An executive's journey of learning and growth is never ending.  I certainly try to find new sources of insight and knowledge, from "book learning", hands-on experience, and lessons from mentors.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned from various sources, including CMG Partners CMO's Agenda™ and Paul Albright, Marketo's former Chief Revenue Officer.

Be a business leader first

Thinking and acting like a business leader is one integral to any executive's success.  There is a difference in mindset between a CMO and a VP of Marketing: the former is a business leader, the latter runs a marketing department. As business leaders, CMOs must earn their seat at the revenue table, fuse long-term vision with a bias for action, and balance creativity with hard financial data and marketing measurement. Executives who run other departments should do the same: put the overall business ahead of their department and balance planning, execution, and measurement. 

Customer intimacy

Every successful marketing strategy originates with a deep understanding of the target market: their wants and needs, the language they use, where they go to learn, how they buy, and more. This often is led by marketing; they aren’t called "market-ers" for nothing! Marketo’s research provides support here: high-growth companies are significantly more likely than low-growth companies to incorporate customer satisfaction into their marketing executive’s compensation. 

Innovation and the innovator’s dilemma

Innovation is about transformation and reinvention.  According to CMG Partners, the most “forward-thinking marketing leaders don’t take the perspective of incrementally improving a product or service offering. Rather, they search for the critical customer pain points and re-imagine their business model to increase value delivery and capture across all stakeholders.”

But this can be difficult, especially since it usually means moving away from the exact things that made you successful in the past. Even if we’re not faced with major disruptions, yesterday’s novel approach quickly becomes today’s industry standard.

The effective executive continually asks, “How can I transform our marketing and our business?” To paraphrase Andy Grove, “if my company replaced me with a new, young hotshot, what would he be doing?  And more importantly, why aren’t I doing it?” (Source: Only The Paranoid Survive.)

This is a mindset of 180-degree turns and 100% improvement. With the iPad, Steve Jobs perceived what the customer wanted before the customer even knew it, and now Apple is promoting the post-PC era. Netflix built its brand around delivering DVDs in the mail and now is doing everything it can to make that business obsolete. As leaders, we must have a vested interest in conceptualizing and embracing strategies and tactics that are alien to us.

Managing a high-performance team

Paul Albright shared some of his experience managing teams in a webinar called Demystifying the Strategies of High Momentum Marketing and Sales. Here are some of the main points — plus my own perspective:

  • Cultivate an execution-driven culture based on facts and results. When math and metrics are your common dialect, your company will be characterized by less drama and fewer emotional decisions.
  • Speaking of math and metrics: Preparation + Perspiration - Interference = Potential
  • Set goals and targets for everything you do, and measure results against those targets. Put them on a dashboard for everyone to see so there is always a succinct view of what Marketing is trying to achieve, and where you stand.
  • Be data-centric and customer focused. Support your claims with facts, and always work from the customer’s perspective in.
  • Initiate: Take the offense and lead. Don’t follow the competition, make sure they follow you.
  • Think, Feel, Do. This applies to how customers will interact with our messages, and inspires how our marketing should influence their behaviors.
  • Be direct; take feedback; be real. Hire slowly and fire quickly. Fail fast: if it’s not going to work, move on.
  • Don’t suffer fools. If you don’t have an A-team, get one.

Where do you go to learn?  What are your favorite lessons?