Marketing Leader Interview with Crimson Marketing’s Glenn Gow

Glenn Gow founded Crimson Marketing, a technology marketing firm, in 1991 which became one of Inc 500 fastest growing companies. You can get his book Revenue and the CMO via Kindle. I particularly enjoy his posts on #BadMarketing which play fun at common mistakes we marketers often make, which mirrors some of my own posts on this blog.

What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

Cisco. They are extremely focused on understanding their buyers and making it easy for them to buy from Cisco. They are constantly studying their buyers and what is important to them. In addition, they track the buyers’ journey to an exceptional degree. Impressive. Continue reading “Marketing Leader Interview with Crimson Marketing’s Glenn Gow”

Interview with Ted Rubin the Worlds Most Followed CMO

This is the second in a series of interviews of marketing leaders and CMOs that I respect and admire.

Ted Rubin CMOToday I am honored to interview Ted Rubin, one of the most forward-thinking and influential marketers. Many people know Ted for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. besides his work as CMO, Ted is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker and brand evangelist.

Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine and  #13 on Forbes 2013 list of Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. I had the fortune of meeting Ted when he was the CMO at e.l.f. cosmetics and later at OpenSky. Here is what he has to say:

1. What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

Duane Reade is doing a great job marketing and building relationships. They are leading the way for their parent company Walgreens. I admire Calvin Peters at Duane Reade for being open to innovation and for using social media and content to build relationships and enhance the rest of his marketing and PR efforts.

2. Did you have a mentor or a person you learnt the most from? What was a key lesson?

I have had many mentors over the years, and constantly seek out those I respect and admire. The most important lesson I ever learned was to listen, observe, and trust my guts instincts.

3. What story of a successful marketing strategy could you share?

The strategy I put together with the Collective Bias team for Duane Reade detailed here: Duane Reade Surpasses 1 Million Followers, Becomes Twitter’s Most Followed Retailer in the Drug, Food and Mass Arena Worldwide

You can read the case study published by Twitter here, but in summary, the company combined organic tweets with promoted accounts with geo-targeting to reach twitter users in specific markets like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Duane Reade’s VIP Blogger team featured rich media and promoted useful and interesting content highlighting content created by customers.

As a result, the company saw a 6,700% increase in followers in one year (almost 1.5 million today), a 4% promoted tweet engagement rate and 28% increase in sales during a specific campaign. Very nice to see some real ROI number (as in sales lift) from a social campaign.

4. What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?

For me it is all about Looking People in the Eye Digitally… truly doing my best to connect, be responsive, and care.

5. What interesting book have you read recently?

Best social media book ever written was authored in 1936, and it is more relevant, valuable, and important today than it was then… How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I keep a copy on my iPhone, iPad and coffee table and read from it often.

6. What new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing should marketers pay more attention to?

The ability to go into the “social” homes of their consumers and prospects, see and hear what they are talking about and interested in, and really get to know them where they live instead of waiting for them to come to their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels. It seems so simple, but is being totally overlooked my almost all brands and marketers.

7. What good aspect of basic marketing have marketers neglected in recent years?

Oh, that’s easy. So many have forgotten about marketing to their target audience, and the importance of frequency. Make it relevant and of value and do it again and again.

8. What skills will marketers will need in the future? How do you stay sharp?

Clearly they will need to learn to wade through vast amounts of data. But more importantly they need to trust their judgment, guy instinct, and common sense, and not to make it all about data like some are suggesting.

9. What was the turning point in your career?

I have had many turning points in my career, but most recently is was jumping with both feet into the opportunities presented for relationship building at scale by the growth of social platforms, and not looking back.

10. How do you increase marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Marketing’s relevance and influence will rise to the top when marketers not only use social tools to market to their consumers, but wrap a social shell around the entire organization to add value, create deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and most importantly, increased revenues.

