By Dan Colquhoun
Senior Vice President, Customer Research
Frost & Sullivan
What is the impact of digital transformation on the marketing function? Will it be, indeed is it, disruptive? How will the role of the marketing officer evolve under these conditions, and what do we need to do to get ready? The 2017 Strategic Marketing Priorities: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, held in Nashville, set out to answer these complex questions and more.
Allison Cerra, the Chief Marketing Officer for McAfee, opened the event with an engaging talk, Own the Growth Agenda and You Own the Future, that provided insights into her 20 year career in marketing and the lessons learned. Her career anecdotes were humorous and enlightening at the same time.
Some important takeaways from Allison’s keynote:
- Marketing is the most visible discipline in the C-suite, and hence the most exposed when the company misses its targets or objectives. Marketers live and die by the numbers and this became an oft repeated refrain for the remainder of the day as other marketers took to the stage to add their view of this purported reality
- There is often tension between sales and marketing and this is a sign of a healthy relationship. One way to ensure that the tension is helping the business is to regularly audit the quality of leads that marketing is generating
- Marketers must also speak openly and honestly with product management about the realities of the performance of their product portfolio
Allison closed with the three Bs of measuring marketing value:
- Brand: valuation or equity created; one must “weigh the pig”
- Business: measuring what value marketing generated directly or influenced
- Brain: marketers should consume a constant diet of competitive intelligence, buyer preferences, and research
Boardroom Brain Trust Panel: Aligning Corporate Growth Objectives with Strategic Marketing Priorities
Three senior leaders in marketing moderated by a chief marketing officer took to the stage to discuss the role of marketing in what one panelist described as the “age of disruption.” The panel started by referring back to the keynote with a quick straw poll to determine the panel’s stance on Allison Cerra’s prior assertion that marketers must “live and die by the numbers.” The panel was unanimous in their agreement with the statement, its applicability to the marketing function, and its specific relevance to senior marketing leadership.
The panel discussed the importance of collaboration in an organization, and how marketing is central to achieving high levels of organizational collaboration. Indeed, the panelists suggested that “marketers have the tools to be in charge of collaboration.” Some suggested that CMOs should be referred to as Chief Collaboration Officers to accurately reflect the importance of their position in spearheading collaboration.
ThinkTank: Growing Revenue and Developing Brand Strategy in Whitespace and Adjacencies
The audience was implored to consider the hedge fund as an appropriate financial metaphor for the marketing function. Both have profits and losses and both inherent risks attached.
The essential question for marketers, it was posited, is, “Where I should spend my next dollar for maximum effect?” The fundamental business model of generating revenue, earning margin (profit), and optimizing cash flow was overlaid with a marketing example that starts with deal generation, ultimately leading to deal expansion as customer confidence grows, and finally deal velocity as trust begins to develop, there by creating a loyal customer.
Janet Brewer, Chief Marketing Officer at Tennessee Valley Authority, gave the Nashville audience a “big Tennessee welcome.” She opened with a celebration of sorts by suggesting that “this is [marketing’s] moment.” Brewer went on to describe the three roles for CMOs, the traditional commercialization role, the strategy development role, and the third as an enterprise wide profit and loss role.
Brewer implored marketers in the audience to “think beyond marketing as a CMO” and “step outside [those] boundaries.” Finally, skills that the modern marketer must master were enumerated: customer experience advocacy, strategic leadership, innovative influence, data driven analysis, and relevant messaging.
Dan is the Senior Vice President of the Customer Research Group at Frost & Sullivan. This global business unit of the analyst research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan provides market research services to the company’s broad-based clientele.
Dan has close to 30 years of experience in marketing research including leading the customized research group at Nielsen Canada for close to 10 years where he developed leading edge approaches to measure customer value, consumer needs, brand equity and assess advertising and marketing communications. Before joining Frost & Sullivan, Dan served as vice president of research at an international advertising agency supporting accounts such as GM, McDonald’s and Bell Canada with strategic consumer insights.