Decoding the CEO-CMO Dynamic
It's true. In many cases, you, as CEOs, do not understand marketing.
As a CMO, I sometimes needed help understanding marketing strategy and channels. It's not your fault (maybe it was mine). Many CEOs are from something other than marketing backgrounds. It's more common you have worked in sales, finance or operations. Strangely, only a few CMOs become CEOs, but that's a different debate.
The big problem lies in the fact that B2B marketing is massively complicated. This whole concept of 'building a marketing machine is a significant challenge. But it's what you, the CEO, want. Plus, you know what, you don’t care about the mechanics of the machine.
You just, from a high level, see inputs and outputs. In many cases, the middle ground is not of interest. You don't care about the complexity of stitching together 15 channels to drive results in an integrated, impactful way. Well, you might do, but you’re more interested in what got done, did it work, and if it didn’t work, what’s the new course?
This is where a great CMO will come in. They will think about the mechanics. They will be great at explaining clearly the inputs and what are the outputs. If the results differ from where they need to be, they need to be good at explaining the pivots, the challenges and what the team is doing to solve those issues. It is all about communication and alignment with the business strategy - you have to feel they drive that agenda for you.
As a strong CEO, you know nothing is easy to fix. At the same time, and in many cases, your CMO is scared of being open with you on challenges; if you can foster an environment of trust, you’ll be more likely to go in the right direction. It’s not about being hands-off either; it’s about being in the correct detail and supporting the right relationship to outcomes.
Action Plan: Next steps
In conclusion, you must let marketing build an architecture for your B2B marketing efforts strategically. Let them piece together multiple components like an engine. But make sure you understand what is getting done, why and whether the process is interconnected to a clear strategy for the current quarter or FY.
Obsess more about what it means, why they are doing it, and how the engine's build will develop over time. Make sure you appreciate the complexity, but not nitpicking about the complexity. This might interrupt the strategy.
When experiencing effective comms, you will likely understand two broad buckets; they’ll talk clearly about the inputs (people, process, prioritisation and budget) to outputs (what's getting done, audience building and sales activation).
If this is what you are experiencing, you have a decent CMO.