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Grant Johnson

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Over the past few years, I’ve connected with  dozens of CMOs via peer groups, such as The CMO CouncilThe CMO Club and Forrester’s CMO Group, and everyone I talk to is striving to become more “2.0.”   So what does it really mean to be CMO 2.0?

Conventional wisdom says that you have to embrace the mega trends, including big data, cloud, mobile, and social.  You need to immerse yourself into the new ways of pervasive computing and continuous communications that Generation C – or the connected generation – view as a way of life.  You need to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.   You need to meld traditional competencies in communications and creative ideation with quantitative analysis and insight-producing analytics. But, while all this is true, it overlooks the change in operational approach and style that is equally important for a CMO 2.0.

Just because a CMO is in the “C-Suite” doesn’t mean he or she will be more successful at influencing peers than VPs of Marketing who are not part of the most senior executive group.   Success requires a commitment to building and maintaining strong ties to other C-Suite members, so you can count on their support for strategic initiatives.   As John Ellett, CEO of nFusion and Forbes blogger, said in a recent blog: “I found that effective marketing change agents take time early in their tenure to forge strong relationships with their C-suite peers. They don’t wait until they unveil their strategy and hope to build alliances at that time; they seek out their peers and develop the trust needed before it’s time to align on a plan for change.”  Leading change is a key success factor for CMOs, so this advice is critical to maximize the probability of success of any key initiative.

Another key dimension of being a CMO 2.0 is the ability to not only learn about and embrace mega trends, but also to determine how these trends are affecting your business, and how to use them as a catalyst to drive growth and revenue. Best-selling author and technology guru Geoffrey Moore definitely gets CMO 2.0.  In his talks about the future of IT, he articulates how systems of engagement are replacing systems of record, so that we are moving from an era of: command and control to collaboration; from transaction-oriented to interaction-oriented; from data-centric to user-experience centric; and from user learns system to system learns user.

To be CMO 2.0, you have to not only drive marketing, but also drive change in the systems the company uses to connect with and engage customers, and continually revise the policies and processes that govern all customer interactions, whether or not you have authority over these functions (e.g. sales, service, support) that touch customers.

Many observers have said that the CMO 2.0 is ideally suited to take on additional responsibility and have an increased impact on organizational success.  But this won’t happen by simply synthesizing the mega trends – it requires a deeper insight into what to do about them and the formulation of a transformative plan to drive organizational change.  In his recent book “Everywhere”, Larry Weber, Chairman of W2 Group and Pega board member, explains that you can’t just say your company is going to embrace social media, you actually have to change the company at the core:  “To develop a social enterprise, management has to be intentional about creating a culture that values openness, transparency, collaboration and innovation. Although many social forces are making this directional move inevitable, it often goes against the grain of how companies have traditionally been run.”  To be CMO 2.0, you therefore have to be just as involved in culture building and culture change as the head of HR and the CEO are.

So it’s clear that while embracing Web 2.0 technologies and understanding mega trends and their implications is important, it’s what you can do about this unrelenting wave of change to reshape your company and its operational parameters that will ultimately determine whether you are truly a CMO 2.0.


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A dynamic, senior-level technology executive with a proven track record building businesses on a global basis. As Chief Marketing Officer for Pegasystems in Cambridge, MA Johnson is responsible for worldwide marketing strategy and execution. He oversees corporate marketing, field marketing, industry marketing, product marketing, marketing programs, marketing communications, analyst and public relations, and global web strategy. Previously, Johnson was the Vice President of Marketing at Guidance Software (GUID) and Vice President of Marketing and served as an officer for FileNet Corp., a $400+ million enterprise software vendor acquired by IBM in 2006. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Marketing for FrontBridge, an email management vendor acquired by Microsoft. Johnson led the company’s re-naming and re-launch, built the marketing team and delivered integrated marketing programs to support significant and sustained revenue growth. He has also served as Director of Marketing for Symantec, with worldwide responsibility for the Norton brand, and as Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ethentica, an enterprise security vendor. Johnson received his bachelor of arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University. He has also published several articles on best practices in high tech marketing and co-authored the book, PowerBranding™