Drew Neisser: How CMOs Sharpen Their Saws

The CEO of Renegade lists five ways the Chief Marketing Officers can up their game.

How CMOs Sharpen Their Saws

Once there was a woodchopper who was too busy trying to cut down trees to stop and sharpen his saw. Clearly, this guy wasn’t among the 40 CMOs we heard recently at The CMO Club Summit, who were united in their desire to sharpen their collective skill set by sharing insights like the ones below.

1. Fix the Customer Experience First

Frances Allen, CMO of Denny’s Corp, explained, “The actual experience in restaurant outweighs anything we can do in marketing.”  Consequently, after repositioning Denny’s as “America’s Diner,” Allen worked with her counterparts to “retrain staff to make the [restaurant] experience better” before launching a new campaign. Is your customer experience up to snuff?

2. Admit Your Mistakes

Mary Ann Fitzmaurice Reilly, SVP, Consumer Marketing and Engagement, American Express OPEN, made a compelling case to her fellow marketers for conducting customer engagement with a new sense of humility.  After angering some of their most loyal small business customers during the recession, “it was important for us to say we’re sorry,” she explained, adding, “We created a customer advisory council to look at complaints after that.”

3. Even Modest Loyalty Programs Can Work

Ashley Sheetz, CMO of GameStop, helped build the highly sophisticated, data-driven PowerUp Rewards program that now has 20 million paying members (a $14.99/year membership) who account for a whopping 75% of sales!  Lauri Kien Kotcher, CMO of Godiva, described a less robust email-driven loyalty program that nonetheless has helped increase monthly store visits with the simple promise of a free piece of chocolate.

4. Get to Know Each Board Member

Paula Puleo, CMO of Michaels, advised her fellow CMOs to really get to know why each board member is there and figure out what is important to them. Because “everyone is a marketer” and “everyone wants to be useful,” a CMO who is unprepared for all this enthusiasm will be particularly vulnerable, cautioned Puleo.

5. B2B Brands Need to Humanize Their Marketing

“Buildings don’t buy products—people do,” remarked Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP, as he made the strong case for all marketers—not just the B2C variety—to focus on engaging in real conversations on topics of interest to individuals.  For Becher, acting more like a B2C brand also means simplifying marketing, humanizing the brand and developing measurable communications, all of which he has done to great effect during his tenure at SAP.

If you’re a senior marketer and want some help sharpening your saw (or just a new handsaw), feel free to give Drew a shout.

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