The most recent issue of “Winning the Web” magazine is now live online here, including an interesting article about Beretta. Enjoy!

There are countless examples of businesses which seek to grow by introducing offshoots or other businesses that are an extension of their core. AOL is (and has been for quite some time) attempting to do this by moving beyond their dial-up subscription business. Google, which we all know is the leading search engine on the planet, has expanded into a number of somewhat-related businesses. Even Epic Media Group, the company for which I’m CMO, is the result of a merger between two companies with similar online marketing businesses; while not exact replicas of each other, they do signify an extension of each other’s core business the result of which offers greater capabilities to its clients.

It is always interesting to me to see new businesses being launched that stray – dramatically or closely – from a company’s core. Some new launches or expansions are successful; some aren’t.

An interesting case study that struck me the other day was something I saw while at the New York Jets season-opening game: Jets Uncorked. It is a Napa Valley Cabernet crafted by a well-known winemaker to commemorate a “new era in Jets football”, to go along with the team’s new stadium, new ticket prices, and everything else they’ve done over the last year.

There are always reasons why companies, or in this case professional sports teams and winemakers, choose to extend their brand or business. It is because they think there is a lucrative business behind “Door #2”. The supporting reasons often sound compelling when the idea is hatched. But how does one know if they have strayed too far from the core to be successful or to actually sell anything? In this case, I’m guessing the folks behind this new wine are banking on a few things which made this launch appealing:

1)      The team just built an expensive new stadium and tickets are not cheap. Fans initially exposed to the wine at the stadium most likely will have some discretionary income or ability to afford a high-priced wine. They better have some discretionary income to be able to afford $18 a glass!

2)      The team has marketed the wine so far in “Club” or VIP sections alongside other atypical offerings like sushi, salads, and health food. If hot dogs and beer go together, so do sushi and wine they figure.

3)      Mimicking the home experience. Fans of today are not like fans of a decade or two ago. With the advent of high-definition TV, most fans can see the game likely a lot better at home. The fans that DO show up at the stadium likely want a better overall “experience” with more food and drink choices. Kind of like being at home (so the stadium is actually trying to mimic what one could eat or drink at home with a ton of choices). Mark Cuban does a great job communicating what I mean here.

4)      Overall exposure and broader appeal outside the greater New York area to create a bigger marketplace. If the wine could only be marketed to 80,000 fans for 8 or 10 Sundays a year, that wouldn’t be much of a market. But the team was featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks which gained them more notoriety (for better or worse) and presumably their stature could be a catalyst to more wine sales outside the Metro area as well as a future retail presence.

5)      One of the bigger Jets fans out there with a public persona is none other than Wine Library TV’s own Gary Vaynerchuk. I have to believe someone involved in the making of the Jets wine saw some potential tie-in with the example he has set with his rabid audience. He is a football fan that happens to love wine, and loves talking about both subjects with equal passion. If the people behind this wine were smart, they would get Gary in their corner pronto. Send him a case!

6)      Data and market research: As a ticket holder, I know that there was a survey sent out to me months ago asking about my lifestyle, and there was an entire section on wine and whether or not I have ever traveled to wine country. Very smart. Speaking for myself, I’m likely to TRY this wine sometime, and if I like it, I will likely tell my friends and be very passionate about it.

If at least some of my assumptions are correct, this seemingly odd example of extending one’s business provides a few great examples of what other businesses can or should do to leverage their core brand or product.

First, you have to make sure you have great data – from customers, research and internally amongst your sales team or from market research people. The data has to point to there being a great market opportunity – the rule of thumb I use is the “80%” certainty rule. Opportunity doesn’t always mean success, but if 80% of the signs point to the expansion being potentially strong, you have a better chance.

Second, there has to be a broad platform to announce and promote your business line extension. Promoting to core consumers (like Jets fans already at the stadium) is a great start, but there should also be secondary and tertiary consumers planned out in advance.

