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CEOs Must Drive Marketing Success

I get it. You're the CEO and you're busy.

You'll say you've done your part. You hired a very expensive, impressively experienced CMO and you expect her to autonomously lead ALL marketing initiatives. After all, your management style is to hire great people and get out of their way so if you still have to be the driving force of marketing, you need to find someone who can get the entire job done. Right?


This is the textbook explanation for why too many companies struggle, hovering, uncomfortably close to the failure line. The reality is that there are three essential things your talented CMO can't deliver on her own. She will gladly facilitate, as will other members of your team, and make large contributions, but to ensure your company has a strong and enduring strategic foundation, you need to be front and center on each of these three things.

If you've read past entries here, you know we believe there are 8 steps needed to deliver marketing & business success today. And you know it baffles us why your agency continues to ignore at least six of them (I'm being kind).

But here are the three you need to own:

1. Brand Purpose

People (customers/consumers, employees, partners, vendors, influencers and many others) want to see beyond what you do and how you do it. They want to understand why you do it; why your company exists and why they should care now and still care 20 years from now?

Great companies and great brands have always been purpose-driven. They have no hesitation in defining themselves because they live to a purpose they refuse to compromise and their audiences loves and trust them for it.

People are as interested in what a company stands for as they are in what it sells. It's what makes your brand, "their brand."

Apple believes in challenging the status quo, knowing that creative people with the right tools will change the world.

Southwest Airlines believes everyone should be able to travel the country; to stay connected to family and friends.

Harley Davidson believes there is no greater freedom a person can feel, like the open road.

As the CEO, your brand's purpose starts with your vision, then flows outward to your management team, your employees, partners, vendors and customers. They have all gravitated toward you because they feel aligned around those shared values and beliefs. When new prospects are introduced, those with the same values will align with you as well.

The big caveat here is that people can smell BS a mile away. Your true purpose better be authentic to who you are rather than what you think people want to hear or what it will take to make them buy. If they sense you're playing them, they will publicly fry you quicker than cherry jello at the Texas State Fair.

Defining and communicating your purpose is an essential step that needn't be time-consuming. It just has to be done correctly and you get one shot so commit to doing it well.

2. Brand Assets Aligned

As companies begin to scale, competing factions can emerge internally. Sometimes this competition is deemed strategic, "It keeps everyone sharp."

The reality is that it slows progress. It leads to cracks in the strategic foundation you will need to support the weight of your explosive growth and those cracks are extremely hard to fix.

We all know about the antagonism that historically festers between Sales and Marketing. Sales needs to make things happen today and they often feel that marketing efforts aren't filling the pipeline. Marketing accuses Sales of saying whatever needs be said to make the sale today; even if it hurts the brand long term.

Both positions can have merit but rather than fuel the competition between the two departments, the CEO can drive cooperation. How can Marketing tap into Sales to better understand the buyer? How can Sales materials better reinforce the brand presented in the company's marketing? And how do you guarantee that sales people - especially new salespeople who bring a history of success at other places - align with your brand rather than tell a story that has worked for them in the past.

No one should be out there freelancing. Everyone should be operating with a clear understanding of the brand, where it's going, and their departmental and individual role in contributing to the company's success.

The CEO must drive a spirit of cooperation, innovation and inspiration, not competition.It has to be very clear that the CEO is watching and driving the unification of the effort.

3. One "Vision-driven" Goal every 12 months.

There's value in the saying, "Leaders gotta lead." Employees want to believe their company is in good hands, that management understands the market and that the decisions made today will deliver a stronger tomorrow.

That doesn't mean, "Leaders gotta do all the thinking," especially today.

The greatest thing a leader can do today is inspire greatness in each of their employees. Just imagine if every single person in your organization was fired-up every day and delivering their full potential. How much more easily would success come?

Not too long ago, a client proudly shared with me the end of year speech he planned to give to his staff. The speech was called, "Our Seven Points of Focus."

The speech covered everything he expected to accomplish in the coming year and, thinking he was providing the greatest possible leadership, it detailed exactly HOW every goal would be accomplished. "All they have to do is execute," he said.

The problem, of course, is that a lot of people within every organization, enjoy thinking and problem-solving right along with executing. Millennials, especially, want to understand what the company stands for and where it's going but the also want to use their thinking to help it get there. They want to feel they're making a real impact.

Rather than asking people to "focus" on seven things, it's far better for the CEO to announce the one goal everyone in the organization will share for some period of time; say 12 or 18 months.

This isn't a financial goal. It is a brand goal that will likely have financial implications but the primary intent is to help the brand take a major step forward toward realizing its vision.

In the early days of Facebook, the single goal was to add users; "Get to 5 million." Every decision made worked through that filter, "Will doing this convince new people to sign up?" If the answer was. "Yes," they did it.

The CEO provides the direction but each employee has the power to bring ideas and energy that will propel your success.


So that's it; three things every CEO can and should be doing to help drive the long term vitality of their company. These aren't time-consuming responsibilities once you get going but we guarantee they will go well beyond having a measurable impact. They will be vital to your success as well as that of your CMO.

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