29 Lessons from the World's Best Marketers

In Josh Steimle’s great book “Chief Marketing Officers at Work” he interviewed 29 CMO’s about their habits, their thoughts, and strategies about marketing in the modern world. In this two-part series, I will share 29 lessons from these marketers.

Lesson Number 1: Centralization creates clarity - but it is all about mixture!

This is great advice from Seth Farbman, CMO of Spotify, whose focus is the global marketing strategy of Spotify across over sixty countries. As a global brand, it is essential that you know what you stand for, what your products mean to people’s lives, and that you communicate this consistently. But in the case of Spotify, it is not the only centralization, because music is a very local topic. This means that the marketing strategy involves local labels and licensing and that local marketing teams must support your vision. It is a Yin-Yang between centralization and decentralization of marketing strategies.

Lesson Number 2: Learn sales and be accountable to the numbers

Traditionally there is a gap between marketing and sales teams in companies, so to eliminate this Heather Zynczak, CMO of Domo gives the advice to see yourself as part of the sales team. Marketing’s purpose is to sell products or services at the end of the day; so make sure that you work on the sales numbers and feel as though you yourself are also in charge of the numbers.

Lesson Number 3: Become a content creator

Brian Kenny, CMO of Harvard Business School, gives the advice to create your own content instead of relying on other people to write about you. Specifically, the media changes so much so, they find it easier to create the context for their own stories. 

Lesson Number 4: Forget brand theory, be data-driven

Louis Gagnon, CMO of Audible, says to make sure that the new CMO needs to be a data-driven executive. You should understand what the customers do and who they really are. As CMO, your job is to invest and understand the customer so that you can deliver the optimal value for them. So make sure you’re familiar with analysis tools and ways how to visualize data material.

Lesson Number 5: Engage with your audience

Here are some ways to find out more details about your audience from Kevin Marasco, CMO of HireVue:

  • Listen on social: What is it they care about? What do they like? What are they commenting on? What are they contributing to? What are their pain points? What keeps them up?

  • Start to engage with them. Connect with them and start to share educational content

  • Forget about selling! Just engage with them and share knowledge with them.

Book recommendations from Kevin Marasco: 

Daniel Pink’s “To sell is human”

Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, Nick Toman “The Challenger Customer”

Lesson Number 6: Use a framework and measure your goals

Kraig Swensrud, CMO of Campaign Monitor uses a management framework in order to measure if the organization and the marketing department are successful or not. This is something that not only the marketing department, but the whole company can use:

Management framework - VVMOM:

  • V: Vision: Defines where we want to go as a company

  • V: Values: What are the common values that we share together?

  • M: Methods: Exact tactics that we plan to execute this year, quarter, month

  • O: Obstacles: Think through what might keep you from achieving the goals?

  • M: Measures: How do we know if we have achieved our goals or not?

Lesson Number 7: Be creative and strategic

Patrick Adams, Head of Consumer Marketing at PayPal, highlights the importance of being creative and strategic at the same time. This means that you should not only work on skills like writing but also understand Return on Investment (ROI), be able to read analysis, and also interpret data material. Doing all of them is hard, but try to become an expert in different areas and combine your creative and strategic skills.

Lesson Number 8: Be broad-minded and aware of world affairs

Edith Wong is CMO at InvestHK, a department of the government of Hong Kong, and gives advice not only to work on communication skills but also to have a broad education, including in humanities and social sciences. Understanding world affairs and what’s going on in society helps shape your perspective and improves your own marketing skills.

Lesson Number 9: Every move has consequences because we’re all interconnected

Michael Mendenhall, CMO of Flex, stresses the importance of thinking globally because everything in today's time has an impact on your company. The more globalized our world becomes, the more impact it has on all of us. So we should work in agile and in informal structures and forget about formalized meeting structures.

Lesson Number 10: Understand the beliefs of your customer and be in the field

Virginie Glaenzer, Vice President of Marketing at Great Eastern Energy, mentioned the importance of knowing the values of your customer. Through social media, there are many more active customers who articulate complaints through their social media channels. In times where you can’t control every piece of content, it is more important than you really understand the values of your target audience. This means knocking on small businesses’ doors and asking people questions! 

Book recommendation by Virginie Glaenzer:

Tom Asacker “Business of Belief”

Lesson 11: You need a deep understanding of the product

Ada Chen Rekhi, Vice President of Marketing on SurveyMonkey, highlights the importance of having a deep understanding of the products and services that your business is selling. It is important that marketers also understand the basics of the products in order to communicate them to customers effectively.

Lesson 12: Align the campaign objectives with the marketing and business objectives

The number one rule from Kieran Hannon, CMO of Belkin International: Evaluate your marketing campaigns! Most people lose sight of the business objectives so ask yourself on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly), are my campaign objectives aligned with my business and marketing objectives?

Book recommendation by Kieran Hannon:

Barry Schwartz “The Paradox of Choice”

Lesson 13: Personalize the customer journey

For Phil Bienert, CMO of GoDaddy, personalizing the customer journey is an important topic. The advantage of digital products is that you can personalize the customer journey very easily. The main thing that Phil Bienert focuses on is how to grow businesses by improving the customer experience.

Lesson 14: Be media relevant

When Margaret Molloy, CMO of Siegel + Gale, thinks about Content Marketing. She and her team consider three variables and three specific questions:

  • Does it support our business development goals?

  • Is it something the news media or other PR outlets are interested in?

  • Does it answer actual client questions?

If you focus on these three questions and answer them with a ‘yes’, then you're on a good track!

Lesson 15: Create rewarding Content

Tom Buday, Head of Marketing Nestle, mentions two relevant and timeless fundamentals: Content should be attractive, rewarding, and business-building. Content that is both attractive and rewarding is especially vital because consumers are in total control over their content consumption and will avoid or reject messaging that they find irrelevant. That means we have to inform them in a way that is useful to them and can share with others.

This was part one of the lessons that I got from the book “Chief Marketing Officers at work” by Josh Steimle. You can find more information about Josh Steimle on his website:

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