Four Key Ingredients for Marketing Success

It is not unusual for chief marketing officers (CMO) to be hired with great fanfare and bold expectations. Too often, however, the marketing initiatives fail to deliver, and the overall marketing effort becomes part of the landscape of failed ideas.

I’ve thought about this scenario quite a bit over the years and have come up with four “must haves” that will increase the likelihood that a new CMO will be successful. They include:

  1. A shared understanding of marketing
  2. Clear realistic goals
  3. Sufficient resources
  4. Political support

A shared definition and understanding of marketing

At the outset, and perhaps even as part of the hiring process, the president, the senior leadership team, the new CMO, and the marketing staff must arrive at a shared definition and understanding of marketing. Beginning with a common definition helps you:

  • Manage expectations
  • Understand the marketing tools that are in play
  • Frame up the initial budget
  • Begin to determine who should be on the marketing team

Clear, realistic goals

Next, establish clear, realistic, and measurable marketing goals. Clear means that everyone understands them. Realistic means that they are achievable within the resources that are available. And measurable means that, at a later date, you can clearly discern progress.

An additional thought: These goals should be expressed in a written plan.

Sufficient resources

Next, consider the resources that are available.

From my perspective, resources have two dimensions: dollars and talent.

First, are there sufficient and ongoing dollars for the goals that have been established? Remember, an institution’s commitment to marketing is always spelled with a dollar sign. Not surprisingly, it is at this point that the new CMO has the first glimpse of how serious the institution is about marketing.

Second, is there sufficient talent? More than sheer numbers, I want to know that the talent tool includes a visionary (hopefully the CMO) and key tacticians.

As visionary, the CMO must:

  • Have a deep conceptual understanding of marketing, especially how marketing is being defined at the institution
  • Be able to write and manage a comprehensive marketing plan
  • Build internal support for marketing

Marketing tacticians are the doers. They are the social media people, the researchers, the writers and designers, the media planners, and the videographers. However, like the players in an orchestra, their actions are directed by the visionary via the marketing plan. The goal is to act in concert.

Political support

Finally, there is the need for political support. This support has multiple dimensions.

First, is the budget sufficient?

Second, does the CMO and marketing team have the freedom to execute the agreed upon plan?

And third, when the CMO and marketing team anger the campus (and they will), does the president have their back?

There you go, four “must haves” for marketing success.

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