Despite the pandemic the Worshipful Company of Marketors of which I am a Past Master has been going from strength to strength recruiting more new members than in a normal year, partly because the Master Lesley Wilson has managed to organise a programme of online events of high quality. This week I attended a particularly professional event called “Future-proof your career in marketing: Why customer obsession is more important than ever for CMOs “. This was delivered by Kate Harrison, partner, customer marketing and commercial practice leader at executive search firm, Savannah.[i]
During this event Kate shared board insights and how having a customer-centric mindset is even more crucial now and should always be at the core of everything a marketing specialist does. As someone who is no longer looking to develop his career in marketing you might think that I would not be interested in attending such an event. But I have a passion for the subject and like to keep up to date even if I’m no longer throwing my own hat in the ring. Indeed I was pleasantly surprised that many of the people on the call were at the same stage of life as me but in discussion with a few of them afterwards I found they all thought it a highly impressive and up-to-date presentation.
Kate has operated within the customer, communications and marketing functions for 25 years, in both industry and in executive search. She advises clients seeking commercial growth from transformative customer experience in marketing. She covers all marketing, customer, brand, performance and communications disciplines, including the specialisms of creative, content, media, Insight/analytics, partnerships and martech. Throughout her career, Kate has developed an extensive network of the best talent in marketing throughout the UK, Europe, and the USA. She told us that she has conducted 30,000 conversations in this field.
Boards want from their CMO’s high value customer data and human insight; the business case for new marketing investment; the strategic and tactical advantage; full funnel brand marketing strategy; agile test and learn innovation and pivots; creativity rooted in commerciality; effective communications internally and externally; collaboration not presenteeism; and diversity of thinking. As well as intelligence quotient and emotional quotient, boards also want their CMOs to have dignity quotient i.e. that they show respect to their colleagues. This has become particularly relevant owing to the pandemic and the prevalence of remote working.
The biggest secret to a CMO’s success is “Customer Obsession”. This involves the fixation to drive strategy and actions to deliver greater value for customers by embedding customers’ real perspectives at the heart of the company. Given change is the only constant CMOs deliver most commercial value to boards when they understand customer psychology, moods and mindsets, not just data. Customer obsession drives customer value driving revenue and protecting margin. It drives product/service and pricing differentiation. It drives engagement inside and out. It drives effective decisions. It creates the business case for marketing investment. It drives meaningful valuable creativity and innovation.
Kate described the key leadership characteristics for delivering customer obsession as follows:
Kate told us that tier 1 marketing leaders define the purpose and culture of the customer value. They set objectives which create customer value and set marketing strategies for how customers feel not just what they do. They fuse customer data and human insight together. They champion customers in boardrooms and across organisations and develop custom obsessed people and teams. They have a growth mindset of learning and customer curiosity and create a culture of collaboration from multifunctional teams beyond representation in meetings.
If you want to develop a future proofed CV you should show blended experience of marketing with customer technology; successful employment of data and insights and evidence of the four leadership characteristics: empathy, determination, humility, and service mindset. You need to demonstrate skills across brand and performance marketing to create a T-shaped career: i.e. strong experience in one marketing discipline before spreading out across other disciplines. However, in the USA boards increasingly look for multi-disciplined experience from an earlier stage in one’s career. In addition you should show evidence of learning more than knowing; evidence of flex and pivots with an overall marketing strategy; diversity of thought and problem-solving to drive creativity and innovation; multisector experiences in demand in a highly competitive market; eclectic team design and development; skills in true collaboration creation and championing not owning customers in boardrooms across companies.
In summary, strong CMOs continuously learn how to make their brand, product, service and teams better and different, because without better and different, customers pay less or don’t buy. Change is the only constant, the proliferation of customer choice is intensifying, and hence it has never been more important to deliver real customer value. Marketing leaders who know how to drive customer advantage for commercial impact are in high demand. Human creativity and technology don’t work without each other. Those who ask what it means for our customers are the future.