How do we align strategy and execution? How do we focus our organization on the right things? The phrasing and context vary but the fundamental question about confirming marketing is supporting key business strategies continues to be a significant source of anxiety for many marketing leaders.
That marketer anxiety exists for a good reason. Things have certainly improved overall concerning average CMO tenure, but it’s unlikely most CMO’s will be picking up retirement watches from their current employers, and many will be unceremoniously booted out the door if they aren’t able to deliver the goods in short order. A little paranoia is not unfounded.
Overall, marketing leadership involves dealing with a boatload of complexity. Managing a fluid array of channels, a tangle of martech, a sea of data and a mountain of customer expectations can’t be easily simplified or distilled. In some cases complex things really are complex. In other cases, we make simple things complicated, like knowing where to focus.
If you had to give the annual CEO pitch to the board of directors, could you do it? Would you have insight into the big ideas, the priorities, the overall strategic narrative the CEO is delivering? OK, so maybe the whole board pitch is a lot to ask, but do you know what’s written on the CEOs whiteboard? No, not the chicken scratch sketches of the new product or the hastily scribbled boxes and lines of a possible new org design, but the handful of bullets jotted over to the side that are the prominent, persistent themes and priorities on his or her mind. It’s usually not a long list, often just three or four points.
Being aware of, and continuously tuned-in to that handful of priorities is your marketing touchstone. Those bullets often transcend all the voluminous slideware and epic strategic plans and surface what’s essential and top of mind to the CEO. Pay attention to those bullets on the whiteboard! You probably also want to just casually make a note of that proposed org chart thing as well.