Third, there needs to be great cross-sell and up-sell opportunities potentially in place, with the audience all opted-in of course. These can be mailing lists, phone numbers and text message alerts, email addresses, social media pages and the like, all at the ready.

Perhaps the biggest point, though, is to not try and expand too fast. Start small and viral. Get some initial data and feedback from core users. In fact, invite feedback from people and involve them in the process. It is cheaper with significantly less monetary risk than trying to market to the masses out of the gates and your eventual consumers and early adopters will be loyal to you.

Now, we can only hope the Jets wine tastes better than the team has played so far in 2010. Because it certainly helps your offshoot business to have a core product that is successful on its own!

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.

Coaching as Management = Vital.

Posted: September 8, 2010 in Management, Opinion

This past weekend, I got asked by a friend (whose career is not in technology or marketing) what it took to be a strong manager or executive. He asked me point blank: “If you were to advise a 25 year-old how to become a successful executive, what would you say?”

It got me thinking that most of us have encountered great or influential teachers in our lifetimes. It could have been your 1st grade teacher giving you a lecture on the importance of sharing or it could have been a college professor who really made an impact on your life and outlook. Translating that to the business world, teaching is important. No good manager or executive can get to where they are or want to be without being a good teacher and knowing his or her craft. But really successful managers and executives take it a step further. They become coaches.

In my definition, coaches are equal parts teacher, psychiatrist, motivator, strategist, general manager and leader.

How does this translate to the business world? Very simply. I consider myself a coach. My formal title is not “coach”, it is executive or CMO,  but I consider myself to perform the duties that most successful coaches do. I try and hire people better than me at any one particular thing (much like a coach who could never actually PLAY better than the players). I try to motivate others. I try to empower others. I try to put together the proper strategy for others to give input on or to follow.

One could rightly point out that there are many different types of successful coaches. But putting one’s individual style aside, coaches all perform basically the same duties at their core. The fundamental goal most coaches have is to bring together individuals to perform as a group – and to do that well, you need to rely on a wide range of skills which include using a balance of the left and right brain.

After a lengthy discussion with my friend, I concluded that Management is not really about being a taskmaster. It is not only about keeping lists and being organized. It most closely resembles coaching and getting the most out of a team, and relies on empowerment of the individual for the betterment of the group or team. It is not about seeking the limelight or credit for success, it is about basking in the success that others make that you may have influenced.

I feel in most industries, from most executives I see especially in the fast-growing internet sector, that this viewpoint is the exception and not the rule. But I’m all ears. What do you all think?

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.

Sunday's Open Mike

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Open Mike, Opinion
Tags: ,

The “Prison” of Arrogance

Anyone who has achieved great things, or has sought to achieve great things big or small, undoubtedly relies on some level of necessary confidence. Whether it is starting your own business or joining a new team or having a new job from a promotion at your company or singing Karaoke in front of strangers, it is likely you have a foundation of confidence in yourself first and foremost that you can be successful by yourself, fit in with the new team, prove yourself worthy of the promotion, or belt out an off-key tune risking embarrassment. Confidence is a must-have for most everyone in any walk of life; it is the fuel, energy and lifeblood of individual and collective achievement.

Arrogance is not.

The two words are often confused. After all, confidence and arrogance can both reside inside someone quietly or unbeknownst to the general public. They can both reside within the same person as well (perhaps a figure like Michael Jordan in his NBA heyday was a prime example of supreme confidence – but his Hall of Fame speech a prime example of arrogance, for which he was widely criticized if not ridiculed).

I probably categorize the difference between the two, however, a little more cut and dry than most. Confidence is an inherent, deeply understood and often not spoken belief in yourself that you can and will accomplish a goal that you set through hard work, skill and luck (yes, luck) which manifests itself through your actions and eventually, actual achievement. Arrogance is the opposite, more hollow form of that definition; it is the widely publicized, false sense of belief that your words rather than your actions actually speak a thousand words and that you are predestined to achieve what is rightfully yours to begin with through hard work, skill and luck which manifests itself in notoriety but not necessarily fame, respect or actual achievement.

