Archive for the ‘CMO’ Category

I’m not sure how much longer people can keep continuing to write the same articles, about the same topics, saying the same things, predicting the same “changes”, and expect anything to fundamentally change. I’m referring to an article published in Advertising Age called “The New Normal for CMOs” ironically under the column called CMO Strategy.

Simply regurgitating the same information that has prevailed the past several years is not strategic, and surely won’t help CMOs. Listing what the prevailing market conditions are, rather than offering new ideas for CMOs on how to deal with prevailing market conditions, is not strategic – it is informational. Plus, the information provided most of the time, or at least in this piece, is not new.

If a particular mindset has been in place for years or even decades, it should already be normal.

To paraphrase the main points in the article referenced above, each of which the author points out as “changes” or shifts for 2011:

* Your media mix is probably changing.

* LTV and customer loyalty is crucial, rather than a churn and burn strategy.

* Marketing and customer engagement is better when rooted in analytics.

* Marketing is no longer siloed and close partnerships with Finance is necessary.

* Performance-based procurement partnerships will become prevalent.

* Niche, creative expertise replaces one-size-fits-all agencies.

* Production and creative will decouple for efficiency’s sake.

* Consumers are tough to reach; agency compensation models will change accordingly.

* Minorities, and minority buying power, are significant, too.

* CMOs need to have a diverse skill set.

Summary: CMOs will be asked to do more with less.

Really? Which one of those have you not heard of before? Some of this is so basic and fundamental to what a CMO should have been thinking about for year that if you’re not thinking about them now, you shouldn’t be a CMO.

Everyone knows about the allure of social media. Everyone knows a 30-second spot won’t blanket your target audience anymore. So what can CMOs do, what should their new reality be? CMOs and top marketing executives need some new thinking or alternate points of view. I will give you two:

1) CMOs need to stop talking about shrinking budgets; everyone’s budget is tight and everything is fundamentally related to the recessionary times we live in. At some point, the more CMOs talk about their budgets shrinking, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, it is tougher to reach consumers than ever before, and CMOs have to “do more with less”, but when has that not been the case?

If your partnership with the CFO is as strong as the author in the Ad Age piece says it should be, and your marketing is rooted in analytics and ROI as the Ad Age piece says it should be, then why is your budget shrinking? Why not work to get your budget larger at the expense of another non-revenue producing, unproven, less impactful area? You can fix your shrinking budget, trust me.

2) Why do you think audiences are so fragmented nowadays versus, say, 10 years ago? Because they have thousands of places to get and receive content, and communicate. Content includes communication, but also includes websites, forums, social networks, and blogs. Why aren’t CMOs focusing on creating content for themselves or their brand and build their own communities that way? It is great to rely on Facebook and Twitter as communication mechanisms and platforms, but why not own your own real estate rather than renting? Have the conversation on your own (branded) terms. Then it becomes a lot easier to engage your target audience.

I think this should be *the* trend for 2011. By “creating content”, I’m not solely talking about having a Facebook page. I’m talking about creating your own forums, blogs, mini-sites and the like. Let your target audience and potential consumers talk about your brand and your product on your platform or your site where you can be a lot more creative and interactive. It is cheap, free, easy and efficient.

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A recent article in Advertising Age brings to light the qualities of a new breed of CMO. Gone are the days of more style than substance, more flair than foundation, more flamboyance than “meat”. In other words, we’re in the post-rock-star CMO era.

There is something to this, trust me. A CMO has two major constituencies: internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. Internally, with more and more CMO’s having a stronger voice around Board tables, the onus is on them to show actual results rather than be a cheerleader. Externally, in trying economic times, people don’t really want to hear a lot of talk and promises. They want to be impressed, and it is a CMO’s job to have their business stand out, but it is increasingly important to achieve this through tangible action.

One quality mentioned in the Ad Age piece is humility and a “team first” mentality. Nowadays if you’re a CMO, I don’t know how you survive without these two things. Hopefully you’re on an executive team, like I am fortunate enough to be, that if anyone gets too much of an ego or “me first” mentality, they get brought back down to earth immediately.

