Exposing a CMO’s Worst Fears

Tony Compton, Managing Director
GettingPresence

I can’t sing. Not yet, anyway. I suppose if I apply myself to a few singing lessons, I may be able to work my way through a few tunes. Country music, or tunes with a lot of Issac Hayes-type soul, perhaps… Sure, I can sing along in my car to my favorite songs from The Police to The Monkees, and I even mouthed along to an all-too-appropriate Tom Petty song while driving on a sunburnt Interstate 75 in Northern Florida yesterday afternoon, but still, I’m challenged in the singing department. For now.

A few years back, my then-girlfriend and I caught a New York City Broadway performance of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. (The famous 70’s club has been converted into a theater.) As expected, it was a outstanding production, and the performances were phenomenal. What struck me the most is how the actors could voice an appropriate British-accent (they’re not all the same, you know) and sing at the same time. And not just sing, sing well. Broadway performance in Midtown Manhattan well.

Days after the show, I mentioned this to friends when one innocently stopped me and said “That’s what Broadway actors do. They’re trained. They practice and prepare for their performances.” A spot-on observation, and I applied that to the working world of marketing.

Because so much is expected out of marketing, yet so little is done to ensure a world-class, top caliber performance in each and every aspect of the department. And exposing this is exposing a marketing leader’s worst fears.

Broadway actors are never, ever, just thrown out on the stage, yet it’s done to marketers all the time. In more ways than one:

1. Public Speaking and Presentations

Ok, way too obvious, but this topic works in the lead-off spot. Chief Marketing Officers are so damned worried about digital this, and content that… That the key element of a marketer’s ability to stand and deliver messages and value props – without electronics – is never coached, trained, or nurtured. Yet all are expected to deliver world-class audience grabbing performances when they take stage. Any stage. But without adequate practice and preparation, how is this supposed to happen?

By the way, the power went out at 7:00 am in my Central Alabama business class hotel this morning, It was out for over an hour. If your marketers had a meeting with a prospect or customer this morning at 8:00 and had to present in a dimly sunlit room with no slides, tablet, smartphone or laptop, what would they do? How effective would they be on their own – on the fly? Would they bag their performance, use the obvious excuse, or still nail it?

2. Voice and Video Production

You read about the dominance of video marketing and hear about it every day. And now you’re treated to the daily drip of stories that highlight how ‘voice’ is the new User Interface.

I don’t have to look, and I can cover my ears to know that your marketing leadership and your internal teams are totally unprepared for either.

Somehow, somewhere, amateur hour has taken over and it that reminds some of the way Kinescope was used in the early days of television.

In plain language… It’s unacceptable to thrown garbage in, and expect audience-grabbing, lead-generating, groundbreaking programming to come out on the other side. No, it’s not acceptable to put two people in an echoing back office and stick them on camera. No, it’s not acceptable to put a boring four-person panel discussion on a streaming media feed and expect people to watch. No, it’s not acceptable to throw digital marketers at a problem when they’re concerned with keywords and search engines and have zero experience coaching talent.

And, no, you’re not going to want Siri, or Alexa, or whatever generic voice Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, or Facebook offer to vocally represent your business.

Sticking somebody from your marketing team in the back office with a smartphone camera and its microphone headset won’t cut it. It never did, and it never will.

Video and voice are here to stay at the center of your marketing efforts. They impact everything from Product Information Management to the Customer Experience; from branding, lead generation, data gathering and usage, to marketing, communication, service, and customer loyalty; and from strategic investments, to financial management, to corporate profitability.

3. Sales Enablement

Instead of “Love and Marriage” Frank Sinatra could have sung an updated version of his Married with Children theme song using “Marketing and Sales Enablement”. (Although the syllables are way off. I can’t get it to work with the music in my head.) But you get my point. How are marketers expected to enable sales without understanding what salespeople need and want to be enabled, efficient, and effective? Meaning… marketers aren’t spending time with salespeople in the field. Hell, they hardly spend time with them in the office. And if the entire operation if virtual, forget it. Disconnected marketers sitting in a room somewhere cut-off from the daily sales efforts of people grinding it out is a recipe for disaster. Yet, marketers are supposed to be great sales enablers? How? When exactly does this transformation take place? Again, marketers are thrown ‘out there’ and into sales enablement with unrealistic expectations.

4. Digital Marketing

This one I’ll take in reverse. Just as you’ve seen widely-used, common job descriptions for ‘product marketing’ positions, and the often-published stories of video and voice dominance, now comes the onslaught of ‘digital marketing’ careers. But there are two problems with this. One, digital marketing positions usually aren’t just digital marketing positions, and two, if any positions are truly just digital marketing positions, those people are in trouble. Big trouble.

In my experience, ‘digital’ marketing will inevitably include some, if not all of: lead and revenue generation, creative writing, sales enablement, managing trade shows and events, managing marketing automation, social media and CRM systems, leading internal meetings, staff supervision, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training and coaching, content production, public speaking, financial management, departmental strategy, product launches, media and analyst relations, etc… Of course nobody is preparing digital marketers to handle much of that list – one that barely scrapes the surface.

Calling somebody a digital marketer nowadays is largely inaccurate. Their work will encompass more than heads-down Internet and social media work on a laptop. But it seems as if labeling marketing positions as merely ‘digital’ is the new hip comfort zone of HR everywhere.

They’re wrong. And preparing nobody for all that those ‘digital’ positions require.

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. The many discrepancies in how marketing is being handled today don’t really need to be pointed out to expose a CMO’s worst fears. It’s not that the marketing team hasn’t been prepared to be public speakers or outstanding presenters, or that they’re not up to the physical, creative, or technical demands of streaming video production, event management, and vocal user experiences. It’s not the unreasonable expectation that marketers are automatically supposed to be sales enablers in a vacuum or that digital marketing is more of a title-in-name-only function.

I think exposing a CMO’s worst fear would be to secure a speaking spot on a Broadway stage and ask for a two hour performance, without the opportunity to rehearse. No prep, practice, rehearsal before going on stage. In fact, this is a good way to expose the worst fear of most anybody on the executive, board of directors, and investment teams.

After all, if a marketer can be thrown into any one of a number of situations without adequate preparation, practice, coaching, training, rehearsal, or resources before being expected to crush a task or performance, why shouldn’t senior leadership be expected to do the same?

Somethings can be outsourced, but marketers are being sorely short-changed by companies when its employees are not afforded the investment and opportunity to do their jobs well.

No Broadway actor would take the stage and sing without daily hard work and preparation.

No senior-level executive would give a speech or presentation without practice and rehearsal.

But marketing is expected to perform at equally high levels with little or no help, across-the-board, in numerous assignments.

While you think about that, I have to hit the road. It’s a beautiful day in the Southern USA, and it’s time for the open road and some traveling music.

And another chance to work on my singing voice…

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