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  • Joseph Panetta

Top 6 CMO "Problems"

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Six Common Hurdles CMOs Face Today:

  1. Selling up

  2. Marketing Integration

  3. Leveraging Data

  4. Team Dynamics

  5. Aligning with Sales

  6. Creativity

“My CMO has a problem….” Thus began a recent call from a former colleague now with a different company whose current CMO needed a “Robin to her Batman.” My colleague asked me to share my background in the hope that I could help her CMO.

According to a recent McKinsey survey of CEOs, only 8% of CMOs/marketing leaders are equally adept at BOTH strategy and execution – asking for help is a sign of strength, not vulnerability, unless….

Unless ‘proffered’ from the C-suite, the CMO or marketing lead may not welcome ‘outside help’ from a direct report or a junior colleague in an entirely different department. E.g., they need to recognize there is a problem and appreciate their current team lacks capacity or capability to address it (or the situation prevents addressing it).

Types of ‘'problems’':

There are many and varied CMO “problems”, and over 12 years serving as a fractional CMO typical recurring themes include:

Hurdles selling up: Persuading budget holders, C-suite comrades (usually CEO/CFO), clients, prospects, etc., to support a selected course of action is the burden of the CMO. Encountering ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know/I’m unsure’ as a response is code for the CMO’s idea is not really supported. There are a number of reasons for this, but it boils down to: the evidence for success is not compelling enough. Overcome this by building trust using metrics they value/understand and third-party input as validation. Navigating this requires some knowledge of past history, future plans and internal politics.

Data Defense: See above – with the right (or rightly interpreted) data, visionary CEOs/leadership can more readily buy-in to a recommended course of action. With today’s digital marketing capabilities, precise targeting; measured engagement and ‘guaranteed eyeballs’ are all possible while still allowing for the creativity that provides the magic of marketing.

Aligning with Sales: The cliché of a rift between sales and marketing is as old as the departments themselves. Seen through the B2B lens, marketing is in “service” of sales. Meaning marketing is charged with air cover so sales can more effectively execute the ground battle. This equates to awareness driving; relevant communication delivered in compelling ways to bring the message or brand promise alive. Then, delivering the tools and assets sales needs to close. Mind-set and communication are paramount for success here. Ensure both teams understand their mission and how it ladders up to the broader company goal. This starts at the top which means the CMO and CRO must portray a united front.

Integrated Marketing: At LOCC, our mantra is “One Sight One Sound One Sell” – it means that at any brand touchpoint, your prospect walks away with exactly the same message and understanding of who you are; what you do and why anyone should care. Creating integration across the many marketing tools in the toolbox can be a fraught process – particularly if “marketing” does not own all those tools. Or when the company outsourced its brand development or other foundational elements to a vendor (not recommended!). As the brand owner you must OWN YOUR BRAND – it must be born-house (possibly with outside guidance) but it is YOUR baby.

Team issues: You have a vision; senior management bought in; but galvanizing your team (or vendors) into action remains a hurdle. This stumbling block happens more often than anyone wants to admit. When your idea butts against your team’s capacity, you are stuck and shaking that off becomes job #1. Asses your team – see where the gaps are and hire to fill those gaps or re-cast your team. Consider an adjunct member from another department (aren’t folks asking to join your team all the time? “Marketing looks so fun!” – right…). Ultimately it’s on you to get all the oars in the water and all the rowers pulling in the same direction.

Creativity crisis: The phone call that started this article was about this – the CMO was fresh out of ideas. She needed a creative catalyst to spark some ideas. To be a “thought partner.” More than glitter, she needed substance, strategy AND glitter. This is simple but often not easy. In this instance, it is important to remember that we are all brand stewards. Trust between the fractional helper - who is there to serve the CMO – and the CMO is critical.

LOCC catalyzes the changes CMOs want and need. We help navigate internal waters; offer cut-through creative concepts; deliver compelling copy and bridge the gaps. In short, we’re here to help. Always with unconventional flair – less tried, but no less true.


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