Bringing a Thanksgiving dinner to the table is a tall task. Pulling it off is markedly more complex than planning, preparing, and serving other meals. The dinner's bound to be bigger and have more dishes. The timing's tricky. Clearly, there's way more preparation, shopping, and coordination.

So, should you light your hair on fire? Go out to eat? Settle for frozen dinners?

Uh, no. You should be thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. You should do the best you can.

I feel this way not only about being the CMO (chief meal officer) in my family but also about the role I play as CMO (chief marketing officer) of my company.

And so, having made that quirky analogy, I now want to look at the crazy challenges of leading a marketing team and count my blessings for being given the chance to do so.

The Role Can Feel Thankless

Wait... Before I count my blessings, let me get a few of the curses of CMOing out of the way.

CMOs have all kinds of exciting responsibilities and though we may love taking them on, we're sometimes under-loved:

  • 80% of CEOs report stewing over their CMO's underperformance and the prospect of firing them.
  • More than 40% of today's CMOs have had their job for two years or less.
  • And... in the C-suite, CMOs have the highest turnover rate by far.


I feel better now. So, let's get on with the reason I'm writing today.

I'm Thankful to Be a Marketing Leader

Being a marketing leader in 2019 is more challenging than it was in 2018. In 2018, that was the case compared with 2017... 2016... and the prior year... and so forth. My point is, marketing gets faster, more frenetic, and challenging every year—every month, week, and day.

(Deep breath)

You can try to resist this reality, but you'd be torturing yourself—and sabotaging your success. I choose to embrace it. Though being a CMO comes with daily doses of dizziness, I'm thankful to sit in a front-row seat for the digital pandemonium that is new-millennium marketing. Let me tell you why.

More Channels, More Challenges

Does your TV subscription offer 225 channels, including 220 or so that you NEVER watch? That sounds a bit like marketing—except you need to watch most of the channels (or at least tune into what's going on in them).

In marketing today, one must recognize the omnichannel customer experience: the mesmerizing and ever-expanding array of channels by which customers experience your brand. Online and offline, evolving marketing, sales, distribution, and support channels are endlessly changing (and usually, expanding) the way consumers research and buy products.

Everyone's a content creator now. They say, show, and share whatever they want, whenever they want, and in doing so they shape your brand's reputation.

And with more channels come more challenges. Life as a CMO becomes about overseeing an omnichannel practice and recognizing the need to foster a customer-centric culture throughout the marketing organization and the company at large.

Though it almost goes without saying, I will say it: As new marketing challenges arise, you must face the fact it takes new capabilities to succeed. That may mean working with more agencies and vendors, managing more freelancers, hiring more, learning new skills, or all of the above.

Traditional marketing managers are toast. You need to butter your bread with a crazy, long list of ingredients to take on the cross-functional, real-time, data-driven (add a few of your favorite hyphenated adjectives here) arena of modern marketing.

Working With and Managing Talented Professionals

It's hard not to love the part of the job that calls for being a chief among a vast team of talented marketing warriors. I mean, given the "more channels, more challenges," you absolutely have to—and you get to—work with all kinds of talented pros.

Here's a shortlist of skills I have to employ all day, every day, or have on-call:

  • Content marketing
  • Advertising
  • social media
  • Design
  • User experience (UX)
  • PR
  • Marketing analytics
  • Research

I relish this part of the job: finding and working with nimble and smart staffers, contractors, and agencies. I applaud their talents. I enjoy bringing them together and fusing their contributions for the good of the team. I celebrate when the collective effort and the resulting work... works.

Staying in Touch With the Customer

I remember the days when the process of understanding your customer involved the occasional focus group. You might do a survey now and then. Taking the pulse of your customer really wasn't something we dwelled on.

We do now.

We can, we should, we have to—and we have no excuse not to—get to know our consumers better.

Effective CMOs truly know and understand customers. We interact with them whenever and however possible. We learn from them.

It really is a rewarding and valuable part of the process. The best CMOs among us gather feedback from colleagues and customers and apply it to the decisions we make.

I give bonus points for this part of CMOing, because in my industry—and so many industries—the customers are diverse: different ages, different pain points, different media preferences.

Marketing's More About Money Now

If you've been around marketing for decades, you may understand we used to try to measure our efforts. We'd count things like ad recall, fax backs, phone calls, maybe coupon redemptions. We had a shortlist of success indicators that feel pretty lame now.

Today, we count everything, including—and above all—dollars.

CMOs are responsible for delivering tangible, proven results. The good ones increase Marketing's contribution to the company bottom line. Of course, that makes us more obsessed with understanding the analytics needed to produce and evaluate what's happening in the digital world, and using data to drive strategy.

And today we're also learning to love a thing called performance marketing. Yes sir, our obsession with all things bottom line has us exploring new output-based ways to pay for media, compensate partners, establish budgets, and rationalize our jobs.

It sounds a bit cutthroat, but I'm OK with it.

Living Among Revolutionaries

This may be my summary or my fifth point of passion. Doesn't matter. I feel lucky to be a part of a revolution of sorts.

Of course, the Internet's the most serious shape shifter. It's made push marketing passé and handed all powers over to the purchaser. The consumer's voice defines your brand: on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and in conversations everywhere.

As a CMO, what you feed them is a small part of the plan. Serving the most satisfying meal is ultimately about understanding their tastes and personalizing their experience.

Cheers! I hope you're not only cooking up something tasty but also enjoying the opportunity.

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

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A CMO's Thanksgiving: Five Reasons I'm Thankful for Managing the Marketing Mayhem

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image of Annie Reiss

Annie Reiss is chief marketing officer at CloudShare, bringing 20+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience, with proven expertise in digital marketing strategy and lead generation.

LinkedIn: Annie Reiss