Within a set of CMO responsibilities, your strategic imperatives are your North Star: they keep everyone on the marketing team moving in the right direction.
If you’re a CMO, chances are you’re feeling stretched. In the 2016 CMO Survey from Deloitte, more than four out of five CMOs (81%) reported that marketing’s role has broadened in their organization. And if you’re a CMO at a growth-focused organization, you’re stretched even further as you try to keep pace with the rapid evolution of both your company and your responsibilities.
Being smart about delegating and outsourcing is key, and many CMOs are too shy about both—especially those in smaller companies. Believing you need to do everything is an easy trap to fall into: the truth is that many functions can be outsourced, in whole or in part, very successfully—content creation, SEO management and campaign reporting, to name a few.
But there are some CMO responsibilities that no CMO can afford to give away. Having led marketing efforts at several early- and late-stage tech businesses, I’ve learned that while many responsibilities can (and should) be pushed off the CMO’s desk, these three should always be front and center.
Early-stage companies tend to have a “get ‘er done” attitude, with people at every level rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. It’s a good quality to have, but not if it elevates activity above strategy.
No matter how hectic things get, CMOs need to carve out the time to identify the core imperatives that move your function forwards. Those imperatives will depend on the size and maturity level of your company, but for a startup that’s reached around $10 million in annual revenue, you’re looking at:
1. Awareness. You’re still establishing your place in the market, and you’re going to struggle with the level of awareness. You need to ensure your inside sales people aren’t spending the first five minutes of any call explaining who the company is and what your products do.
2. Demand. Establishing mindshare is great, but it’s meaningless unless it translates into demand for your products or services. You need content that engages your target market, lead forms to capture their email addresses, and a strategy for getting them to your trade-show booth.
3. Quality. Once awareness and demand are trending upward, you need a process for evaluating and optimizing the quality of the leads entering your system and the conversion metrics at every point in the marketing and sales pipeline.
Within a set of CMO responsibilities, your strategic imperatives are your North Star: they keep everyone on the marketing team moving in the right direction. With that beacon in your sightlines, it’s far easier to see which activities move you closer and which are pulling you off course.
Every marketer needs to be a data-driven marketer. Get those measurement tools in place, and start evaluating your performance against your strategic imperatives. Google Analytics is free and it’s one of the best tools out there for learning how your website is performing. Your marketing automation and CRM platforms also provide a wealth of data, but, as a CMO, you need to make it a priority to sift through it. Which channels are driving traffic? Which search terms are most popular? Where are your visitors spending time? How are your lead-gen forms performing?
Look back on performance on a monthly, quarterly and year-end basis: “This is what we said we were going to do. How did we perform against it?” Based on the metrics, decide what’s working, what’s not and what needs a little more time to bear fruit. If you have that discipline and cadence, you’re 90% of the way to success.
Analyst relations are often one of the first CMO responsibilities outsourced to a PR firm or delegated to a less senior team member, but that can be a recipe for disaster. Analyst relations is mission-critical if you’re a technology business, because analysts influence everyone—from the buyers who are evaluating solutions to the journalists who cover your space to the investors who are looking at your company’s potential.
You can leave the coordination and planning to your PR firm, but they should never set the communications plan or own the relationship with the analyst. When there’s an opportunity to talk to an analyst, the CMO needs to be on the call—not a junior staffer. By setting the strategy and nurturing that relationship personally, you can make sure that your company’s message gets across and that the analyst feels respected and supported. I make sure I reserve blocks of time on my calendar for analysts because I know the time pays off in terms of the quality of coverage my firm gets.
Here’s the bottom line.
Recognizing that your time and energies are not limitless is a tough lesson, but one that every successful CMO needs to learn. Knowing what to own and what to give away—either by delegating to another team member or outsourcing to an agency or service partner—is a huge part of the job. And in my experience, while the mix of CMO responsibilities may vary based on the unique strengths you bring to the job, the strategy, analytics and analyst relations should always be at the top of your own to-do list.