So You Want to Be CEO?

Did you know that over the past two decades the number of marketers that have become CEOs has consistently declined? The creative and impactful energy that is inherent in marketers would seemingly be excellent attributes for potential CEOs. In order to decrease this trend going forward, we first need to consider why it is that those who drive new business have lost their voice at the executive table.

Over the years, marketing has undergone a significant transformation. What started out as a glorified game of assumptions and pure intuition has become one of the most closely monitored, measured and benchmarked departments of any business. However, with a multitude of ways to scale impact, marketers have begun to speak a different language than your typical CEO. We’ve started to speak in “likes”, “tweets”, “branded vs. non-branded search traffic”, “social following” and other ambiguous terms that lack a clear connection to typical financial drivers CEOs rely on to monitor a business’s health. The new wave of marketing has brought about a scattered effect on strategy. With so many platforms to reach our customers, marketers have become increasingly results-oriented, often recommending tools before developing an underlying strategy. And even though marketers have become extremely adept in practices like social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and so forth, the tactical focus has increased the divide between CEO and marketer.

So what can a marketer do to increase their share of voice with the CEO?

Focus on becoming strategic, cross-functional and bottom line oriented.

  1. A strategic marketer is one that is able to build a sustainable competitive advantage and understands the time, scope, cost and resources to do so. In order to create sustainable differentiation, marketers must weave a business’s unique selling proposition into both internal and external facing departments of the business. True differentiation is not built by marketing alone, but rather by identifying strategic segments and focusing the entire organization on fulfilling those needs. This is the difference between being customer-focused and customer-centric. This is the type of strategic thinking that gets the attention of the CEO.
  2. A cross-functional orientation means having an expertise or at least a solid understanding in each of the digital marketing services. By not being tied to a single service or tool, it allows for a 360-degree view of marketing. Not only does this help uncover additional solutions to problems, but it also allows marketers to maximize their efforts by sequencing them in a way that best utilizes resources. Cross-functionality also allows marketers to clearly communicate and lead diverse teams.
  3. Being bottom line oriented is having a clear-cut focus on the key business drivers for any company. In respect to marketers, the responsibility of being bottom line oriented is two-fold. First, marketers need to understand the proper metrics to measure the tactical effectiveness of their department. Secondly, they need to translate and communicate those metrics into business drivers that the CEO can use to monitor the health of the business. For example, the fact that you increased their social media followers by 25% might not resonate positively with them, but the fact that you exceeded their monthly online conversion goals will certainly get their attention.

So, if you aspire to reach the C-level or want to increase your voice at the executive table, it is time to forget the tactics and focus on strategy. Work to fill your toolkit with as many areas of expertise as possible, and once you conquer one, demand another. Become proficient in the language of CEOs who inspire you. And finally, start understanding and communicating in terms that drive businesses. Because, once you have become strategic, cross-functional and bottom line oriented, nothing can stop you.

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