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Lessons Learned: 5+ years of being a CMO at mid-sized IT organization


Wojciech Idzikowski - 24 May 2018 - 0 comments

I’m not a world champion in marketing or the ultimate mentor who has a universal recipe for being a successful marketing director. But during the last few years, I’ve learned quite a few lessons I thought I could share with you.

Here’s what I’ve learned during the last five years as a CMO at y mid-sized IT organization dedicated to improvement and growth.

Rule 1: Ask for other people’s opinion

I remember my first month at this position as if it was yesterday. Unfortunately, I also remember my ego during these days. It may have been justified by proper theoretical preparation, but I quickly learned that the best marketing director is one who that knows how to listen and not speak all the time.

  • The best way to perform your job heading a department is to begin by asking „What do you think about that?”
  • Let yourself rely on the opinions of others. Nobody’s an expert in everything- The human brain is structured in a way that makes you spend an entire day on checking one page for errors, and then someone else comes in and finds a typo in the header after one glance. You simply never expected a mistake there, so you didn’t look. That’s why we all need other people – for the new perspective and expertise they bring to the table.
  • Everyone seems to know a lot about marketing – especially about graphic design, video creation, colors, and branding. And people like to discuss it too. Let them, but be the one who makes the final decision.

Rule 2: Facts always win

Every director job includes tasks one finds unpleasant or irritating. For marketing directors, most of the time is the inherent subjectivity of the job. No matter how hard you try and how consistent with your products, someone will always be unhappy with your work. Even if you dedicate half a year to choosing a logo, there will still be that person who will come up to you and say: “I don’t like it, the color reminds me of my grandma’s dress.” To counter that opinion, you need facts.

  • To get access to facts, you need to become a master of experiments.
  • The number of facts you’ll have at your hand will be proportional to the number of iterations you carry out. So the best thing you can do is determine the purpose of your actions correctly – a hypothesis, verify it and draw conclusions.
  • Become the master of interruption when someone puts your choice into question: “I’m sorry, but the facts are…”

Rule 3: Be a master of technology and focus on ROI

John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” I don’t agree with that.

  • Companies pay a lot of money to find out how much money they spend on a particular product, activity, promotion, and how much they get in return for their investment. That’s is the most important thing in business.
  • If you’re good at technology, you’re good at generating ROI.

Rule 4: Offer others a real value

Some people believe in persuasion and charisma. In my opinion, in the long run, people don’t care about you, your products and how many influence techniques you’re using.

  • Be fair to others, because being that fantastic team leader everyone looks at lasts just a moment. Practicing position PR or workplace scheming works for few people – and briefly. As soon as someone can tell that you are trying to play here, you will their trust. It’s better to be a soulless bastard who speaks the truth rather than a manipulative charmer who just wants to please others.

Rule 5: Build structures and processes

You might not be an amazing motivator with outstanding social competence. But if you correctly structure the work of your department, your team will adore you.

  • People don’t come to work to listen to your sweet talk about how much they should enjoy working with you. People come to work to perform their tasks in a set structure of duties and to be assessed and rewarded for it.
  • There’s nothing more expensive than losing a team member. If you fail to tell them what to do and they leave the company as a consequence, it’s your fault. Stop thinking that you’re so charismatic and in line with the startup culture that you don’t ever tell others what to do. Creating a structure and processes for your team is your primary task.
  • Give people rights together with responsibilities. One of the most common diseases among directors is giving others responsibility for things, but keeping the power to decide for themselves. If you require someone to take on responsibility and you don’t let them make decisions, your team members will leave you for competitors faster than you can finish reading this text.
  • If you believe that your department has an optimal structure and processes, the chances are high that you’re wrong. If you think so, it means that you might have no clue about how it’s done and you should get that knowledge as soon as possible.

These 5 lessons made me into the kind of marketing director I am today.

Working at an IT organization helped me realize the potential of software in making facts accessible to marketers and building fantastic team processes that just work.

Perhaps you had some other experiences and learned lessons we could add to this mix? Please share them in comments to help us all learn about the best practices in team management for CMOs.

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