Partnerships help secure CMO tenure.

You’re on notice:  The clock is ticking, if you are a CMO – ticking to your pink slip if you can’t get both results and credibility — quickly.  Many CEO’s and CFO’s do not trust numbers that come from the CMO.  Often, they feel that the CMO is not a trustworthy steward of company resources, let alone a source of revenue growth for the organization.  A perception of being dead weight was the demise of your predecessor, and will be yours as well if you do not take action right away.

What actions?  In my initial post on this topic, I described the first step, “go slow to go fast” –make sure to keep the existing marketing machine running, even if that machine is not focusing on what you think are the right tasks.  To begin building credibility, you have to meet the “minimum viable product” in prod development terms – keep the tires on the road and get the expected things done.

But if that is all you do, you will be branded as lacking initiative, which will hasten your way out the door.  That leads to Focus #2: Pick Your “Partner in Crime.”

Given your early status and limited credibility in the organization, there is no way you are going to be able to lead a bold, new initiative on your own.  You are going to need a partner with established “street cred” to help.  And the initiative you select will NOT be the one you think has the most value or the greatest need – it will be the one that best meets the needs of your partner.  By partner, I mean another senior executive who is open to new ideas to improve their metrics.  This senior executive should have been in the company for more than a year, ideally for more than 3 years, and have credibility as someone who “gets things done.”  He or she may even have had some ideas of their own that have not yet seen light of day.

By partnering with an established organizational leader, you will achieve two things:

  • a reputation as a “team player” that works well with peers and
  • the ability to capitalize on the already-established organizational credibility and trust of your partner. You don’t have to get people to believe YOU, if they believe your partner.

Aside from the political benefits of partnering with an established leader for your first big initiative, you will also gain real-world perspective.  Whether or not you agree with your partner’s perspective (you won’t on everything), hearing what they believe and what their experiences have been is incredibly valuable.  Not only might you find some truths that you overlooked or discounted, but you will also identify established ideas and beliefs that you will have to overcome on future projects.

Remember to check your ego at the door as well.  The more credit you offer to your partner, the more organizational buy-in you are going to achieve.  The goal of this effort is to get a clear win under your belt and to build relationships and credibility, not to cover yourself in shining glory.  Not only is shining glory NOT the goal, but is often counterproductive, as your peers will look for any chance they can get to bring you down to earth in future engagements.

Finally, make sure that the project you have developed with your partner has all the components of a strong data-driven program, regardless of whether or not the program is 100% marketing-focused. By this, I mean:

  • Financially focused
  • Measurable
  • Specific time period
  • Consistent with organizational goals

While the temptation is to start your own initiatives and “be the change,” most CMOs who try that approach end up being shown the door.  By building alliances right from the outset, you can gain credibility and learning while establishing yourself as a team player.  All of which will set you up for Focus #3: Get Into the Numbers.