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As The World Churns For CMO’s

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The good news is that CMO tenure continues to rise.  Spencer Stuart, the executive search consulting firm, in their study released early last year reported that average tenure rose to 42 months.  Up from 35 months two years ago and up from 27 months in 2007.  The bad news is that the CMO position still churns and remains one of the riskiest positions in corporate business.  Additional bad news is that the rise is largely due to economic instability and CEO’s desire to stay the course during uncertain times according to Spencer Stuart.  Not the best reason for a rise but nevertheless it presents opportunities for CMO’s to succeed in longer tenures.

Economic instability and uncertainty will remain constant variables I believe for the next two years.  Compounding the complexity for CMO’s is the state of the buyer.  Or, a better expression may be - the ever changing and unsettled state of the buyer.  CMO’s can and should play an instrumental role in leading organizations out of economic instability and providing a clear picture of the state of their company’s buyers.  There are several guiding ideas that CMO’s can consider to ensure not only a longer tenure but solidifying a leadership role:

Caught In A Spider Web

The CMO role is first and foremost one of leadership.  Their role defined by the challenge of leading their respective organization and the company as a whole into the future of marketing to the new hyper-connected and hyper-networked buyer.  The cautionary tale here is to avoid getting caught in the spider web of hype and tactics.  The state of the new buyer has sprouted new buzz words, touted tactics, and channels all promising the chance to lift marketing up to higher levels.  When uncertainty reigns, the temptation can be as alluring as rich chocolate to bite into these new tactical measures.  Good CMO’s today will focus on setting the entire course as opposed to thinking about the dessert.

Spinning Wheel

CMO’s today must figure out how to keep the marketing wheel turning.  Looking at what relevant spokes in the wheel will result in the right balance.  Some of these spokes will come from internal while others may come from external.  Sound assessments are needed to determine where it makes sense to bring in outside expertise to keep the wheel balanced and spinning.  External spokes can come in the form of customers, partners, and consultants – all being brought together to help them navigate the risky and uncertain road ahead.  Balancing expertise in new forms of marketing and direction providing is a skill that CMO’s can develop to ensure less churn.

The Vision Thing

For most organizations, CMO’s can shape the role of not only being the eyes and ears of customers and buyers today but also help to give vision of where they are likely to be in the future.  CMO’s today can cause fundamental shifts in buyer understanding through the balance of quantitative predictive analytics and qualitative predictive buyer modeling.  When combined, helping CMO’s to offer a vision of the future buyer and how their company can best respond.

Using A Periscope

CMO’s will need to rely on the use of customer and buyer insight to guide strategy planning and gain foresight.  Taking care to realize insight gathering should be ongoing and not a static moment in time.  Repeating the refrain of balance, endeavors must include balancing quantitative insight and analysis with that of qualitative insight and analysis.  CMO’s will need to use these twin periscopes to look out above the turbulent waters and gain deep understanding about buyers that informs them where to find land where buyers reside.

Time For Good Behavior

In significant fashion, buyer behavior continues to be metamorphic as the heat of change rises each year.  CMO’s can influence how their company connects with buyers with deep analysis and portrayals of buyers that extend beyond demographics and firmographics.  Instead, focusing their sights on a more penetrating view of Business Buyergraphics aimed at understanding the purchasing behaviors of buyers as well as what tangible and intangible drivers are influencing these behaviors.

Getting All Techie

Understanding new technologies today, especially those related to digital, social, and Enterprise 2.0, remain an important function of the modern CMO.  New technology can either be your best friend or your worst enemy.  Some CMO’s, at least gleamed anecdotally, have had their tenure cut short by placing a big bet on implementing a new technology that turned into a sinkhole with little to show for it.  Careful assessment can result in good choices whereby new enabling technology moves the needle forward.  More profoundly, CMO’s of this era need to engage in the role of determining how introductions of external new technologies change buyer behaviors and what impact they have on their organization.

Don’t Forget Your Best Friend

It might be a good idea to get your office next door to that of the CSO and become fast friends.  Neither can exist without the other in today’s complex world where there is elusive understanding of not only buyers but how to create synergy in go-to-market strategies.  The marketing and sales alignment issue over the years has revolved too much around tactical concepts as opposed to strategic common sense about buyers.  It’s like two assistant coaches arguing about how to get a first down versus how to score points.  Get on the same team and worry about scoring points with buyers.

Going To School

On the job learning is critical to keep up with new understandings about markets and buyers.  This should not be confused with trying to learn all about the intricate details of social media, content marketing, and etc.  The focus on learning should be on understanding buyer behaviors and making sound assessments of what means help organizations best respond to these new behaviors and win over customers.  My sense is that the Spencer Stuart tenure numbers will fluctuate downward each time new technologies are introduced and new economic environments arise – caused primarily by skill gaps.

Can any of these guiding ideas ensure longevity beyond 42 months?  No, that would be a bet worth not making in these complex times.  What I do believe is that it increases the probability and that CMO’s will be better off than when they first started their tenure.  Regardless of how long the tenure, it will also enhance preparedness for the next assignment.  There is a ying and yang that comes with churn – if you are on the exit side you can always be sure that there will be an entry side somewhere waiting.

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Predictive Buyer Modeling Is Changing the Future of B2B

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I would not be surprised today if a group of B2B executives said they were using fortune tellers to peer into a crystal ball to make predictions about the future.  The fast pace of change makes the crystal ball of how buyers will behave in the future enveloped in a hazy fog.  C-Suites are under enormous pressures to get it right the first time with regards to marketing and sales planning.

