What does a CMO really want?

I’ve had a couple of insightful conversations recently with marketing leaders or CMOs that I wholeheartedly respect.

These conversations validated my thinking about what we see when we work with clients, but it’s good to hear it direct from the horses’ mouth (so to say).

So, in the process, I asked them what they want… what they really, really want.

The conversations were relaxed, filled with honesty and offered unexpected but welcome truths.

These were experienced marketers, top of their game in technology businesses from the US and UK. Some of them run global teams, and some run UK businesses – the commonality being that they both have high growth targets.

It was interesting that, despite the size of the business or the budget, the issues they highlighted were the same.

What’s the issue?

The biggest problem I heard had to be ‘sales and marketing alignment’.

Whatever way you put it, the leads come in, marketing qualify them and pass them to sales, and then sales reject them in some way, shape or form.

This is symptomatic of many things – none of them insurmountable, but it is complicated. It involves systems, process, behaviour management, training and most of all – change and a great leader.

What they found was that they have the visibility within their systems to understand the numbers and drill down. They know whether they’re making their number – so the reporting and tracking are there, but it’s failing at some point.

Where’s the focus?

Most of the marketing managers I’ve dealt with are targeted on leads – contacts that download an asset (or fill in a form on a website).

They’re chasing early stage leads by either activating their own databases, focusing on target account lists or seeking net-new names.

They get the lead count (by hook or by crook), hit the qualification criteria, but then the process falls down and sales complain.

What’s more, their job is getting harder and harder because conversion rates are declining. This is due to past experiences with the inbound machine of (poor) content that has historically delivered a lack of value (and thanks, I gave you my email address for that!?).

There’s a distinct lack of process once the lead is in the system. A nurture programme takes over to push the lead score up so a marketing qualified lead can be determined and passed to sales (or lead development) to start the sales process.

But the sausage machine isn’t working.

With a complex enterprise sale, it’s not a clear process and a few nurture emails aren’t necessarily going to push a lead into an MQL. It’s no wonder that sales aren’t happy.

When sales (or lead development) qualify, I see the process fall down here as well. Those deemed ‘not ready yet’ aren’t tagged appropriately, they then fall out of the process and are sometimes lost completely.

So what’s happening with them? What comms do they get? I like to call these the “inbetweeners” (I’ve been watching a lot of this cringeworthy show recently, much to my distress). They’re awkward, they don’t know how to behave and no one really knows what to do with them!

What’s the solution?

If we spent some time here and refocused the effort a little, I believe marketing could perform much better.

Yes, there are ongoing newsletters, blog RSS emails and new content announcements (oh, a new webinar – again!), but these are process-driven, not customised, personal communications that really offer value.

They’re just standard processes within the sausage machine of marketing automation.

Sales need to get involved too. It’s not good enough to chuck leads back over the fence and shout at marketing for not delivering enough leads. Marketers need to sit down and work with sales to define what the criteria for sales accepted leads are, and what should happen with those that aren’t quite ready yet.

It’s easy to chase the ones that are ripe right now, but it’s equally important to nurture and build relationships personally with those that aren’t ready yet.

Marketing needs you to help them here too.

From what the CMOs say, their teams need to sit down and work it all out. Challenge the status quo and rethink the process.

Let’s take a step back from the content marketing machine and consider how we can really engage a prospective customer (in its widest sense) and develop deeper engagement so that we’re all a bit happier.

[Rant over]

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