8 Strategic Imperatives for C-Level CMOs

C-level CMOs are business drivers, business strategists, and business leaders.  While the CMO title is sometimes tossed about cavalierly, the role mandate is to actively contribute on both a strategic and executional level.  Buzzwords like social media, mobile, cloud, systems of collaboration and the like can obscure the criticality of what happens on a strategic level.  In this vein, let’s consider the challenges and changes facing today’s strategically minded C-level CMO.

1.  Business Strategy: This determines your reason for being, where you will compete, how you will compete, and what sets you apart for long term success.  As the customer and market expert and advocate, it’s your job to know the target at a very granular level, the compelling reason to buy, whole product requirements, partner/alliance strategy, sales approach, pricing, competitors, and positioning/messaging.   All of this informs business strategy.

2.  Marketing Strategy:  This is all about how you build the go-to-market (GTM) marketing framework, in today’s environment, where compressed planning cycles and the need to react quickly are elevating importance of this competency.  Five to 10 years ago, most CMOs had a strong agency background. Today we are seeing more business-savvy people with a deep understanding of business and marketing strategy.

3.  Communications:  This role has always been about reaching the heart of mind of a prospect within a framework for strategic marketing positioning.  Today that framework needs to recognize how we manage and execute social media and content.  You need to create operational strategies and frameworks that will enable enterprise content strategy and social media operations.

4.  Portfolio Marketing:  This is the place where strategy, marketing, sales, and product all intersect.  Today, the discipline of product marketing is moving toward persona- and solution-based portfolio marketing that will require more enablement than ever before. Portfolio marketing will continue to drive interlock across core enterprise GTM processes.

5.  Demand Generation:  Strategies for demand creation will require closer integration across inbound, outbound, sales-driven, and partner-driven demand. A new demand waterfall and demand center model will become essential to creating a complete and holistic view as well as identifying areas of leverage through shared program execution capabilities.

6.  Market Intelligence:  Intelligence will have to be more comprehensive and real time than ever before.  Vectors including competition (all alternatives including homegrown), market trends, technology trends, socioeconomic trends, geopolitical trends, industry and financial analyst perspectives, and media covering will require new methods to harvest and disseminate critical knowledge across the organization.

7.  Operations: Underpinning all strategic efforts is the need for a framework for marketing infrastructure and measurement. The role of operations is broadening to include the whole revenue performance management suite including marketing, sales, service, and support. Increased investment in marketing automation, CRM, resource management, and collaborative technologies will be required in order to scale operations, enable global processes and provide new market and buyer insights.

8.  Delivery:  Delivery today is a multi-channel, multi-touch endeavor that recognizes that 60% of the buying process happens before a salesperson interaction As such, delivery refers not to a department but a capability within marketing roles – i.e. how we deliver marketing. Marketing delivery is changing at an extraordinary pace, and the way we publish content today will likely be very different from how we’ll be doing it in the future.

Andrew Salzman is a principal with the Chasm Group, a strategic market consultancy founded by Geoffrey Moore and devoted to helping companies transition disruptive technologies into material businesses.  He can be reached at asalzman@chasmgroup.com or 415-812-1925.


When the Prey Becomes the Hunter

When the Prey Becomes the Hunter

Marketing and sales typically think of themselves as hunters tracking prey. 

The art and science of selling typically starts with some addressable market definition that defines the prey or target.  Using lists and other data sources, a subset of this addressable universe is identified (prospects or suspects) and placed at the front end of a process funnel.  From here, marketing and sales attempt to march their prey through four stages…Awareness, Interest, Consideration, and Purchase.

The prevailing marketing funnel wisdom is to start with “branding” to expose the product (Awareness), then provoke an action like attending a webinar (Interest or “unqualified leads”), gradually provoke more actions that in total meet some lead scoring criterion (Consideration or “qualified leads”), and then hand the prey off to SDRs for final scrutiny as being “opportunity worthy”.  Marketing gets credit for the number and dollar value of sales accepted opportunities, or pipeline created.

The prevailing sales funnel wisdom starts a handoff from the marketing funnel.  Opportunities are further qualified in discovery sessions, demos are given, RFPs are written, deals are negotiated, and after legal proceedings and price haggling, a Purchase hopefully happens.  But what if the hunter is actually the prey?

Recent research from Google and the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) entitled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing challenges the conventional wisdom. According to the study, customers reported to being nearly 60 percent through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point.

What are buyers doing?  They are surfing corporate websites to hunt and qualify vendors. They are engaging peers (fellow hunters) in social media to learn more about their needs, potential solutions and providers.  And they are reading, listening to, and watching free digital content.   The “prey” are out there hunting for their own solutions, on their own terms. 

