C-suite colleagues?

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