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We’re Only As Strong as Our Alliances

Marketing must team with other departments to reach the common goal of delivering outstanding experiences to customers PHOTO: Selvan Tamilmani

There’s an old Spanish saying, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.” 

Or, “Tell me whom you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Our friends say a lot about who we are, and this is especially true for chief marketing officers (CMO) and their colleagues within companies. 

A CMO’s ability to form alliances across organizational lines — sales, customer success, IT, Finance, Tech & Product, etc. — and build partnerships with other leaders can go a surprisingly long way toward deciding his or her individual success as well as the marketing department’s value and standing within the company.

Successful CMOs understand that in today’s hyper-fast, ultra-competitive digital age, marketing must team with other departments to march toward the common goal of delivering growth and outstanding experiences to customers. 

7 Tips to Build Alliances

Here are seven tips to help the modern marketing leader demolish silos and work very well with others:

1. Market Marketing

The role of marketing is evolving from a narrowly defined function that simply generates leads or emphasizes brand awareness, to a broader focus on the brand experience across the entire customer lifecycle, top line growth, customer lifetime value and adoption, the company’s go-to-market strategy as well as digital transformation initiatives. 

This is a reality in business today, but you can’t assume all company leaders are hip to it. The truth is, marketing may need to market itself across the organization. CMOs must be prepared to explain their vision and goals to others. Perception is reality.

2. Treat Meetings Like a Campaign

Before meeting with, say, the head of customer success to discuss your customer marketing initiatives aimed at driving adoption or building customer advocates, prepare a pitch deck that carefully lays out your ideas and how working together will benefit the company. 

You don’t have to actually use the deck in the meeting — in some cases, that might seem weird — but preparing it can lend focus, organization and better positioning of your ideas and articulating the value of your plans.

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Understand the goals and challenges of other leaders and how they are measured, then tailor your discussions with them accordingly. 

Help them connect the dots on how your strategies will help them, in light of what they’re trying to achieve. Don’t expect they will reach the desired conclusions on their own — especially if they don’t think about marketing in the same way. This will lead to stronger, more productive alliances.

4. Know Your Audience

Let’s say you have a meeting on Monday with the head of sales and another Wednesday with the IT chief. Would you talk to them the same way? 

Of course not. 

They have different backgrounds and outlooks and you need specific messages for each. The more you can understand their world, the better. 

For example, nothing annoys IT or product people more than when someone asks for or proposes something and assumes it is technically easy. Know how big your ask is before you ask it — or at least make that a part of the discussion and don’t assume.

5. Understand the Difference Between Collaborating and Aligning

Collaboration is certainly a good thing. People known as good collaborators generally are thought of as easy and pleasant to work with. 

But true alignment exists at a higher level. It makes connections between marketing’s goals and those of other departments and gets everyone on the same page in a true partnership. It takes understanding, practice and effort, all the more so in larger companies. The best marketing leaders are great collaborators and aligners!

6. Keep Building Bonds

Seek out reasons to work with other leaders, not just when you need something. 

Keep ongoing communication flowing, both with formal meetings and informal chats over coffee or cocktails. Pick up the phone and call, don’t just email or message. These bonds will pay dividends over time.

7. Present a United Front to the CEO

On any specific matter, all the department leaders across an organization have a vested interest in coming across as unified in front of the CEO. 

Chief executives love leaders who work together to achieve objectives and solve problems. They also tend to have an acute radar for friction and will keep poking until it’s resolved. It’s far better for a CMO to work with his or her counterparts to settle any differences and air any surprises before the CEO is involved.

Making true alignment happen can be a big challenge for many CMOs. But marketing departments that fail to take responsibility for the entire customer lifecycle miss a great opportunity. Aligning effectively with other departments enables marketing to address today’s business realities and have a positive influence across the company.

Michelle is Chief Marketing Officer of Act-On, where she oversees the company’s brand, demand and customer expansion marketing efforts. Michelle comes to Act-On with more than 17 years’ experience helping market leading companies, including Salesforce and Oracle, connect customers with technology solutions to grow their business.


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