Marketing Transformation: 3 Leadership Skills You Need To Succeed

 In Marketing Strategy

marketing transformationHas the rise of digital, social and mobile technologies affected your marketing organization? In response to these rapid changes in the way everyone on the planet gets and processes information, governments, businesses and individuals are all facing the challenges of adapting to continuous change.

As organizations seek to differentiate themselves, Marketing has taken on a more prominent role in many organizations. Simple advertising campaigns and tactical approaches to gain new customers are no longer enough. CMOs see the need to define the vision and path to real marketing transformation.

Why? Because business innovation cycles have sped up. Communication happens across the globe in milliseconds  Customers expect real-time service and support. All while the global, political and economic landscapes have become more complex.  As a result, CMOs need new skills.

Earlier this month, Caren Fleit and Brigitte Morel-Curran from Korn-Ferry released “The transformative CMO: Three must-have competencies to meet the growing demands placed on marketing leaders.” (No registration required.)

Caren and Brigitte argue that today’s CMO must move beyond brand-building and even voice of the customer to become strategic leaders who carry the weight of delivering quantifiable business results. They must think more broadly than ever before and need the skills (and the relationships) to drive change across the organization. To become a transformative CMO or marketing executives, they believe you need to acquire 3 new competencies:

3 Competencies Required For Marketing Transformation

The report defines the 3 skills required for marketing transformation as:

  • Creating the New and Different: more than just the ability to “create new ideas” this skill requires the acumen to manage the innovation process and implement change
  • Focusing on Action and Outcomes: requires the ability to make decisions with “incomplete data” that have the largest potential to impact the bottom line.
  • Inspiring Others: transformative marketing leaders understand the importance of “compelling vision, commitment, and superior communication” in a diverse work force.

After seeing the report, I reached out to SAP’s CMO, Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) who is leading the marketing transformation effort here at SAP.  Jonathan also speaks and writes quite a bit about the need for marketing transformation. Jonathan agreed with the main points of the report but added “the one thing that might be missing is Culture. You know I believe Culture eats strategy.”

In What Every CEO Should Expect From Their CMO, Jonathan mirrors the need to create “the new and the different” by capitalizing on insights. Jonathan says “For the first time, marketing has the ability to get a view of customers in real time.  Jonathan also suggests marketing leaders “inspire others” by not just “representing the voice of the market,” by being “the champion of the overall experience” and the “brand steward” but also by being an “integrator and force multiplier across the company.”

Finally, Jonathan agreed with the need for a “focus on actions and outcomes” in Three Must Dos For The Modern Marketer where he recommends marketers “measure what matters.” Jonathan states “I believe we should track outcome metrics, not activities.

Now it’s your turn…what skills do you think are required for marketing leaders to drive transformation across our businesses? Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Google+.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Eric Wittlake

    Hi Michael,

    I would add two thing here, Jonathan gets at the first a bit with capitalizing on insights:

    1. Marketers need to see the future. Like any role in business today, we need to anticipate where consumers, our category, legislation, etc are going. Without that, our new and different isn’t differentiating or lasting. Those beliefs about the future allow us to make decisions with incomplete information because we have a clear vision including context for the things around our company.

    2. We need to execute. The tools of marketing and business are changing rapidly and today many marketers are struggling to execute against their plan and vision in a way that represents the fullness of that vision to the market because when it comes to execution, they just don’t know what is in the toolbox anymore or how to use it well. Leaders need to value and encourage this from their teams.

    I’d love to hear what you think as well, beyond the perspectives you pulled in here from Jonathan and Korn-Ferry.

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Eric, you are echoing some of the sentiments of my recent interviews. Mark Read, CEO ofd WPP told me that he thinks marketing needs to focus on prioritization and execution. And Tony Zambito just told me that he thinks marketers need the ability to use research to generate foresight (vs. hindsight). So I agree woith you and those statements.

