Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit - DC Tech Community

Last week, the Technology Marketing Alliance hosted a session entitled, “Straight from the Board, What Board Members Expect from the CMO.”  The panelists were Thanasis Delastathis of New Atlantic Ventures and Sever Totia of Edison Venture Fund; the session was moderated by Brian Reed, CMO at Boxtone.

Brian led an interesting discussion about the role of the CMO, how to demonstrate value, and when it’s time for the CMO to go.

A recap is provided below:

What is the role of the CMO?

The panelists agreed that the head of marketing has a big job.  He or she is responsible for product management and marketing, marketing communications, and overall strategy.  Marketing, if done right, can serve as the organizational glue and the communications link between the development, sales and executive teams.

How successful are VPs of Sales and Marketing?

It’s great that companies are organized to make sales and marketing work together, but the people who fill this role are usually from sales.  It’s also really hard to find someone who can fill both roles at a small company.  As companies focus on growth, the marketing function becomes especially critical and the roles are usually divided.

How does the CMO build relationships with board members?

Sever and Thanasthis want to meet with all direct reports to the CEO. In fact, it’s a red flag when CEOs don’t provide this access.  Board members want to support the CEO’s vision and see for themselves how marketing is helping to grow the business.  Board members want to see the strategy, plan, and measurable results.

What metrics are most important and how should CMOs prepare for board meetings?

Ideally, marketing and sales should co-present at board meetings.  Board members expect to see the sales funnel over time, how numbers are improving (or not), and how the company can scale.  CMOs should also share their process to provide research and insights for product management and marketing.

Marketers should also be on the lookout for “leading indicators,” which could provide insight into how the business will perform in the future.  These indicators could be something as simple as the number of demos or attendees at Webinars.  Board members are definitely not interested in tactics; no one cares if you published 15 articles, unless it ties back to strategy or a leading indicator.

It’s a warning sign if you’re preparing slides specifically for board meetings – CMOs should live and breathe this data.  These slides should be a summary of the information you track regularly.

Marketing automation?

In short – yes.  All of their portfolio companies use a marketing automation tool.

What about the appropriate frequency for board meetings?

Boards typically want to meet monthly and gradually move to quarterly depending on the stage of the company.

What are indicators that the CMO is not the right person for the job?

These board members had a clear sense of when it might be time for the CMO to go, such as: a lack of integration between sales and marketing, lack of overall strategy, not up-to-date on current marketing practices, not able to clearly measure results or identify leading indicators and, lastly, not equally capable in all aspects of the job.

However, Sever and Thanasthis recognize that it’s hard to find the complete package in one person.  If they have to choose, they’ll go for experience every time.  An expert CMO from a different industry can quickly learn a new business – but it would take years to train an industry expert on the marketing role.

Sever summed up their message by saying, “All great companies have excellence in marketing” — words to live by for the marketing execs in the audience.