Finding the Right Definition of Success
In this era of shiny new things constantly clamoring for our attention, it’s easy to feel like you always need to buy the latest and greatest gadget, software or whatever. If you’ve ever drooled over the latest high-definition screen to hit the market or when Apple announces a new iPhone model, you know what I’m talking about.
It also happens in business, particularly in marketing where technology offerings and new categories have ballooned over the last five years. Just check out Scott Brinker’s annual marketing tech landscape, which featured 3,500 martech companies in 2016, up from 150 in 2011. No doubt many of these newer companies have effective products that can help marketers achieve some good results.
But that’s not really the question, is it? The CMO’s job is not to follow the latest and greatest trends. Unfortunately, peer pressure didn’t go away after high school, and there are plenty of marketing execs who think they need to invest in new technology just because everyone else is doing it. The problem is many CMOs are focused on the wrong definition of success. They’re asking themselves “do I have AI (or machine learning or ABM…) working for me?” As Forrester pointed out in a recent report on AI, some marketers actually think they have adopted the latest technology, but they actually don’t even know what it is.
A cornerstone of marketing philosophy is that you sell the problem and the solution, not the features and functions.
In this case, the problem is:
You can’t prove business impact and business value, so your CEO wants to let you go.
The solution is:
A system of accepted analytics that allows you to demonstrate business impact, the time that it takes to generate that impact, and how much you have pervasively improved an area of disparate performance. Sales productivity is one of many examples of that.
How to get there:
You need to buy the products and hire the people necessary to demonstrate your department’s business impact in a way that satisfies the C-suite and business colleagues across the company. Implicit in that approach is the idea of reverse-engineering the solution based on the end-game. If you do that, and their answer is “we’re satisfied,” then you have assembled the right people, processes and technology. If the answer is no, you still have work to do.
Sadly, a lot of marketers aren’t asking themselves the right question, which is an utterly pragmatic focus on business impact and business value creation. Some are focused on more early and mid-cycle metrics such as Twitter followers and lead generation. But business leaders want to know how they are impacting business metrics such as revenue, margin and cash flow. That disconnect between marketing departments and the rest of the C-suite is largely responsible for the high turnover among CMOs and why they are easy targets when results don’t measure up.