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How to Be a Great Marketer in 64 Easy Steps

Being a marketer in today’s modern age is not easy, with the onslaught of digital and print messages consumers see daily. Drew Neisser, marketer and author of The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, introduces you to seven marketing mavens and shares their insights on a range of elements that nearly every aspiring marketer must consider.
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In all seriousness, there is nothing easy about being a modern marketer. Your company or brand is not only fighting for attention among your competitors but also for your fair share of mind among all brands. We might see over 3,000 branded messages a day but we remember at most 12 of those. And this same truth applies to your personal brand, the reputation you rely on to carry your career forward.

Then there’s the onslaught of digital options, from social media to content marketing, programmatic buying to marketing automation. Rather than simplifying the age-old challenge of getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time, these digital messages actually add new layers of complexity. For the faint of heart, it’s tempting to say, “Forget about it,” and put any spare cash into customer service or new product development.

Yet despite the complexity and rapidly shifting landscape, some marketers have actually mastered their craft. They’ve risen to multiple challenges and grown their businesses through carefully plotted strategies. These are the folks who I sought out for my new book, The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing. Talking to these folks led to an important revelation: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, the masters of marketing mix just the right elements for their specific challenge.

In my book, I explore 64 of these elements through interviews with marketers who deploy them effectively. Organized along the lines of the classic periodic table, on the left you’ll find Basic Elements—those that must be mastered before even considering the opportunities in more complex categories like Transitional Trends or Silicon Rally. In this article, you’ll meet seven of these marketing mavens and get their insights on a range of elements that nearly every aspiring marketer must consider. For all 64 of the elements, I refer you to my aforementioned book.

1. Establish Clear Expectations

As the old saying goes, we all report to somebody. Regardless of whether it’s a boss, a spouse, or a board of directors, you are doomed to fail if you don’t know exactly what they expect of you. So Step 1 on the path to becoming a great marketer is to sit down with this individual (or individuals) and outline their expectations for you and your marketing activities.

Here’s how Jeffrey Hayzlett, celebrated author and business professional, explains it:

“A lot of CMOs fail because they forget to set conditions of satisfaction. I won’t move forward until I know exactly what makes the customer (who, in some cases, may be my boss) happy. Business leaders need to set their conditions of satisfaction as soon as they take their position. Mine have always been the same: to make money, grow professionally, and have fun doing it. These remind me why I’m in business and guide each decision I make.”

2. Simplify Your Strategy

Having worked on hundreds of brands and related campaigns during my three decades in the ad agency business, I know one thing with certainty: Simple is hard. In a desire to be thorough, brand managers will add numerous data points into the mix, hoping that all of these can be crammed into a six-second video or 728x90 pixel digital ad. Boiling down strategies to one or two ideas is an art form, and one practiced by the best of the best.

As Colette LaForce, now the chief marketing officer at, observes:

“One critical trait I see in great leaders is an ability to simplify goals and objectives. People can’t remember ten goals, or even five. Great leaders, like great sports coaches, prioritize just one or two compelling goals for the team to commit to and focus on.“

3. Measure Your Marketing

The days of not knowing which half of your marketing investment is working are long past. Modern marketers all have a series of measures in place to help them evaluate both the broad effectiveness of their programs along with the impact of isolated activities. Although attribution modeling is still not an exact science, it gets better with each passing year, and you can bet good money your competitors are working hard to figure this out.  

Antonio Lucio, former CMO at Visa and now CMO at Hewlett-Packard, outlined his approach to measurement as follows:

“At Visa, the ultimate measure of success for our marketing is ROI—our ability to drive the business. We break that down to three components. First, reach. This is defined as how many people can recall our campaigns. Second, short-term impact, defined as the short-term usage lift of consumers. Third, long-term impact, defined as lift in our brand equity and our ability to influence consumer behavior longer-term.”

4. Commit to Consistency

Once you have simplified your strategy and established your metrics for success, it’s time to think about execution, because it’s at this juncture that the patients can take control of the asylum and create disparate messages with both words and images that vary radically by communication channel. Inevitably, this leads to customer confusion and unnecessary inefficiencies. There is also the risk of employee confusion, which in turn leads to breakdowns in sales efforts and customer service.

Here’s how Louise Camuto of The Camuto Group avoids this problem:

“We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can interpret each product—from footwear to apparel—in the most on-brand manner. As CMO, I emphasize the importance of image and brand consistency daily with my team. We work closely with our international partners to ensure that the way a brand is represented at every consumer and trade touchpoint not only reflects the brand’s DNA, but also reinforces the message and aesthetic, which allows for the brand experience to be omnichannel.”

5. Foster Your Fanatics

Do you have customers who absolutely love your product or service? If not, it’s probably worth spending a few hours figuring out the current points of friction. Once you’ve isolated these and systematically addressed them, it’s time to up the ante and explore ways to encourage true devotion—devotion that expresses itself freely via word-of-mouth validation.

One brand that enjoys this kind of fanaticism is Kawasaki, but as CMO Chris Brull explains, such wonderful devotion is not without its own challenges:

“[Having such great fanatics is wonderful], but that puts the obligation on us to be very authentic with them. We respect them as true enthusiasts, and we know they can spot a fake in an instant. We really have to know what we’re talking about to have a chance at connecting. This means being very targeted and direct. No one-size-fits-all campaigns. It may sound like I’m exaggerating here, but our goal is to push authenticity to the point where we’re almost like a family member.”

6. Cultivate Your Culture

The importance of understanding the company culture comes up more than 30 times in my book. At the heart of this, marketing success often begins internally with your employees. If the marketing doesn’t reflect the culture of the organization, it probably won’t succeed, especially if employees won’t embrace it. Conversely, marketing that builds from the corporate culture can inspire employees to perform at even higher levels.

One person who truly understands this is Phil Granoff. During his tenure at Black Duck Software, he sought to evolve the brand’s marketing by first evolving the culture:

“To elevate the meaning of Black Duck, I had to begin internally. Culture eats strategy, and as with many successful software companies, Black Duck has a thriving engineering-driven culture. The challenge was to elevate the meaning of Black Duck by injecting a new perspective into that paradigm rather than overturning it.”

7. Pep Up Your Personal Brand

A lot of business professionals devote their careers to their employers without giving much thought to their personal brands. This can work out fine for some, but for others, especially those who find themselves without a job mid-career, it is a regretful mistake. Defining and developing your personal brand is not as self-serving as it sounds; in fact, it is often an asset to your current employer because your higher visibility enhances their brand as well.

One great example of this is Maria Winans, CMO of IBM Commerce, Social and Mobile. Maria describes her approach to personal branding as follows:

“I think a personal brand is in the way that you carry yourself as an individual in every walk of life; in your business and in your personal life. And at the same time, I’m learning every day. I don’t think a personal brand is something that you create and then it never changes. I think it evolves. If your career evolves, it evolves in the type of jobs. But I think the core of who you are—your character—stays true within that. I am avid believer in the need to never stop learning. And I think when you look at strongest leaders in business, you see most are lifelong students. They remain curious and aren’t afraid to tackle new initiatives and seek new paths forward.”

More Elements to Master

There are another 57 elements to master to be a true marketing maven, but these should at least get you started in the right direction. Good luck on your journey, and let me know via email if you discover new elements along the way!

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