The ability to make decisions based on predictions is becoming an essential attribute for B2B executives.  Predictions come with a host of implications and the ability to assess their impact is perhaps the toughest part of strategy planning.  One approach that has been used by executives to inform strategy planning is that of scenario modeling.  It has been used both in business and in military exercises for several decades.  What matters in today’s B2B climate is having the ability to predict multiple scenarios and more importantly – multiple buying scenarios that will shape the organization’s marketing, sales, product, content, and social strategies.

Predictive analytics and modeling has mostly been about exactly what the name implies – an exercise in using analytics to predict and model different scenarios.  There are three profound changes occurring in predictive analytics and modeling that is being driven by the impact of the buyer increasingly self-directing purchase decisions:

  • Putting buyers at the center of predictive modeling
  • Emphasis on modeling buyer behavior
  • Bringing a qualitative interface to the quantitative analytics

Some leading B2B executives are proceeding with a level of qualitative buyer research that allows them to understand current buying scenarios as well as behaviors to create predictive buyer scenario models.   Using the nuances of each buyer scenario modeled to create specific as well as variations of marketing, sales, social, product, and content strategies that help them to attain key objectives related to growth.  One reason B2B executives are turning to integrating qualitative buyer scenario models into predictive analytics is that it allows them to view real world business challenges at an insightful level.  This approach gives them an all important interface to existing analytics as well as guiding what analytics to get predictive about in the future.

A case in point could be that quantitative predictive analytics can help predict the types of IT servers needed, what is the average quantity purchased, quantify search behaviors, and how IT servers are being purchased.  Buyer scenario models bring the real world insight that will help to predict under what scenarios IT servers are needed, what problems usually surface that causes the need, buyer behaviors during search and decision-making, and why it is important.  Integrating the quantitative and the qualitative allows B2B executives to then predict multiple buyer scenarios that reflect real world problems and also represent real-time growth opportunities.

How Can B2B Leaders Make Predictive Buyer Modeling An Important Part Of Strategy?

For some B2B organizations, jumping into full blown predictive analytics can be an expensive proposition. One key benefit of qualitative predictive buyer modeling is that it can be done less expensively and it also helps to identify where predictive analytics is needed.  Here are a few ways B2B leaders can consider predictive buyer modeling and the use of buyer scenario models:

Input – I was in the business information and intelligence industry for a good portion of my career and one tenet that is still true today is that good output is driven by good input.  In this case, good input is represented by qualitative research and interviewing efforts that help to identify important behavioral data and insight elements.

Multiple Scenarios – In today’s business climate, the number of possible buying scenarios continues to increase.  And they are touching more parts of the organization than ever before.  Building buyer scenario models for strategies related to marketing, sales, content, social, and service can be extremely valuable for a C-Suite team in planning.

End-to End – The emphasis should be on understanding the full spectrum of the End-to-End Buyer Experience.  Even in quantitative predictive analytics, this point is often overlooked.  Buyer behavior is often shaped not only by pre-sale experiences but by post-sale experiences – with bad post-sales experiences having a detrimental impact on future sales.

Implications Analysis – Predictive buyer modeling should be designed to enable B2B leaders with the ability to understand the implications that different buyer scenario models will have on their business.  This should include some “what if” modeling around how buyers may respond to different approaches and strategies.

People Involvement – Predictive buyer modeling should not be for the chosen few.  It should involve as many people from affected areas as possible.  Buyer scenario models enable teams to look at real world challenges and literally play a game of understanding how strategies and tactics can change the game in the real world itself.

Integrate Analytics – Predictive analytics can indicate areas that can benefit from further illumination.  In those cases where further illumination is needed, predictive buyer modeling and buyer scenario models can get to the story behind the numbers.  In the reverse, buyer scenario models can introduce a new story and predictive analytics can get to the numbers behind the story.

Recently, I witnessed a group of executives use predictive buyer modeling.  What became evident to me was how the process opened up the mind to alternative possibilities.  Additionally, by putting the buyer at the center of predictive modeling, assumptions as well as implications were easier to assess because the focus was on how buyers would respond.  This type of process sparks the creativity needed to look at real world business challenges and think in new ways to reinvigorate as well as sustain a business.

Predictive buyer modeling and buyer scenario models can show B2B executives a new path towards making customer-centric and buyer-centric planning a reality.  Enabling a promising future for how B2B organizations can reinvent strategizing and planning – and when doing so, they do so with the buyer at the center.

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Free eBook: How Buyer Trends Are Impacting the Future of Business Thinking

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Recently, I embarked on a series of articles related to buyer trends and how they are changing conventional business thinking as we know it.  These series of articles, referenced as Buyerology Trends, highlighted 7 areas of where buyer trends are challenging conventional thinking.

Business in general has been undergoing the most unprecedented period of economic challenges, social changes, technological changes, and rapid changes in buyer behaviors in several decades.  Pressing business leaders today to not only adapt quickly but to rethink many long-held business beliefs.  The world has become hyper-connected and hyper-competitive.  Making many business concepts rendered obsolete or not as true as they once were.  While some business thinking and management ideas stand the test of time, such as those of Peter Drucker, others will begin to fade as the global marketplace continues to spin and behave differently.

I have compiled this series of articles into an eBook of 65 pages for easy reading and it is made freely available for sharing.  In this eBook, significant buyer trends derived from qualitative research are highlighted.  They are presented in the context of how conventional thinking may need to change to align with new buyer behaviors that are affecting purchase decisions.  Particular focus is made on what the C-Suite must do to respond and how the future may look as a result of buyer trends related to changing buyer behaviors.

It is my hope and passion that the eBook will spark dialogue and thinking that helps organizations to better understand buyers.  Rethinking conventions and reshaping them to align better with buyers today and in the future.  The eBook can be downloaded at the following link:

Buyerology: How Buyer Trends Are Impacting the Future of Business Thinking


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