The role of the CMO is synonymous with change. Company strategies change. Challenges between departments arise. And figuring out who to staff and how to allocate your budget is a constant battle. It’s been a stressful, grueling gig, and it’s no surprise that the average CMO’s tenure is only 45 months.
That number is growing — nearly doubling over the past decade — and so is the influence of the CMO. A role once associated with costs is increasingly valued because of its expertise in data-driven customer insights.
I recently met Wendy Harrington, who defied the odds by spending nearly 11 years working at Franklin Templeton, including 7 years as CMO. Harrington recently jumped at the opportunity to join Tyto Lyfe LLC (currently in stealth mode). I am curious to learn more about both the changing influence and responsibilities of today’s CMO. In a candid conversation, Harrington revealed the key to overcoming the biggest challenges facing a CMO: bringing in other departments, playing well with the law, and figuring out exactly what the client is. your item wants.
What is the role of the CMO when it comes to helping their colleagues, the leadership expand at the company?
Between sales and customers is an important role that marketing can play. It’s an integrated role and it’s a big one at Franklin. For example, if the portfolio team needs to get their message across, I’d say, “Connect with what interests them. How do we help them? Technology? Help bring the story to life? ”
And then it’s legal, right? Legal initials on a lot of things. Same story. Think, connect, and help them understand the value of your business. Marketing provides that connection, that air traffic control, but also the context for the people who need to make decisions.
What is the role of the CMO when the company strategy needs to change?
CMOs are often at the forefront of changes happening in the industry because they see their customers react to them. And they start looking at the data and what’s working and what’s not.
To me, it’s more about when you start to see, for example, trends happening in accounts, in value advice, materials, data. You start to see things customers clicked on and things they didn’t. We were able to deliver that at a high level to help influence decisions strategically. We can announce where we need to go in another direction or where we need to accumulate resources. It is really important.
I think most other organizations are doing professional work. They don’t care much about it, and so marketing can deliver that kind of content.
How do you make sure you’re attracting the customers who matter most to your brand?
A few years ago, we learned a lesson about what is most important to brands. Sure, there are proficient users that you need to pay attention to, but they’re often not like the rest. So you just have to be careful that you don’t trust what they want, because they’re already your supporters. They understand that.
They may not represent the majority of your customers, so [you need to hit] do a mix of talking to them and going to see data from others. Look for people who didn’t and then try to dig in and understand why you think that might be the case.
How do you identify those who wield that power in the first place?
Often they are the ones that tend to be the most popular, whether it’s on social media or in terms of sales, frequency, engagement. We used to have something called “digital engagement” where we looked at how often they visited the website, how often they interacted on social media. The sales team might then be better able to say that these are people who are deeply engaged, caring, and seem to influence others. That’s another important data point.
Which leads to my next question, which is: How do you deal with inter-departmental tension and accept marketing, messaging, or content? More specifically, how do you get them to adapt and accept?
We try and build on what our customers care about — to say, “This is just the truth!” We may agree, disagree, but this is what they are saying. This is what they are asking for. It might seem crazy to you, but we know they care about it. Are you trying to perform? Let us find a way to help you through that journey.
Of course, all of this costs money. When it comes to getting more budget and also using it correctly, where do you think brands should put their chips?
I think it depends on the starting point. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the impact you’re having, you need to figure it out.
What is important to you? For some companies, it’s the acquisition cost; for some, it’s participation; for others, it understands how someone uses the product or why it’s not getting traction. So figure out what your KPIs are and start by picking not 100, or even 30, but maybe 10 and then go back to those and ask: Why aren’t you where you need to be? Invest in that.
Usually if you can go back and tell that story and show it’s uplifting, the CEO will say, “Oh my, I don’t know.”
For example, at Franklin, we opted for something as simple as email getting traction. We want [to see that] on open rates. What we realized was that we were implementing an old model of when to send them. So we sent them first thing in the morning, on a Tuesday morning.
What we found out later, and working backwards, is that in the morning you come in and you have to go through a huge amount of email. Your first reaction is delete, delete, delete. Then, around lunchtime, you’re back and in more reflective mode. You are more likely to open it. It doesn’t matter about the subject line or anything else. You are in a better place to answer. So by varying the time of day we can see an increase of twenty or thirty percent.
It seems very basic, but until you go try it and you actually test it, you don’t know. I tried and encouraged them to do more testing, but the data… You need to find a way for the data to help you decide that instead of internal debates about what the right answer is.
And that’s at Franklin Templeton?
I think it’s anywhere. That’s what I support. I heard, in the early days at Amazon, they released their first shopping carts and put the cart icon in the upper left corner. They did a test and noticed a 1% increase in the upper right compared to the upper left, and they followed that. I said, why continue arguing about it? Most of these are not very difficult. If you don’t know whether to choose blue or red, try both and test each and see which works better.
Because you are usually not your customer,
One last question. We discussed how to decide where to spend your money; How do you use your time?
Well, I think taking my time is a question everyone asks personally or professionally. Ideally, you’d spend it on what’s most important, but the question is, are you letting the disruption — instantaneous — overwhelm what’s really important to you?
I think the way you do it is to check every day. Check in at the end of each day. Test: How did I use my time? Did I spend the way I wanted and if not, what is a better approach for next week?