What got me thinking about this topic was the ongoing saga with Roger Clemens, the pitcher with the Hall of Fame credentials and perhaps one of the top 5 baseball pitchers ever – on paper. People and baseball fans have marveled over the last decade at the youthful Clemens, owner of 7 Cy Young Awards, with most of them coming after a baseball player’s presumed “prime”.

Earlier in the 2000’s investigations were launched into the prevalence of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Clemens was named as a possible offender. Through the course of the investigations, over several years, Clemens wasn’t the only high-profile athlete named to be sure; and some of his closest friends were named and later admitted to using illegal substances. Like Clemens as a pitcher would have, he fought the allegations in truly defiant fashion. This was the same guy who threw a sawed-off, splintered bat at Mike Piazza in a World Series game. So you can figure he won’t back down to, I don’t know, the Feds? In the course of his initial testimony, he even invented a new word to give to the fine folks at Webster’s…”misremembered”.

Time passed, investigations went on, players came forward with most admitting some level of guilt – but not Clemens. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know if Clemens is innocent or guilty. What I do know is that his inevitable fate was avoidable either way. He was told, time and again, that he did not have to testify before Congress as to his innocence. Congressmen, in fact, practically begged him to not testify – perhaps they knew of his seemingly-flimsy defense. But, Clemens decided to testify in a very public court of opinion which included Congressmen, and baseball fans and sports fans everywhere. Why?

Hubris. Arrogance. Arrogance of historic proportions that transcend baseball.

I was never a Clemens fan, not because I didn’t like him, but because he never pitched for a team that I rooted for passionately. But until the last year or two, I always respected him. I marveled at his ability to stay in shape and to stay on top of his game all these years…two decades plus, throwing mid to high 90 mph! However, one unfortunate outcome of arrogance almost every time is the loss of respect. The evidence points to him lying in front of Congress (disclosure: this is still unproven) when he didn’t have to even testify in the first place. The court of public opinion points to him being a fraud, the same way so-called heroes have been categorized before in all walks of life. If convicted of lying, he will likely serve prison time.

This was easily avoidable. But arrogance got in the way, and that’s all. As one ESPN commentator put it so well, it was “The Rocket” (Clemens’ long-time nickname on the mound) who decided to testify and then potentially lie; not Roger Clemens. Trying to be bigger than something that is a lot bigger than you is a tough thing and usually ends badly.

The confidence versus arrogance tug of war translates into everyday life, business, politics, and across practically everything we encounter. There are highly public examples (like potentially Clemens, or say Tiger Woods and many more); yet there are very private examples that news media never hears about. Think of those you interact with on a daily basis. Think of those you observe but don’t interact with each day. Think of leaders in your walk of life or area of expertise. Are they arrogant or confident? Regardless of where you come from, the conclusion in all of this is the same and Gordon Gecko won’t like it:

Confidence is good and necessary. Arrogance is eventually damaging and completely unnecessary. If you have to tell the world you’re great, or innocent, or the best at what you do – then it likely isn’t true in a court of law OR the court of opinion. The most unfortunate thing about the prison of arrogance is that it’s an avoidable destination.



Sunday’s Open Mike

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Open Mike, Opinion
Tags: ,

The “Prison” of Arrogance

Anyone who has achieved great things, or has sought to achieve great things big or small, undoubtedly relies on some level of necessary confidence. Whether it is starting your own business or joining a new team or having a new job from a promotion at your company or singing Karaoke in front of strangers, it is likely you have a foundation of confidence in yourself first and foremost that you can be successful by yourself, fit in with the new team, prove yourself worthy of the promotion, or belt out an off-key tune risking embarrassment. Confidence is a must-have for most everyone in any walk of life; it is the fuel, energy and lifeblood of individual and collective achievement.

Arrogance is not.