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A few quick words of thanks to John Chow, Shoemoney, DK and Bevo Media for their shout-outs and compliments relating to our company’s party at the Playboy Mansion. As a lot of you know, it was our 2nd year doing the Epic Publisher Challenge, which was a 6 month competition for our web publishers culminating in an expenses paid weekend in LA and a party at the Playboy Mansion for the 50 or so top performers. Beyond the great time had by all, the competition itself and the formula we used throughout the 6-month competition could really be a business school case study in how to do event marketing and have what is seemingly a large expense become a major revenue producer and brand tent pole. I’ll be doing an entire series of posts in the future in which I will detail the thinking and rationale behind how I view incentives and event marketing and why they go together. I feel this is an important topic that a lot of companies or businesses can use if they know their target audience(s).

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My colleagues at Advantage Media launched a new series called “Author Advantage TV”. My friend Adam Witty, CEO of Advantage Media, is the host of this weekly show. Keep an eye on them in the coming months and you might see a familiar face or two.

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Finally, a piece I wrote early in 2010 for iMedia Connection about the importance of corporate culture, which tied in at the time with a theme I covered in depth in Winning the Web magazine, has gotten a lot of positive reaction and significant pass-around as of late. More and more, in these trying economic times, corporate culture is potentially THE most important element in a company’s success. People usually perform better when they are interested, passionate and having fun. As I pointed out, part of a strong culture is about communication. Whether from the top down, or across departments, making sure employees feel not only in the loop but as having a say-so in things is a huge factor to a company’s short and long-term success. Also be sure to check out Advertising Age on Monday, September 20th for a list of the best company’s to work for in Media and Marketing.

This post was originally carried in the August issue of Feedfront Magazine, found here. You can download the entire issue here.

Most advertising executives and marketers believe nowadays that a successful public relations strategy can play a vital and ROI-accretive role in their company’s success.

From creating a positive corporate image, to reaching out to influencers within the industry or media, public relations can shape how both internal and external stakeholders view the company.

With the speed at which our communication tactics are changing, it is fundamental that your company’s PR strategy remain current and in line with corporate goals.

In today’s business world, immediacy and transparency are two terms that should be of high importance to company executives. Due to the Internet-created 24 hour news cycle of our society, any news that a company makes—whether it is good or bad—can be spread all over the world in a matter of minutes.

With social media, blogs and forums, consumers and affiliates have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with company representatives to share their thoughts and make their voices heard. This is vastly different from a decade ago when public relations were seen as one-way communication, with the companies controlling the message.

The ability of consumers and performance marketers to engage in conversations with company representatives makes it necessary for companies to be transparent. It can be very easy for advertising agencies, networks and performance-based affiliates to be viewed negatively if they are not upfront about their business practices.

Often, companies that are transparent are more successful due to the trust they are able to foster with their internal and external publics.

That said, just having a solid public relations mindset is not enough. Companies must be willing to speak up about the necessity of setting a good example with their public relations strategy. Because misinformation can be spread so easily, having good relationships with media and trusting stakeholders and affiliates can help companies avoid a crisis situation.

Advertising companies and networks must ensure that everyone—from employees to affiliates—is on the same page. If the employees are unhappy about the direction their company is perceived to be heading, morale and production will drop, and this image manifests itself outside company walls.

But if stakeholders and other external influencers are confident in your company, it will be reflected in your brand’s image and return on investment.

By creating and sticking to a strong PR approach, advertising organizations can ensure that they are communicating quickly and efficiently with affiliates. This communication is important to ensure that everyone associated with the company is presenting a unified message.

With so many Web-savvy people engaged with networks and ad intermediaries, the smallest discrepancy or problem can make news, affecting the company’s brand, as well as its finances.

The bottom line is this: PR is more important than ever no matter where you sit in the online marketing ecosystem.

Mike Sprouse is the CMO of Epic Media Group, where he oversees all marketing strategy.

Over the weekend, on the heels of two very successful events run by my marketing team, I was asked by a client how marketing today was different than marketing 10 years ago. I thought about it and answered “CMO’s and GM’s need to be comfortable in embracing the fragmented nature of the world”. He looked at me strangely and here’s what I meant:

Fragmentation happens in two ways for marketers: There is audience fragmentation and marketing fragmentation. Both occur now in ways that just simply weren’t applicable a decade ago. This is because of two things: a major shift in consumer trends and growth in technology (specifically devices).

At its core, marketers fundamentally want to go where their audience is to give them the best chance to promote their brand, generate sales or generally appeal to those they think will be most interested in information, a product, or a service.

Audience fragmentation means that it is much tougher for a marketer to get in front of their target audience. The shift in consumer behavior to cause this has been an increasing demand for all things to be “on-demand” and digital, thereby giving consumers a vast number of choices in what they consume and how they consume it. No longer do consumers actually behave in a way that has them interacting with just a few forms of media. This is good for marketers as well as a challenge. Good, because there are now tons of ways to reach people; a challenge because the number of ways to reach people is actually dizzying.