The implications for sales and marketing are both obvious and subtle.  For marketers, the goals are to help buyers discover them through consistent multi-channel exposure, a compelling content strategy, and a better understanding of which attractions to expose (e.g., multichannel analytics).  This requires an intimate understanding of what paths the “prey” may travel and how those experiences intersect and interact (see HBR March 2013 article, “Advertising That Works”).  For sales, the goal is to provide high value, highly relevant content not found through typically available sources, attracting the buyer hunter to the prey based on an understanding of both rational and emotional purchase drivers. 

In this environment, marketing and sales will have to transition from being “product pushers” following a process, to insight “providers” adding value to a buyer’s life.  As the study states, sales must deliver “pointed insights and evidence that seek to challenge an entrenched point of view among potential customers.”

It is time to recognize that we’re not in control, and perhaps we never were. The traditional marketing and sales process is becoming obsolete; it is time for the hunter to think and act like the prey.


Andrew Salzman is a principal with the Chasm Group, a strategic market consultancy founded by Geoffrey Moore and devoted to helping companies transition disruptive technologies into material businesses.  He can be reached at asalzman@chasmgroup.com or 415-812-1925.


No Pain, No Gain



So a new year is upon us, and my fitness club is flooded with new members seeking to fulfill New Year’s resolutions.  By March, it’ll be business as usual.  The people who put in the work day in and day out will still be there.  Like the sign on the gym wall says, “No Pain, No Gain”.


“No Pain, No Gain” starts with the customer. I can’t count how many companies I see who start with a “cool” technology that the inventors love, but customers see as “nice to have”.   Pain is rooted in the lives of customers, and it takes hard work to solve for pain better than existing alternatives.  With the right solution in hand, it takes more hard work to develop compelling value propositions, align the stakeholders, optimize pricing, find the right partners, get your sales strategy and story nailed, and secure winning beachheads.


Starting with products and services, there is a world of difference between “nice to have” and “need to have”.  Disruptive technologies rooted in customer pain change the rules of the game.  They become “need to have” solutions that displace incumbents.  But disruptive technologies are in short supply these days.


Witness the glaring lack of disruptive technologies I saw at CES 2013 last week.  The most touted “innovations” were “phablets” (5”-6” devices combining a phone and a tablet); OLED and Ultra HD TVs touting ultra HD and 4K resolution (i.e., doubling the number of pixels displayed); and Dish TV with “Hopper” and Sling (ability to delete commercials from recordings and stream content to any device).  Is this pain?  Is it disruptive?  Sounds like pretty “nice to have” stuff to me.


Disruption creates pain, and pain motivates action.   As a market strategist and operational executive, I have spent my entire career working with disruptive technologies tied to market transformations.  Some succeed wildly.  Others limp along.   I find time and again that winners understand the three intertwined principles of  “no pain, no gain”.


1.  Pain starts with the customer, not the product.   Identifying the right pain to solve for takes a lot of hard work rooted in inspiration, creativity, and analytical rigor.


2. Pain directs precise product requirements that solve for that pain in novel ways that can disrupt the market status quo.  More hard work. 


3. Pain informs rigorous, focused operational planning and execution that aligns key stakeholders around a common, easy-to-understand story.  More hard work. 


Ready to get down to some hard work.  Find the pain.  Reap the gain.  Let’s talk.





Execution Trumps Strategy

There are so many companies out there today with well researched new strategies in place. And yet, they’re not really moving the proverbial needle as much or as far as they could.  Begs the question…how do you move from strategy to results?

 New strategies often entail a business transition, whether it is re-igniting growth, redefining a market, or expanding into new products, markets, or regions.  But there is more to transition than strategy.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love helping companies develop well informed strategies that looks at markets, customers, industries, trends, and the paths to seed disruptive technologies in emerging markets.  We do a lot of this work at Chasm Group.  But going from strategy to results is about execution, alignment, buy-in, partnering, global mindset, and shared accountability.

As a marketer by training, I focus on developing executable marketing plans, executable positioning, executable go-to-market programs, and executable product roadmaps rooted in brand choice drivers.  Executable means cohesive, getting everyone on the same page with the same level of commitment.  It means processes and milestones, with specific and tangible deliverables.  It goes well beyond fanciful visions and the “game-changer” platitudes.

How many companies do you know that spend hundreds of thousands with big name consulting firms, only to get 3 inch thick binders filled with ideas that never see the light of day.  No surprise here…3 miles wide and 3 inches deep is where big ships get into trouble.

I saw great strategy at Kodak in 1994.  At Compaq is 1998.  At Siebel Systems in 2001.  Kodak saw the digital photo revolution.  Compaq saw the emergence of open enterprise systems.  Siebel saw the cloud as an entry point for SMBs when cloud barely existed as a word.