The two words are often confused. After all, confidence and arrogance can both reside inside someone quietly or unbeknownst to the general public. They can both reside within the same person as well (perhaps a figure like Michael Jordan in his NBA heyday was a prime example of supreme confidence – but his Hall of Fame speech a prime example of arrogance, for which he was widely criticized if not ridiculed).

I probably categorize the difference between the two, however, a little more cut and dry than most. Confidence is an inherent, deeply understood and often not spoken belief in yourself that you can and will accomplish a goal that you set through hard work, skill and luck (yes, luck) which manifests itself through your actions and eventually, actual achievement. Arrogance is the opposite, more hollow form of that definition; it is the widely publicized, false sense of belief that your words rather than your actions actually speak a thousand words and that you are predestined to achieve what is rightfully yours to begin with through hard work, skill and luck which manifests itself in notoriety but not necessarily fame, respect or actual achievement.

What got me thinking about this topic was the ongoing saga with Roger Clemens, the pitcher with the Hall of Fame credentials and perhaps one of the top 5 baseball pitchers ever – on paper. People and baseball fans have marveled over the last decade at the youthful Clemens, owner of 7 Cy Young Awards, with most of them coming after a baseball player’s presumed “prime”.

Earlier in the 2000’s investigations were launched into the prevalence of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Clemens was named as a possible offender. Through the course of the investigations, over several years, Clemens wasn’t the only high-profile athlete named to be sure; and some of his closest friends were named and later admitted to using illegal substances. Like Clemens as a pitcher would have, he fought the allegations in truly defiant fashion. This was the same guy who threw a sawed-off, splintered bat at Mike Piazza in a World Series game. So you can figure he won’t back down to, I don’t know, the Feds? In the course of his initial testimony, he even invented a new word to give to the fine folks at Webster’s…”misremembered”.

Time passed, investigations went on, players came forward with most admitting some level of guilt – but not Clemens. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know if Clemens is innocent or guilty. What I do know is that his inevitable fate was avoidable either way. He was told, time and again, that he did not have to testify before Congress as to his innocence. Congressmen, in fact, practically begged him to not testify – perhaps they knew of his seemingly-flimsy defense. But, Clemens decided to testify in a very public court of opinion which included Congressmen, and baseball fans and sports fans everywhere. Why?

Hubris. Arrogance. Arrogance of historic proportions that transcend baseball.

I was never a Clemens fan, not because I didn’t like him, but because he never pitched for a team that I rooted for passionately. But until the last year or two, I always respected him. I marveled at his ability to stay in shape and to stay on top of his game all these years…two decades plus, throwing mid to high 90 mph! However, one unfortunate outcome of arrogance almost every time is the loss of respect. The evidence points to him lying in front of Congress (disclosure: this is still unproven) when he didn’t have to even testify in the first place. The court of public opinion points to him being a fraud, the same way so-called heroes have been categorized before in all walks of life. If convicted of lying, he will likely serve prison time.

This was easily avoidable. But arrogance got in the way, and that’s all. As one ESPN commentator put it so well, it was “The Rocket” (Clemens’ long-time nickname on the mound) who decided to testify and then potentially lie; not Roger Clemens. Trying to be bigger than something that is a lot bigger than you is a tough thing and usually ends badly.

The confidence versus arrogance tug of war translates into everyday life, business, politics, and across practically everything we encounter. There are highly public examples (like potentially Clemens, or say Tiger Woods and many more); yet there are very private examples that news media never hears about. Think of those you interact with on a daily basis. Think of those you observe but don’t interact with each day. Think of leaders in your walk of life or area of expertise. Are they arrogant or confident? Regardless of where you come from, the conclusion in all of this is the same and Gordon Gecko won’t like it:

Confidence is good and necessary. Arrogance is eventually damaging and completely unnecessary. If you have to tell the world you’re great, or innocent, or the best at what you do – then it likely isn’t true in a court of law OR the court of opinion. The most unfortunate thing about the prison of arrogance is that it’s an avoidable destination.



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.