It seems like the days are behind us where consumers rely or interact with a handful of media to get their information. It isn’t just a daily printed newspaper, a handful of TV channels, and a couple of radio stations. Think about what consumers use now which fragment a marketers audience: hundreds of TV & satellite channels; hundreds of satellite radio choices; a vast array of devices like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle and more; millions of websites, forums, search engines and blogs like the one you’re reading. In fact, if you were born in the mid-1980’s or later, you probably can never remember a time when there was no worldwide web, cell phones or hundreds of DirecTV channels.

Audience fragmentation always leads to (or should always lead to) marketing fragmentation, meaning a wide array of budget line items. So like actual consumer behavior, a marketers toolkit must follow with a wide assortment of line items and creative thinking. No longer are there only traditional elements to a marketers toolkit like advertising, public relations, event marketing, etc. Now, a marketer must have a strategy for mobile devices; a detailed web strategy which includes many elements like social media, display and search – and often a strategy-within-the-strategy for each of these pieces. Depending on your industry, there is probably still TV, radio and print strategies in your budget, but those are becoming less as consumers shift their usage; there are simply dozens of new things that have to be accounted for by a marketer.

I would qualify a marketer’s job, or challenge, as somewhat ironic. Ironic in the sense that consumers are more fragmented than ever before because of the number of choices available with which to consume things; yet, there are a wide number of tools, applications and strategies with which to reach that fragmented audience. What will make CMO’s or GM’s successful is their ability to educate themselves, watch what consumers are adopting and be highly-organized in their approach.

One thing that hasn’t and won’t ever change is a marketer’s desire to “go where their audience is”. What has changed and will continue to change are the ways that marketers actually make that happen.

No doubt, if you are a chief or senior marketer in a business that is predominantly B2B, you understand that it is all about differentiating your product or service. This is resoundingly true if you are in a hyper-competitive industry or if you have more than a handful of major competitors. A good portion of success in bringing in clients or partners rests with the Sales team and how strong they are in communicating the value proposition. But at least an equal portion resides with Marketing, and arming the Sales team with unique selling points and a unique way to make those selling points actually come to life. At most B2B organizations, the company’s employees – and especially the Marketing team – are in business to serve the Sales team even if there are no direct reporting lines in place.

What can chief marketers do to reach B2B “Rock Star” status that so many B2C CMO’s have seemingly achieved? For one, help Sales walk the walk as well as talking the talk. Specifically, there are five strategies that go “beyond the PowerPoint” I’ve seen be most successful:

1)      Create A Great Theme

Having a theme, motto or tagline to your sales proposition is important. It signifies creativity, and if done really well, is memorable. Tying your core business message to an actual themed event works even better! One example from Traffic Marketplace plays on their theme to advertising clients of “Reach, target, engage.” It is a great concise motto which is easy to remember. The follow up to that? An “Engagement Party” for clients, taking the motto to the next level and involving people in a like-themed physical event where people can interact with the company and brand. Very powerful.

2)      Actually DO something totally different than your competitors

One of the tactics I employed at Epic Media Group was to launch a 28-page print publication. Nothing different about that, right? Well, Epic’s core business is entirely advertising-based and entirely digital. The print magazine was not ad-supported, was free for subscribers and in print (with an online reader available). By launching something in print to utilize as a sales tool, which was totally unexpected and something no one else was doing, the company was able to stand out and increase their thought leadership standing to clients. Something like this shows you’re not afraid to take some risk and be creative.

3)      Offer Unique Promotions and Incentives

Fundamentally, when marketing a business in a B2B environment, you’re trying to make incremental gains not only for your own entity, but for your clients too. The value proposition has to be a win-win, or else no one wins. By injecting unique incentives to clients that benefit everyone, you can accomplish a win-win. An example? By spending X$ incrementally, a client can qualify for Y. The Y’s can be anything from sports events, behind-the-ropes access to famous venues, extra monetary credit in the future, preferred payment terms or any host of other appealing items.

4)      Public Relations

A strong PR strategy for B2B companies is at least as important as for B2C companies, perhaps more so. The reason? The sheer volume of competitors and clutter in the marketplace for companies offering like services. B2B companies have to manage their brand not only in consumer’s eyes, but in client’s eyes. There’s an extra layer. This provides a bigger challenge for B2B companies aiming to ensure their company and value proposition is sterling. Make sure you’re media trained and understand that B2B companies have important brand management issues at stake too.

