Even top marketers sometimes ask: “Do I have what it takes to step up and shape my company’s customer agenda?” But when good marketers hold back, companies may struggle to grow and customers are worse off. That’s when it’s time to add more fuel into marketer’s tank: confidence (from my cmo.com column).
A few days ago, I started teaching the new CMO class of the Fellowship Program (a joint venture between the Marketing Academy and McKinsey). These CMOs are a high-powered group of successful executives from top companies, who aim to become CEOs. As we explored leadership barriers in marketing, one big theme that came through was confidence.
Throughout their careers, these top marketers have had to overcome doubts about their own skills, their ability to speak up, and their right to shape the agenda. But all have built-up their confidence and are now shooting for the top job.
But why aren’t marketers more confident in the first place? Patrick Barwise and I explored the confidence issue in a large study with profiles of over 68,000 leaders (we’ll publish the findings in our new book “The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader”). We found three important reasons why marketers sometimes feel less confident in their jobs than their peers:
Customer Leaders Are The Eros In A Logos World
Most CMOs think strategically; see the big picture; and are sensitive to emotions (that’s why they understand customers so well). Scientists call these: Eros personality traits. However, many company roles (like finance or operations), require rational leadership with a focus on the here and now, facts, and structure (Logos personality traits). Eros and Logos leaders think and act differently. It’s no surprise that Eros-marketers sometimes think “nobody understands me” — and lose confidence. But when marketers realize that it’s “ok” to be different, when they create and innovate, and when they learn to talk effectively with Logos leaders, confidence rises.
Customer Leaders Are All About The Future (Revenue)
Let’s face it: next to last year’s P&L, future revenue plans always look a little crude. Even if CMOs understand customers well, do all the testing in the world, and plan as much detail as one can imagine, there’s still one issue left: nobody can guarantee what customers will do. Many marketers are fighting uphill battles to forecast success — only to learn these future numbers are never as good as a P&L. This too doesn’t build confidence. Here’s the good news: every CEO and CFO knows that forecasts cannot be accurate. When marketers have an honest discussion about future revenues, take the thoughts of the CEO and CFO on board, and develop numbers together, confidence rises. At the end of the day, what’s way more important than last year’s numbers, for every CEO, is future revenue – and that’s what customer leaders stand for.
Customer Leaders Don’t Have Official Authority
There’s nothing more confidence-nagging than great marketing plans that don’t get executed by other parts of an organization. Every CMO has seen it. We found in our research that too many marketers rely on the company’s top management to enforce marketing execution across departments. This may have worked 100 years ago, but not today. To ensure great customer ideas see the light of the day, successful marketers must leave their silos, walk the halls, and mobilize colleagues to serve customers better — independent of reporting lines. The role of customer leaders is to start a movement — not to own it. And when others join the movement, confidence rises.
As customer leaders, a CMOs is the lynchpin of a company’s customer success. As new research clearly proves, powerful marketing departments have a clear and positive impact on company performance (e.g. revenue, stock returns and return on assets).
Top marketers have all the reasons to be confident!