One of the most critical members of a company’s executive team is the marketing leader. This is the person who should ensure that your organization is capable of creating, communicating and delivering value to customers in a competitively advantaged way that leads to your company’s success. If you are not achieving the business results you want, a marketing leader can be tasked with disrupting the status quo and leading a change initiative to improve your situation. So what are the attributes a CEO should look for in a marketing executive who can lead such change? Start with these eight.
Both-brained: Most great marketing leaders are both left-brained and right-brained, analytical and creative. They bring science and financial sense to the discipline as well as art and intuition. This allows them to be both rigorous about ROI and passionate about your brand.
Competence: Developing compelling value propositions, segmenting your markets and engaging customers in an ever-changing media landscape require a keen understanding of all the tools in the marketing tool box. Often, marketing leaders have backgrounds that might emphasize product planning, brand management, communications or sales. Be clear about the expertise that is most critical to addressing your challenges and ensure your marketing leader has that experience.
Vision: Being able to insightfully develop and passionately communicate a winning strategy for creating value and attracting customers is a must for an effective marketing leader. Painting a clear and exciting picture for the organization is essential for assuring that the whole company is aligned towards a common goal and follows a common plan. Without such clarity of vision, a business can fall victim to apathy, in-fighting and other organizational dysfunctions.
Focus: Most organizations are capable of doing many things, they just can’t do everything. By focusing the organization on the customer segments that represent your best opportunities, by clarifying the propositions that are most compelling to those segments and by allocating your resources accordingly your company will improve its odds of success. Your marketing leader must have the discipline to indicate which ideas will be foregone in order to concentrate efforts on your most promising opportunities.
Collaborative: No marketing plan can be executed effectively without the commitment of the sales, operations, finance and other company functions. Go-it-alone marketers rarely make a sustainable positive impact. Having the skills to listen, enroll and align are important if your demand-generation and brand development strategies are going to make a meaningful difference to your bottom line.
Initiative: Remarkable marketing leaders rarely settle for mediocre. Their nature is to constantly seek out new and better ways to improve your business. They won’t settle for good if great is possible. They channel their impatience by taking initiative to change what needs changing. But don’t bring this kind of leader into your organization if you really want a guardian of the status quo. The remarkable leader who takes the initiative will frustrate you and those around you who are happily entrenched in the current situation.
Courage: You and your marketing leader will undoubtedly be faced with obstacles in your pathway to success. But it is reassuring to have someone by your side with the tenacity to persevere through the tough times, the determination to overcome the roadblocks and the resolution never to give up. Confidence is uplifting and contagious and is desperately needed in most companies today.
Character: People follow leaders they can believe in. And leaders with integrity, who are honest, who treat people with respect and courtesy and who behave responsibly are much easier to believe in. If you want your company to be trusted, make sure to entrust your brand to a marketer of good character.
Finding and retaining such a marketing leader is not easy. You may have someone on your team today who displays many of these characteristics. If so, encourage them and support them in developing the other attributes. If you have a void in your team, use this checklist to assess new candidates for your firm. In the end, you’ll have the kind of leader who you can count on to help make your company great.
John Ellett is the CEO of integrated marketing firm nFusion, based in Austin. John is also the author of “The CMO Manifesto: A 100-Day Action Plan for Marketing Change Agents.”
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