Tough love for CMOs What B2B CEOs want from marketers

Don Lewis – President of SCA AfH Personal Hygiene

Don Lewis, President, SCA AfH Professional Hygiene, with Bob Domenz, CEO of Avenue

What does a CEO want from their CMO? It’s always an important question, but especially in B2B, where the top brass of sales-driven organizations are often skeptical about the bottom line value of branding and marketing.

Don Lewis, of SCA, President AfH Professional Hygiene, and a Brand Council member, shared a few specific tips for marketers as part of a larger conversation we had about how to make the business case for branding.

1. Always make a business case for branding

This may seem obvious to the experienced marketer, but again – it’s all-too-common for B2B organizations to have very little experience with, understanding of or respect for marketing beyond a simple sales support function. Senior marketers must elevate marketing as a business driver.

“Senior marketers must elevate marketing as a business driver.”

Don says, “I like to look at it as I would a short-term capital investment, [and I want marketers to do the same]. You’re putting out X amount of money and you’re looking for good ROI.

I always look for that justification [but I realize measurement is difficult]. There’s data on the B2C side that’s pretty relevant as to tracking your brand, but it’s a little harder on the B2B side. There’s just not always the data available in the marketplace. Instead, you’ve got to get a little more grassroots on the B2B side.

Sometimes I think that the business cases can be slightly opportunistic and a little intangible. So a solid business case with a post mortem after the fact is what I like to see, one that explains, ‘This is what we are going to do. This is what it’s going to get us,’ and then, after the fact, ‘Here’s what we actually did.’ Plans don’t always work out but I still want that ownership from the marketing leadership, showing that they’re standing behind the investment that they asked me to make.”

2. Don’t get too close to your brands
While it’s good for marketers to take ownership of their initiatives, Don also makes the point that they shouldn’t take too much of the owner’s attitude.

He says, “Where I see marketing people make a mistake is where they get too close to the brand. I’ve seen this happen in a couple cases. I’ve had marketers that get so close to the brand that lose needed perspective – so I try to offer that when they come to me with the business cases. And I hope that other leaders offer it to them too.

“I’ve had marketers that get so close to the brand that lose needed perspective.”

I always preach perspective across all the businesses because if you sit in a different place you get a difference perspective on something. So I try to have people not get too emotional or so attached to the brand that they make bad decisions.”

3. Be a more ambitious
Convincing the corner office of the value of marketing is just the first step and, according to Don (a confirmed believer in brand), B2B marketers often fail to take the next steps… or at least fail to take them far enough. He puts it this way:

“I find that B2C marketers are much more ambitious – which can be good and bad. I think that you have to watch so they don’t go crazy.

By the same token, on the B2B side, I think marketers can be a little more ambitious with their branding initiatives. [You many even have to look] at more guerrilla tactics in B2B if you want to hit your end customer and hit your distributor customer appropriately, and get the right balance.”

“You may even have to look at more guerrilla tactics in B2B if you want to hit your end customer.”

4. Cut to the chase
Don offered one last piece of very practical advice: when marketers finally get a moment of the CEOs time, keep it short and to the point.

“My advice to marketing leaders? Be succinct.

Always figure that you’re going to want to spend a lot more time than the leader is probably going to have. So try to have a succinct presentation. You can always provide back up later, but get to the point fairly quickly. If you make your leadership feel like they’re being oversold – while what they really want to hear is the ROI at the end– you may get tuned out.

I always suggest providing an executive summary, something to get enough of the leader’s attention so that he or she will want listen to the rest of the presentation. And the longer the presentation, the more I feel like it’s going to be expensive because I’m trying to be sold on it rather than just buy in quickly.

To read more of Don’s remarks, along with advice from other B2B leaders on how to make the business case for branding, read the original interview he was part of in Branding Magazine.

About Don Lewis: Don is a long-time B2B leader from SCA, which he currently serves as President AfH Professional Hygiene. He was formerly President of SCA North America, and has extensive experience in both sales and marketing.

About Bob Domenz: Bob is CEO of Avenue, the B2B marketing strategy and activation firm. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the B2B Brand Council.