5)      Philanthropy

Finally, do not forget about philanthropy & charity as part of your company’s mission. I wrote an extended piece on this in Advertising Age. It is not only the right thing for companies to do, but it is a great way for B2B companies to come to the forefront of consumer’s minds and extend their brand. Also, not many B2B companies are focused on this – many of the best philanthropic programs are normally spearheaded by large CPG and B2C companies – so this can be another area you differentiate your company. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to install a very effective and far-reaching program, too.

Note: This post was written for Epic Media Group’s corporate blog – http://epicmediagroup.wordpress.com

Recently, AdWeek’s Noreen O’Leary published an article called “CMOs Face a New Reality” about the challenges Chief Marketing Officer’s face in this economic climate. The article referenced a recent study by Accenture and highlighted several key findings that have implications for any CMO regardless of industry or discipline. Namely, the article correctly points out that selling products (or services) to consumers whose buying patterns have been altered or forever changed by the economic downturn is increasingly difficult.

CMOs are often where the buck stops on a growing number of sales, branding and communications issues both at the corporate and audience-facing level. As the survey says of chief marketers, “expectations have never been higher and the challenges have never been greater,” with 80% of marketers surveyed facing flat to declining budgets. This, the article hints, constitutes a CMOs new reality.

However, I would stop short of calling anything a new reality. Of course, CMOs have been up against many challenges before and if you are a chief marketer, then when haven’t expectations been high? When hasn’t there been a tough issue to tackle? A few years ago, the topic was CMO tenure and how it was fast declining. Now, it is steadily increasing. Then, there was a debate about how CMOs were negatively regarded within the C-suite. Now, their position is seen as vital, often (but not always enough) with as strong a voice to Boards as other executives. CMOs are regarded as business people first, marketers second.

So here we are with the next challenge for CMOs to conquer; we are still in the midst of a recession with more consumers saving or paying off debt rather than spending. CMOs were the first to feel the effects as we entered the recession and most weathered the early stages quite well because they have the benefit of seeing trends first. Keep in mind that this is not our nation’s first economic downturn, and it stands to reason it won’t be our last – yet, from great challenges there is always opportunity born.

One of the less startling quotations from the article was: “Marketers must meet today’s challenges with laser-focused precision that is guided by insights from robust customer analytics capabilities that inform decisions about who they should target through what channels and with which messages,” said Dave Rich, managing director of Accenture Customer Relationship Management and Accenture Analytics. This isn’t a new reality; it is a very old reality. Of course that’s what marketers need to do – constantly re-adjusting and re-calibrating your marketing mix based on your main focus, which is your customers or target audience. This, I hope, is not a new concept for most of us.

Another finding: CMOs cited their three most important business issues as improving customer retention and loyalty, acquiring new customers and increasing sales to current customers. Again, this is what CMOs have always focused on (or should have been). In fact, if you don’t know anything about customer acquisition or retention, then perhaps Marketing isn’t your thing. The point is that while the winds may have changed direction necessitating a tack further right or left than expected, the end goals are still unambiguous for CMOs and marketers and will remain fairly unchanged for the foreseeable future.

I believe the main point the survey is trying to make relative to any “new realities” for CMOs is in this finding:

Less than 20 percent of respondents said they effectively use digital channels like corporate Web sites, online communities, online advertising, and mobile and location-based marketing; traditional advertising such as print, television and radio; and direct mail and telemarketing. Marketers gave themselves the lowest marks in leveraging digital channels.

For those of us who work in any digitally-based marketing industry, we need to understand that our old reality is another’s new reality. Every CMO is faced with budget cuts or other challenges – this has always been the case. What is different with budgets cut now versus 15 years ago? There is an obvious opportunity to ramp digital spending which for the most part is cheaper, easier to track, provides better targeting and ROI. This is second nature to digital CMOs but less apparent to the majority of others – until now.

The challenges facing CMO’s today are fundamentally the same as they have always been. How can we do more with less? How can we build a brand? How creative can we be in reaching or engaging the audience? How do we lead or aid the sales process to bring in new customers or partners and retain the relationships?

What is fundamentally different are the tactics available to answer those very same questions. The choices facing marketers are seemingly limitless in this digital and increasingly “social” age when considering where and how much to spend and how to track results. Like the very audiences most marketers’ target, the new reality CMOs face is increasing fragmentation in their own marketing mix, and underscoring the need for senior marketing executives to have a much wider spectrum of knowledge, skill sets and creativity than at any other time.