I love a great strategy, and have created quite a few in my day.  But my practice has expanded to fully embrace what I am seeing as today’s top pain point…translating strategy into results.  Translating strategy into marketing executables.  Sales executables. Product executables.  Channel executables.

If you are going to bring in outsiders to help transition your company, do it with people possessing operational experience and the wisdom of knowing what will work, what won’t, and why.  If you going to go 3 miles wide, go 3 miles deep!

Lessons from a Change Agent

Instigating change to make a substantive impact on a company’s growth trajectory can be an exhilarating experience.  But going from inspiration to material reality is a process rife with opportunity and threat.  These are tough and potentially treacherous waters to navigate, from the politics to the fiefdoms to entrenched thinking and the all too human resistance to change.  If you are a catalyst for change, or seeking to become one, help is on the way. 

My career as a global CMO and a strategic advisor at Chasm Group has taken me to places like Kodak during the 1994-96 transition from traditional to digital photography.  Compaq during the acquisitions of DEC and Tandem, and the turmoil around the HP deal.  Siebel Systems during its meteoric rise to CRM greatness, and its subsequent fall.  IRI, a private equity-backed firm seeking to move from data to decision support systems outside its traditional MRD stronghold.  And many companies seeking to reinvent themselves. I have seen this movie and thought I’d share 10 useful tidbits.  Hope you will share yours.

  • Don’t use the term “change agent”.  It casts others as veterans who are part of the problem and suggests they’ve been sitting on their thumbs…even if it’s true.
  • Understand the hunger for change.  If there is no burning platform, you can’t create one operating as a team of one.
  • Speak about “us”.  Take the Japanese approach of uniting against a common enemy.  And check your ego at the door.  Lavish genuine praise on others, sometimes giving credit where it’s not due.
  • Find like-minded people.  You will need to enlist the support of others across all levels and departments.  Remember, this is a “we” mission you are embarking on. 
  • Make sure you understand what win-win means.  It seems obvious that buy-in requires win-win scenarios.  Anyone who will be affected by the changes you are catalyzing must see the personal benefits to them.  WIIFM.
  • Network like crazy.  Self explanatory.  You need a lot of friends.
  • Gather all the data and intelligence you can.  Make sure you know the facts and can make a rational, empirically based argument.  You cannot fly at 50,000 feet, and expect to land the plane.
  • The divine is in the details.  You may know where you want to go, but you’d better know how to get there.
  • Listen to the philosophy of Bugs Bunny.  You need to laugh when it hurts, and not take things personally.  “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again”.
  • Always finish what you start.  If you are embarking on a journey of change, see it through.  This is not something you dabble in.






Finding the Best Talent: A Paradigm Shift

There was a day when finding the best talent meant hiring an executive recruiter or posting to a job board. Thank the Lord that those days may soon be gone.

Here’s a growingly anachronistic process for you. Executive recruiters trying to maintain massive databases on talent…much of it out of date…and scanning about for names that may fit a tight job spec. It’s a process that can take months, and cost you tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. In this desperate quest to fill a position, executive recruiters can do things that can damage your company brand.

They call people to source candidates hoping that referrals will help find the needle in the haystack. Inefficient but nothing wrong here. But what happens if you yourself get asked to interview for a role, and take the time to investigate. Let’s say you take a few meetings, do all the prep work, go to the interviews, and nail them. More often that not, unless you are that needle in the haystack, the recruiter goes radio silent on you. You did not make the cut for whatever reason, but you hear nothing for weeks and no one returns your calls. Candidates are left angry and frustrated, and rightly so. Months later, you get a friendly voice on the line asking you for referrals.

Sadly this scenario plays out far too often.  It’s a one way street…a “what can you do for me, and I owe you not the smallest courtesy” when you are no longer a money maker for me. This damages not only the recruiter’s reputation, but potentially the brands of the hiring companies. As I said, there are exceptions to this but not many. And it is sad that too many people are afraid to call out a recruiter for lack of courtesy, lest they get a bad reputation for speaking the truth.

Thank the lord for a new day and a new way. With the advent of social networking, a great company named LinkedIn is changing the game in professional recruiting in very profound ways. Now a hiring company can have access to a global pool and very rich interactive database of potential candidates, active and passive jobs searchers, who fit a job spec to a tee. They can see their connections. They can get references and referrals with relative ease to get to a short list fairly quickly, using analytics and matching algorythms. They can automate the process of managing job searches from sourcing to attracting (through employer branding tools) to nurturing and closing much like a sales process…all done with an eye towards enhancing the company brand and reputation. They can make everyone in their company serve as a recruiting partner by making job openings visible to all to recommend to their networks. And they can do it all for pennies on the dollar vs. traditional exec recruiting models.

