How to build the relationship between a CMO and CEO

B2B Marketing’s Kavita Singh spoke with the CMO of Advanced, Sally Scott, about the key to building a seamless relationship between the CMO and the CEO.

Q: Can you tell me what it was like when you first joined Advanced?

SS: Advanced’s CEO, Gordon Wilson, joined our business about four and a half years ago and I was appointed to the role as CMO. So I have a really strong working relationship with Gordon. He saw the immediate need for the first time for Advanced to have marketing representatives at the board table. Gordon’s background is tailored to marketing so I think he realises the value in doing that.

At the time, we were a complicated organisation with 15 different businesses before Gordon joined. One of my tasks was to bring together every business under a single brand, so one of the biggest challenges that we faced initially was bringing that whole board with us on the brand journey, and Gordon was a really big advocate for supporting me in doing that. We created a single brand and the associated messaging that comes along with that, and we then centralised the marketing team.

Q: How were you able to build your relationship with Gordon?

SS: Like all relationships in the beginning, it was all about building trust. When Gordon first joined, he did something kind of unusual during his first few months. We did a workshop together as a new team and were encouraged to share something personal about ourselves that demonstrated that we were vulnerable. That created such a strong bond that has lasted for years. It was about building trust and then executing on the strategic priorities and that trust has continued to go on. The relationship grew from there.

Q: What are some skills a CMO needs to communicate with their CEO effectively?

SS: Building a relationship with your CEO, you both need to align on the values of the brand. You both need to align on the brand being a key value indicator for the business. By that, I mean from a CMO’s perspective, it is important that a CEO knows that a brand is a financial asset and that it can influence heavily the market value or an organisation. That’s the first thing, then that will really strengthen their support for each other.

A CMO at the level of the board needs to be really metric driven so the conversation needs to be around the metrics that are contributing to the wider business. Additionally, there needs to be a real key appreciation that marketing is a revenue function. It’s rolling to drive revenue and financial value.

Q: What are some things you’ve learned from Gordon over the years?

SS: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Gordon revolves around challenges. That means challenging other team members or just the art of challenging in general.

It’s all too simple sometimes to sit around a table and listen instead of possibly disagreeing or thinking of an alternative to an idea. The best solution is to constantly challenge people everyday.

Q: How can marketers build a relationship with their CEO if there has been friction in the past?

SS: My advice is to be bold, but remember that also means being really clear and being able to articulate the value you’re driving for the business. You need to nurture the relationship in such a way that is real and on a one-to-one basis. In order to do that, enforce regular communication and be sure to actually set aside some time to have regular conversations with your CEO.

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