Michael Sprouse is the Chief Marketing Officer for Epic Media Group, and Editor & Publisher of Winning the Web Magazine.

Note: This post was written for Epic Media Group’s corporate blog – http://epicmediagroup.wordpress.com

Recently, AdWeek’s Noreen O’Leary published an article called “CMOs Face a New Reality” about the challenges Chief Marketing Officer’s face in this economic climate. The article referenced a recent study by Accenture and highlighted several key findings that have implications for any CMO regardless of industry or discipline. Namely, the article correctly points out that selling products (or services) to consumers whose buying patterns have been altered or forever changed by the economic downturn is increasingly difficult.

CMOs are often where the buck stops on a growing number of sales, branding and communications issues both at the corporate and audience-facing level. As the survey says of chief marketers, “expectations have never been higher and the challenges have never been greater,” with 80% of marketers surveyed facing flat to declining budgets. This, the article hints, constitutes a CMOs new reality.

However, I would stop short of calling anything a new reality. Of course, CMOs have been up against many challenges before and if you are a chief marketer, then when haven’t expectations been high? When hasn’t there been a tough issue to tackle? A few years ago, the topic was CMO tenure and how it was fast declining. Now, it is steadily increasing. Then, there was a debate about how CMOs were negatively regarded within the C-suite. Now, their position is seen as vital, often (but not always enough) with as strong a voice to Boards as other executives. CMOs are regarded as business people first, marketers second.

So here we are with the next challenge for CMOs to conquer; we are still in the midst of a recession with more consumers saving or paying off debt rather than spending. CMOs were the first to feel the effects as we entered the recession and most weathered the early stages quite well because they have the benefit of seeing trends first. Keep in mind that this is not our nation’s first economic downturn, and it stands to reason it won’t be our last – yet, from great challenges there is always opportunity born.

One of the less startling quotations from the article was: “Marketers must meet today’s challenges with laser-focused precision that is guided by insights from robust customer analytics capabilities that inform decisions about who they should target through what channels and with which messages,” said Dave Rich, managing director of Accenture Customer Relationship Management and Accenture Analytics. This isn’t a new reality; it is a very old reality. Of course that’s what marketers need to do – constantly re-adjusting and re-calibrating your marketing mix based on your main focus, which is your customers or target audience. This, I hope, is not a new concept for most of us.

Another finding: CMOs cited their three most important business issues as improving customer retention and loyalty, acquiring new customers and increasing sales to current customers. Again, this is what CMOs have always focused on (or should have been). In fact, if you don’t know anything about customer acquisition or retention, then perhaps Marketing isn’t your thing. The point is that while the winds may have changed direction necessitating a tack further right or left than expected, the end goals are still unambiguous for CMOs and marketers and will remain fairly unchanged for the foreseeable future.

I believe the main point the survey is trying to make relative to any “new realities” for CMOs is in this finding:

Less than 20 percent of respondents said they effectively use digital channels like corporate Web sites, online communities, online advertising, and mobile and location-based marketing; traditional advertising such as print, television and radio; and direct mail and telemarketing. Marketers gave themselves the lowest marks in leveraging digital channels.

For those of us who work in any digitally-based marketing industry, we need to understand that our old reality is another’s new reality. Every CMO is faced with budget cuts or other challenges – this has always been the case. What is different with budgets cut now versus 15 years ago? There is an obvious opportunity to ramp digital spending which for the most part is cheaper, easier to track, provides better targeting and ROI. This is second nature to digital CMOs but less apparent to the majority of others – until now.

The challenges facing CMO’s today are fundamentally the same as they have always been. How can we do more with less? How can we build a brand? How creative can we be in reaching or engaging the audience? How do we lead or aid the sales process to bring in new customers or partners and retain the relationships?

What is fundamentally different are the tactics available to answer those very same questions. The choices facing marketers are seemingly limitless in this digital and increasingly “social” age when considering where and how much to spend and how to track results. Like the very audiences most marketers’ target, the new reality CMOs face is increasing fragmentation in their own marketing mix, and underscoring the need for senior marketing executives to have a much wider spectrum of knowledge, skill sets and creativity than at any other time.

Michael Sprouse is the Chief Marketing Officer for Epic Media Group, and Editor & Publisher of Winning the Web Magazine.