      But I’ll go a little further. I think marketers main challenges in the future start with the courage to stand up to our traditional organizations / leaders and say “no” to the things that aren’t working any more. We have a lot of new things to do and a lot of old things we need to stop doing. It doesn;t take more money, just the authority to allocate our budgets to the shit that works.

      Second, I think the future marketer needs to be much more of a leader. By that, I mean they need to be able to talk business with other business leaders. We need to stake the high ground of customer-centricity and have the data and insights to back it up. I think having spent some time in sales will be important for future marketers credibility. And being an active participant in social will be important.

      So the future marketing superhero is a former sales person, propeller head who really likes people?

  • Paula Cusati

    Agree that these skills are required to succeed. Often leaders and all marketers get caught up in the details of day-to-day work and it’s difficult to create the new and different and to inspire others. Love the reminder to focus on actions and outcomes and to measure what matters as a way to cut through the detail to really get to the place we need to be.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Paula, I call that “check the box” marketing. I see marketing order-takers wandering the halls of b2b businesses all the time. Yes-men and women who just do what sales people ask them to do. I just couldn’t ever be that way. We need to focus on what works and then be able to execute.

  • Pontus Rehn

    Hello Michael,
    One, to me, important factor to weigh in – internal marketing. I really cannot say why, but for some obscure reason it seems we marketers are poor marketers – of the outcome of what we do… ..or even what it is we do..
    I strongly believe it is of utmost importance to be able to communicate (and – yes, market) the marketing activities and related outcomes to the whole of the company. In my experience, the understanding of marketing’s contribution to the advancement of the company is less than well understood. This is not the fault of sales, R&D, Finance and whoever else that “simply do not understand”; rather it is because of poor internal marketing. Good understanding of marketing activities and their contribution will enable a smoother transformation.
    Thoughts? Ideas?
    Kind regards,

    • Michael Brenner

      Hi Pontus, I agree 100%. Many marketers don’t bother to measure those things you are talking about. Let alone be able to communicate the positive results. Our annual objectives are generally service-related. Did we do x number of tactics? where they on-time? where they on-budget? The most important marketing metric should be ROI. PLlin and simple. That allows you start talking the language of the CEO.

  • Julie Schwartz

    Hi Michael,
    In ITSMA’s research, including 20 hour-long interviews with leading technology CMOs and another 178 survey respondents, we identified three key roles for the transformed marketing leaders:
    1. Business driver
    a. Instills an outside-in orientation to drive business strategy: Looks forward and assesses the market and opportunities; Provides insights on customer wants and needs
    b. Collaborates with the line of business/P&L owners: Shapes new offerings and innovation; Determines the right marketing programs and campaigns to drive business in targeted areas (align marketing and business goals)
    2. Relationship Builder
    a. Collaborates with and enables sales: Fills pipeline and manages leads; provides tools and teaches sales to do thought leadership selling
    b. Nurtures relationships with customers and prospects: Creates community on- and offline; Builds customer engagement and advocacy programs
    3. Effective Executer
    a. Improves marketing efficiency and effectiveness: Does more with less; Makes data-driven marketing decisions; Uses data and predictive analytics to improve marketing’s business impact
    b. Builds a dynamic and flexible global workforce

    One area our research didn’t pick up is the internal marketing or marketing role. Pontus is so right. Being business outcome focused and being able to draw that direct line of sight from marketing to business outcomes is really important.


    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Julie, I think your research echoes pretty closely or nearly exactly what I said to Eric. Thanks for sharing those details with us. Great stuff!

  • Belinda Summers

    How true, Michael! Too often, business owners and leaders are just focused too much on business operations that they forget how to operate properly. Sometimes, they just have to step back, look at the big picture, and figure out how to involve everyone in the task.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Belinda. It’s about doing the right things AND doing them the right way!

  • Goran Maric

    You definitely need creativity to create new, different, interesting ideas and events. That is how marketing works and how true leaders should be! 🙂

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Goran, great points on marketing and leadership.