Many marketing professionals have found themselves at odds with their CEO, whether they are not on the same page, have competing priorities or have a different version of success. The same often holds true for marketing agencies and their clients’ leadership teams. The divide can be painful and, for some, impossible to bridge.
CEOs, by nature of their responsibilities, can have priorities and pressures that vary significantly. Having never been in the CEO’s shoes, it can be markedly difficult for marketers to see the business from the CEO vantage point.
Having worn both hats, I offer this advice to any marketing executive struggling to connect and align with his or her CEO.
Learn what drives your CEO. What are his or her most important needs? Is it certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth or contribution? Getting to know your CEO by simply asking good questions will help you understand what is most important to him or her.
Adopt a bottom-line focus. I have yet to meet a CEO who only cares about marketing activity. CEOs have their eye on moving the needle on revenue and profit. They surely understand that you must build awareness before growth can be achieved, but show them the informed, researched, measurable path to reach targeted growth. Most CEO frustration about marketing is because a metrics- and accountability-driven strategic sales and marketing plan is lacking.
Spend like every dollar is yours. Another way to win the heart of your CEO is by being so pragmatic with every company dollar that your colleagues would swear you were writing a check out of your personal account to cover each expense. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish, but think before you spend.
Have empathy. While few will complain, many CEOs find their days spent making countless decisions, listening to the problems of others and tackling tough issues. It can be a thankless, emotionally draining job of isolation. So, have empathy and cut them the occasional slack.
Give the gift of time. CEOs face a daily battle to stay focused on the big picture, with a seemingly constant array of distractions competing for their attention. Often, they close out the day feeling like they let someone down and didn't accomplish anywhere close to everything they aspired to do. Leverage your talents and intellect to re-channel problems before they get to the CEO’s door. This initiative gets noticed in almost every organization.
While it may seem like clearly articulated goals are all that's needed to ensure alignment with your CEO, there's more to it. Walk a day in their shoes to build real trust. The good ones are attempting to walk in yours.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.