The Seven Biggest Real-World Marketing Insights for CMOs

As a long-time marketing leader, one of the things I like to do most is share advice with friends, colleagues and marketers across the world. They face countless challenges when developing marketing programs and appeasing the C-suites of their organizations. So as the sun set on my time at C.H. Robinson, I knew I wanted to continue helping customers leverage marketing, creative and PR to help reach their goals and grow their business. That inspiration led me to today’s announcement: I’m thrilled to share that I am now a partner and chief marketing officer at Words At Work a marketing and communications agency with offices in Minneapolis and Atlanta.


With this new role, I’m most excited about doing what comes naturally — developing strategy, streamlining operations, integrating technology, assessing analytics, measuring ROI, building-activating-and-protecting brands, delivering lead generation programs based on content, digital and direct programs, or driving communication — and I’m ready to lend my top-level executive perspectives and insights on marketing and brand strategies expertise to help clients succeed all around the world.


As my new adventure officially begins, I’d like to start by sharing seven of my biggest real-world marketing insights for CMOs:


1. Service matters beyond everything. As simple as it sounds, the importance of customer service (including external and internal clients) is key to a successful marketing program. You can have the best strategy, technology or creative, but if you don’t back it up with quality customer service you’ll lose every time. Doing what you say you’ll do, matters! Over communicating and providing visibility from start to finish is critical.


2. Rebrand with a purpose. Rebranding is often a key concern as companies and organizations mature. There are many reasons to keep existing brands, but there are just as many to rebrand them. If you’re one of the marketing and business executives staring down the idea of a rebranding effort, the first step is to properly assess the benefits and relationships of the brand(s) to the customer. Define the brand benefits, key messages and value propositions using your customers as a guide and industry experts for proof points in research. Once your team makes a decision, ensure the go-forward strategy is well thought out and communicated thoroughly to your customers, as well as internally. Anything short of that and you’ll be changing your decision sometime down the road costing you time, money and engagement from both customers and employees!


3. Use creative visual design as a unique differentiator. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard customers say they remember the creative of an advertisement, or there was just something visually different about that one communication that made the difference to respond. So many industries and marketing tactics lend themselves to the same old clip art, the same old metaphors and the same old empty messages that lack answers to customer problems and desired business outcomes. Marketing departments get caught up in so many projects they quickly go to “digital templates” and “scalable advertisements” to maintain the demand and stress put on them. Just remember what customers remember: something unique, creative, and like they’ve never seen before. Even better: draws upon their curiosity and teaches them something new. If you use creative visual design resources to be a differentiator, a competitive advantage: you’ll get noticed and get responses. And likely, grow your business!


4. Develop content that is valuable to customers, not a sales pitch. There is more content being produced and published than ever before. Before you publish your next piece, ask: is the content we’re producing helpful? Does it offer value and educational insights to customers? Don’t make it a sales pitch. You don’t have to delve out all your trade secrets and insights. Become a thought leader and give customers a reason to go further into the buying journey by sharing two or three points of value that can help your customers achieve their desired outcomes.


5. Leadership, talent development and team engagement is your responsibility. The accountability of a CMO is great. There are so many demands on the role that it is easy to get consumed to the point that you forget about leadership, talent development and team engagement. With endless meetings, projects, presentations, planning, budgeting, travel, the list goes on! Remember, talent development and team engagement is your accountability. Make sure you invest the time in your team and their interests. Recognize and help them by keeping regular one-on-ones, assisting with a personal development plan, introducing them to a new relationship, challenging them to a new opportunity, sending them to a sought-after training event, etc. A highly-engaged team will be more productive, positive, creative, service orientated, and more successful. Team leadership starts with and is the accountability of the CMO!


6. Measure your marketing ROI. One of the biggest and most important debates should be how to account for the value and return on marketing investments. It can be difficult to put an ROI on things like branding, social media, public relations, website visitors, etc. However possible, work with the business and sales leaders to establish meaningful metrics for your marketing efforts. Tie ROI measures to new, paused or existing clients. Track that customer information over time and tie it to marketing channels, content and creative. That information is extremely useful in accountability reviews, channel analytics, advertising and digital performance, customer journey analysis, budgeting, planning and more. Having agreed upon ROI metrics will help everyone better understand the value and accountability of marketing, and also help you make better investment decisions based on quality data and analytics.


7. Align with and be patient with business and sales leaders. Marketing plans and strategies should always support the goals and growth initiatives of the business and integrate with the sales team and process. But it’s not always an easy task. Great business and sales leaders don’t always buy into, or believe in, the magic of marketing. Be patient and take time to educate business leaders on the who, what when, where, why and how of marketing. This can gain their trust, ensure their support and earn the resources needed to be successful in your marketing and sales strategies.


Of course, these are high level insights and grounded in the art and science of marketing strategy and execution. But at the end of the day, just try to have fun. We spend most of our adult lives working. Your career path and work life journey will endure many ups and downs. Take time to recognize your successes. Share them with others and have a lot of fun along the way. Make having fun in the workplace a requirement and accountability! As for the challenges, take them as opportunities to grow and evolve. Take the constructive feedback and put your efforts toward improving. Don’t sweat the small stuff and recover quickly from your mistakes.


If you’d like to talk more in depth about these or other insights, please connect with me []. I’m so excited to be a part of the Words At Work team and look forward to sharing many more insights with you.


Author: Mark Derks