11. What blog would you recommend?

Here are three:,, and

12. How would you summarize your digital marketing strategy?

BE Authentic, don’t just ACT it. This might seem obvious… but authenticity is on the verge of becoming just another buzz word in social media marketing. TRUE authenticity (not just using that word often in your tweets and posts) will set your brand (product or personal) apart in today’s highly competitive market.

13. What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing leader?

Being a divorced Dad, fighting to keep my daughters in my life, and then having to re-build my relationship with two teenage girls who were alienated from me.

14. How marketing leaders can be better mentors and true leaders of their teams?

Take the time to listen to your employees. Even when it’s about what they did for the weekend. Make it known that you truly care.

14. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to share?

Welcome to the ‘Age of Influence,’ where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference. ANYONE

Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.

Thanks Ted!

As you can see Ted is all about relationships. His book, Return on Relationship was released January 29th.Connect with Ted via twitter at @TedRubin and follow his blog


James Latham – Marketing Leader Interview Series

This is the first in a series of interviews of marketing leaders and CMOs that I respect and admire.

James LathamAbout James Latham – he is the former CMO at OpenText and VP of B2B Strategy at McCann Worldgroup. I had the privilege o working for James at OpenText and he is one marketers I admire both personally and professionally.  James is also on the advisory board for the CMO Council.

What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

James: I think there are a large number of companies that fit that description ­ that I admire.  A lot of my colleagues have told me they admire Apple, and there is much to learn from Apple.  However, I think Apple represents only a couple of the strategic marketing components that some others have had to deal with more succinctly.  I am a fan of how BMW/Mini created an entire profitable brand from a defunct automobile company.  Making the Mini in to a personalized platform for driving, and following that strategy, tying it into a web experience, a dealership experience, and a user/driving experience all integrated together I find fascinating and instructive.

Did you have a mentor or a person you learnt the most from? What was a key lesson?

James: In my career I have had many lessons learned from many CEO’s, Managers, and executives.  Perhaps some of the best lessons learned are from Kamran Kheirolomoom.  Kamran was CEO of a startup that grew fast, stuttered, then regained its momentum.  I recall clearly the lesson of focus.  Customers were clamoring for solutions that my team could have built profitably with our software, but orthogonal to the company¹s mission.  The discipline to stay true to a vision is essential in any size organization.

What story of a successful marketing strategy could you share?

James: I have a few that are best told over a beer, but one that I really like is the brand work that was done at OpenText from 2010 through 2012.  After acquiring so many companies, OpenText had 27 brands in 2009.  Taking that disjointed set of targets, solutions, software, and vertical industries, and tying them together into one voice and one vision was a major strategic and execution challenge.  The marketing team there took that on and executed perfectly, setting the stage for even further acquisition, faster integration, and ultimately faster growth.

What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?

James: Without a doubt it is the ability to apply critical strategic frameworks to marketing challenges.  Doing so provides key insights in to organization, program direction, investment decisions, and even hiring.  Classic strategy thinking is extremely valuable in that it allows for assimilation of quantitative and qualitative data in a method that delivers insights and direction where none was obvious.

What interesting book have you read recently?

James: I liked David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell.  His books always contain a tidbit or two of fascinating facts, and some stories that one can cite to make a point about marketing challenges and misconceptions.

What new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing should marketers pay more attention to?

James: I think tools that provide capabilities for dynamic and highly personalized marketing communications and engagement are impotent to consider.  Getting a complete view of customer behaviors and the ways they engage with a brand from social media analysis in a tightly segmented, and in aggregate, can yield essential insights for evolving marketing efforts.

What good aspect of basic marketing have marketers neglected in recent years?

James: I don¹t think marketers across the board are neglecting basic marketing.  It is easy to see examples of spectacular misses in product, placement, communications, etc., but no one company or industry is faltering in toto.

What skills will marketers will need in the future? How do you stay sharp?

