In B2B organizations, the marketing function takes its share of criticism. The sales function has the highest level of accountability with the clearest barometer of success.  The marketing function is expected to contribute revenue, but the path to proving that revenue is complicated.  A-Player CMOs find extreme ownership is the clearest path to high performance. Download the Hierarchy of Goals Tool to access a proven framework to map your objectives to individual contributors.  


Recently I was presenting to an executive team of a Mid-market B2B company. My role was to present the final assessment and recommendation of a marketing organization.  What I found is that the organization has a solid foundation with a capable leader. There were gaps, we all have them, but the primary reason for gaps was budget driven. The capable CMO lacked staff and budget.  Despite my presentation pointing out the capable foundation, the top executive responded: “Marketing needs to start from scratch.” This was a sweeping generalization that Chief Marketing Officers suffer through continuously. 


In the absence of convincing results, C-level executives don’t see value in marketing. The CEO and Private Equity partners want to see how marketing investments translate to revenue and EBITDA. The challenge is that Marketing as a function must be extremely advanced to produce revenue and prove it. There are no trophies for participation. Without proof, the CMO is hit from all sides with sweeping negative statements laced with a thread of deadly truth. These broad statements over-state the problem and can have the impact of demotivating the marketing team. 


A-Player CMO’s embrace extreme ownership of their function. They accept being on the hot seat and prove the value of their marketing contribution.  Extreme ownership starts with the marketing strategy and they drive it down to execution. What makes A-Player CMO’s unique is that they don’t stop at their marketing objectives and overall marketing organization metrics.  Top CMO’s ladder their objectives and metrics to individual contributors on their team.  This includes the programs that individuals run or help implement. Does this sound like the most obvious motherhood & apple pie statement of all time?  Maybe, but so few marketing leaders do this well. Most members of a marketing team operate in isolation of their specific impact to the CMOs most urgent objective.


Pull the Thread all the Way Through


I’m going to illustrate the framework and approach. Let’s unpack a single objective and see how it cascades down from the CMO and threads its way to individual contributors. The objective is identified and then all the behaviors, leading indicators and lagging indicators are established. Definitions include:


  • Behavior Indicators are defined as actions in direct control that the individual contributor can personally perform to produce a result. Managers can drive accountability to these actions being performed to generate the end goal.


  • Leading indicators provide a quantifiable measure of the quality of the effort performed in behavior indictors. These leading metrics are used to validate you are on track and can be used for projections.


  • Lagging indicators represent the outcome desired that are accomplished through a series of efforts over time. In a complex selling environment, the lagging measure of revenue impact requires the full length of the average sales process to accomplish.  If the average sales process is 9-months, then the behaviors need to be performed at least 9-months in advance while impacting leading indicators throughout to hit the final goal.   


Below you will see how a single objective cascades across a marketing team. Each individual contributor has a Behavior Indicator and Leading Indicator that they either control or strongly influence.


Hierarchy of Marketing Goals Example


The heavy lift involved is that most marketing teams have staff positions allocated to multiple objectives. The best practice is to perform this exercise above for each objective, and establish what percentage of their workload should be allocated. 


As you perform this exercise across the team for all objectives, you will discover role corruption and misalignment. You will discover several “turds in the punch bowl” that reflect the disconnect between strategy and execution.  Embrace it with extreme ownership and bring clarity to your team. Be prepared to stop doing things that were done in the past and invite the CEO to validate.


For a greater framework for how the objectives cascade throughout, download the Hierarchy of Goals Tool. Establish yourself as an A-Player CMO and give your team clarity while establishing accountability. By doing so you dramatically increase the probability of hitting your objective.


Have you assessed your 2018 Marketing Strategy? Leverage SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook or the Workbook’s interactive tool to self-assess your strategies against the emerging best practices of today’s market leaders.



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