CEO as CMO
How have you been doing on your strategic plan this year? Do you feel that you've identified the current and future needs of your customers? How do your current capabilities align with your customer's needs? How do you know?
As business owners in the small to mid-size market, we wear many hats. One of those hats, which often go undefined, is that of chief marketing officer. Our job as CEO is to be out with customers figuring out where we need to be tomorrow. What do our customers need?
Wayne Gretzky summed it up by saying, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."
To most of us, marketing is one of those things that most business owners see as an expense to the business. It's the first thing to cut when business is slow and it's difficult to quantify the payback when you don't know the goal. As part of strategic planning, the role of the CEO is to set the goal, or direction, that he/she wants for the business. From that goal, the company develops key corporate strategies to achieve that goal and critical success factors that are essential to make it happen. The role of marketing is to align its goals with the critical success factors of the company to achieve the results.
Being a business owner myself and having to wear all of the hats of sales, marketing, operations, and finance, it is sometimes difficult to juggle all aspects. However, we all know that the goal of all of our businesses is to grow revenue profitably. This isn't accomplished through what many of us think as marketing, ie. websites, sell-sheets, trade show booths, etc. All of these communication tools are great, but they aren't the strategic aspects of marketing. You, as the CEO, need to align your marketing with the company strategy to increase revenue through one or more of the following four means: (1) Raising prices, (2) Collecting new customers, (3) Improving customer retention, and/or (4) Selling more to existing customers to increase your share of their wallet.
In addition, your role is to look ahead to tomorrow to identify new products, services and markets that your customer's will need. In most companies, your sales people are the ones focused on providing the current product and/or service offerings and maximizing profitability of those offerings.
As your company grows, your sales people will need support. If you have more than 2 sales people, you should consider hiring a product marketer to assist sales. Their role should be to help sales understand your current products/services and pricing model, understand the competition's products/services and pricing model, and last but not least, your differentiators. Assisting sales with identifying your business model and what customers can buy from your company that they can't buy (or at least don't think they can buy) from any other company, is critical in your strategic positioning to increase revenue. This is where most of us miss the boat. We consider sales and marketing to be one and the same. Remember sales is focused on 'right now,' whereas, marketing is focused on getting 'Mr. Right.'
In order to communicate your product/services and differentiation to your customers, you will use marketing services. The communication tools are what most of us think of when we hear marketing, yet unless aligned to the strategic goals of the business; the monies spent are an expense and not an investment in your success.
If we start looking at our marketing and sales process as a business process and not as a mystery or worse yet, magic, we can not only connect the dots, but get the value out of our investment. Understand the expected outcomes/outputs and align marketing's objectives with your business objectives. If you move from awareness to conversion, revenue will grow.
"The sole purpose of marketing is to sell more to more people, more often and at higher prices. There is no other reason to do it."
- Sergio Zyman
Jayne McQuillan, CPA, MBA, CEPA is a strategic management consultant, and the owner of Journey Consulting, LLC, in Green Bay