Job boards remain another popular option but these usually only tap active job seekers. What if you want to hire Google engineers with specific backgrounds, experiences, interests, and skill sets.  Easy on LinkedIn. Cumbersome otherwise. Why market to an audience of thousands when you can seek to attract audiences of one…tapping into both active and passive candidates.

When we move from systems of transaction to systems of engagement, the search for the best talent that will fit your culture, define your competitive edge, and ensure your future success becomes far easier and more efficient. Exec recruiters, again with some notable exceptions, are transactional people.  Job boards are transactional.  Internal recruiters use them to find names, get resumes, qualify them by phone, serve them up to the hiring managers who then get frustrated with poor fit alternatives, and the loop recycles.

Talent acquisition is a human business to be sure, but the traditional models are not terribly human. Enter systems of engagement fueled by technology to improve upon and humanize the process through the new world of social recruiting. Enter companies like LinkedIn.

The game is changing in profound ways for the recruiting managers and talent acquisition execs who seek to become business partners with hiring managers. Rather than have the exec recruiter own the business relationship, it is now possible for HR to step up to the role they’ve always aspired to.

The executive recruiter job will shift to sourcing the very top people within a narrowly defined universe…C-level execs in targeted fields and industries. It will continue to shrink, with hopeful the best and most ethical surviving. Hallelujah.

But outside major enterprise C-level hires, there is a paradigm shift afoot. Pay attention. You’ll get the best people, who fit your culture, who are recommended from people you respect inside and outside your company, who are receptive to your complimentary overtures, and who can make the impact you need.

LinkedIn get it. Facebook is looking into it. Others are sure to join in. The paradigm shift is here.

HP: A 10 year cycle of self-destruction?

Ya gotta wonder just what the heck those wonderful people at HP are doing to a once venerable company.  A recent article in the WSJ chronicles with absolute hilarity just how badly this company is managing its business today.  http://on.wsj.com/nMheVn.

I have to go back to 1999 when I was at Compaq in recalling this folly.  Back then, I argued that Compaq should divest its PC business and its consumer division…focusing instead on enterprise computing per its $14B in acquisitions for DEC and Tandem.  PCs were a commodity, low margin business, and the Compaq margins being kicked back to resellers were being outdone by the direct selling, have it your way, value prop at Dell.  Lo and behold, Compaq gets sold to HP and the Compaq consumer biz gets a jolt from HP’s consumer business. Inkjets were where all the HP money was being made, but that channel strength didn’t hurt the Compaq acquisitions.  Was I wrong?  I’ve wavered on this one but concluded that Compaq’s future really did belong in pushing the enterprise envelope with open systems vs closed architectures then at IBM and Sun.

So it is 1999-2000, the market is frothy with big ideas, sticky sites, and eyeballs, and so ensues the Battle of Big Carly v Walter Hewlett.  Carly’s delusions of grandeur flowed and big vision statements ruled the day.  Ooops…someone failed to see that vision didn’t play well in established categories…operational excellence did…and that wasn’t Carly’s long suit.  Enter tough guy Mark Hurd.  No vision.  Just execute baby.  And the stock takes off with the return of profits based on the fundamentals.

So what does HP do??  They drum Hurd out of office based on an unproven sex scandal.  Whom does HP hire?  Leo Apotheker, an lifetime, formulaic, by the numbers SAP guy who knows software software and software.  Big spending returns to HP from the Carly era, and the guy spends $10B on Autonomy, a software play not suited to HP’s core strengths.  The stock tanks 40%.  In between, the company decides to take a run at the Apple iPad and kills it soon after launch.  Want one for $99?? Then the company announces plans to take on Microsoft in PCs with its own O/S dubbed webOS.  Anyone buying this??  Certainly wasn’t a disruptive innovation, which is what it takes to up end the status quo.  And now, the talk is about selling off the PC business, as IBM did years earlier.  Errrr….reminds me of 1999.

What happened to HP under its founders and its many loyal lifetime employees??  I recall a company that prided its on customer service and product innovation.  Pretty fundamental stuff.  Now its about financial chicanery and me-too products late to the game.  These people literally missed the Internet, though others of similar stature did so as well . Only Hurd’s operational excellence strategy kept them in the game, buying time for real disruptive innovations to drive next gen growth…innovations which never materialized.

HP has some very smart people.  Many have recently left including several top execs.  Those who remain oughta get back to the fundamentals…innovative products, great customer service, and a culture that rewards risk taking.  I’m rooting for you, HP.  But find someone from within your remaining ranks or from Apple who gets innovation and customer service.  Great execution and weak strategy beats great strategy and weak execution.  But great + great is a marvelous thing.