The CMOs 10 rules for agencies

For many large brands item number two or three listed on the company’s Capex sheet says ‘Media’. Therefore, CMOs are constantly battling an imbroglio to images-2demonstrably prove that marketing is an investment not a cost. Given the CMO’s charge is to build revenue and relevance, added value must be demonstrated beyond ROI and for this new normal in marketing there are new rules of engagement:

1. Answer the CMOs silent question, ‘Can I trust you with my business and marketing strategies?’ because succeeding target is not the only goal and pre determined goals undermine future success. However, that said, more than ever CMOs are vested in making the quarter and are primarily interested in the business outcomes of using services. Integrated marketing brings with it distracting challenges and by connecting the CMO to revenue, convincingly showing how the investment will move the needle north, an invitation to sit at the table will be forthcoming. Consequently sales discussions must focus on business drivers and strategy cannot be made from a sound bite nor can a single strategy work across the diversity of the business; simple solutions to complex problems are often simple, straightforward and wrong.

2. Follow the rules of engagement. How well you play in the sandbox might be a cliché question, but it’s often said that as a client needs more integrated marketing from its agencies, each agency’s competency grows, but their passion recedes. CMOs know they can create different vantage points for their business and achieve amazing results by approaching big marketing challenges as a collection of agencies who possess a willingness to participate and check ‘not invented here’ egos at the door. In the relentless pursuit of growth the simplest answer is to act by partnering with other agencies, client departments and taking a seat at the table, able to inform the CMO about their brand’s future.

3. Do not assume the brand idea is the agency’s, undertake half-baked efforts or simply not care enough about the bigger picture and all involved is a recipe for disaster. CMOs are determined, to the point, efficient, precise, careful, reserved and logical and need to be convinced because they’re highly suspicious of generalities – even the noblest of ideas sometimes do less for them than a siesta or an Advil. Therefore, in the world of creating and sustaining stories, clarity and a shift in thinking that recognizes the difference between truth and fiction is that the fiction has to make sense.

4. Much a do about nothing: the difference between expecting and inspecting lies in the execution. Therefore, avoid ocean boiling and conjuring up strategies out of sound bites; agencies need to create, fashion, execute or construct according to a plan that reflects the CMOs needs, e.g., shareholder value is a result not a strategy.

5. Failure to edit work. The CMO is vested in making the quarter so there’s constrained bandwidth for actionable insights that can move the needle north. The success of contrarian marketing strategies might require CMOs to table prevailing marketing theories and embrace experimentation, but it’s about short-term performance for the client not long form presentations by the agency. IQ is one thing – emotional conviction that comes from experience is another far more powerful and rapid component. To be erudite it’s best agencies apply Rudyard Kipling’s five honest men: who, what, why, where, when and then show the CMO ‘how’ it can be done.

6. Presenting other people’s work. An idea is as real as a bullet and great artists are famous for stealing ideas and extracting something unique – adaptive strategies are what’s called for, but making assumptions about a specific program’s success and the agency’s ‘role’ in its accomplishment is a mistake that can get a firm shot down.

7. Lack of follow up and a slow response like some species of corporate bureaucrat causes a morass. The more an agency wants to achieve the more it achieves. Agencies can find win-win solutions – but a majority of the time, they’re just arranging the budget, time, people levers around to accomplish strategic objectives. Therefore, viability and accountability are critical and prospective proposal writing by the agency is more an attitude than a skill. One consulting firm reported increasing their fee business with P&G by 50% solely by listening to clients and proactively making suggestions.

8. Attacking a competitor. Agencies must avoid vituperative attacks on a competitor; it’s unoriginal and a somewhat sleazy course of conduct. For a CMO and his team it can feel like shoveling up road kill and leaves a bad taste. Agencies would do themselves a favor if they heeded, Machiavelli, the rapacious Fourteenth Century prince’s advice to deliver good news oneself and bad news through others.

9. Taking advantage of the CMO. Whether it’s bulldozing the CMO to make decisions in the agencies favor through to agency partners ganging up to twist the arm of an approach, many CMOs feel they’re paying too much. Therefore, once vaunted high switch out costs are no longer an agency advantage holding onto the client, as clients now view that as an opportunity to streamline efficiencies. Ultimately CMOs buy ideas to make a gain or avoid a loss so ‘Why should I care?’ is the client’s (real) question that agencies should be asking themselves before the big reveal.

10. Team Chemistry. For the elegant exchange of value in the client relationship fielding the right team is critical. CMOs sit through countless meetings withimages (supposedly) ‘the smartest team’ in the room, so the best approach for the agency is to work for applause with the team that’s going to do the work. The CMO needs to know there’s good chemistry as they have to spend much of their time with their agency partners – developing roadmaps, writing requirements and business plans, supporting sales and marketing, interacting with partner agencies – all depends on good chemistry. The better the agency is at knowing and communicating what needs to be done and why, the more they will add value and excel in front of the CMO.

At the end of the day, CMOs want actionable advice on growing their business that secures their role. Across the brandscape, CMOs are focused on generating organic growth and achieving innovation. These two are the key drivers for business growth going forward in 2013. Therefore, belief, optimism, courage and preparation might rule the day, but in this new normal in marketing, when it comes to building revenue and relevance agencies should remember what they say in the military, ‘amateurs focus on strategy while professionals focus on logistics.’

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Author: Dean Crutchfield

In an award-winning career spanning two decades, Dean Crutchfield has created, built and re-invigorated some of the world's most iconic brands.

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