James: Marketing continues to change rapidly.  Without constant refresh, new insights, new connections, new ideas, and new research, every marketer, from the new marketing manager through to the CMO risks becoming obsolete.  I read voraciously, engage with my fellow CMO¹s in the CMO Council, go to at least three conferences every year like MarketingWorld, participate in local AMA meetings when possible.

In addition, I keep current in marketing research in my specialty area ­ international marketing.  Finally, I¹ve been taking courses throughout my career, and do academic research at Boston University, where I recently received my Masters in International Marketing Management.

What was the turning point in your career?

James: I was a program analyst at IBM in a research facility when the company sponsored a program called ‘back to the field’ in order to get technology knowhow closer to the customer.  I took that challenge and joined the marketing force there at IBM in New York City, and haven’t looked back.

How do you increase marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

James: I gave a talk a couple of years ago at MarketingWorld that is still relevant today: aligning marketing goals with the CEO.  There is no faster way to alienate customers, sales, and all your internal constituents than pursuing a strategy that does not align perfectly with the company vision.  Yes ­ its important to be a thought leader relative to your industry, market, and discipline, but one must temper all that with alignment.

What blog would you recommend?

James: I am a fan of Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP. He does a great join of making his posts valuable and interesting for a wide swath of marketers ­ not just enterprise software marketers.

How would you summarize your digital marketing strategy?

James: Eyes open for opportunities, in short.  There will always be something new in digital since it is exploding.  We can expect to see lots of innovation ideas, and capabilities that translate into new tactics we can use to engage, understand, and communicate our brand in relevant ways.  Keeping your options open and looking to understand what works and how is most important.  I always allocate 10% of the budget to testing new ideas and program components in order that my team can learn, and we can see what elements are resonating with the audience.

What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing leader?

James: Interestingly enough, my background in computer science has prepared me for this new world of digital marketing and data analytics.  Academically trained in classic computer science paradigms like finite state machine theory and database cluster analysis gives me the foundations to understand quickly the digital marketing and big data opportunities and landscape, and lead my team toward the future.  I think this technology background, coupled with my experiences working within and for large organizations in a marketing leadership capacity gives me a world of differentiation.

How marketing leaders can be better mentors and true leaders of their teams?

James: Take the time to give back to the people that gave to you ­ academic, industry, company, and community ­ there are lots of ways to teach and lead. Take on only as many mentorship roles as you can realistically engage with enough time to be impactful.  Leadership comes from the foundations and fundamentals.  Take care of your own career and keep learning, and you¹ll be in a position to provide value to your team.  Integrate, assimilate, analyze, and communicate.  Articulate the vision in a strategic context, and allow your team to take on responsibility and risk, and they will be the better for it.

Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to share?

James: To all my fellow marketers ­ stay sharp.  We can expect more and more complexity in marketing.  more data driven analytics and adaptive capabilities we¹ll need to rapidly understand and deploy.  Staying on top of your game is both rewarding and fun.

I want to sincerely thank my friend James for participating in this project as the first marketing leader to be interviewed. You can follow James on his blog The CMO Zone at and via twitter at @jlatham

Stay tuned for more interviews in this series.

The Modern Marketing Leader – A Manifesto

cmoBookA couple of months back, my friend John Ellett gave me a copy of his book, ‘The CMO Manifesto‘ which I thoroughly enjoyed. The book is the outcome of 50 interviews with CMOs to identify the best practices for the first 100 days of a CMO joining a new company. It turns out, The CMO Manifesto ends up being a very complete and modern description of the role of a modern marketing leader.

Establishing the role of marketing, a manifesto for a modern marketing leader, and best practices for marketing leaders in new roles is  important because of four reasons:

  1. The average tenure of a CMO is around 24 months.
  2. Marketing is becoming more complex.
  3. Most of the organization, including the leadership team, have a distorted, inaccurate or unclear understanding of the marketing role.
  4. Leaders are realizing how fundamental and strategic Marketing is for the success of any business. As Peter Drucker said “Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Some of the more interesting points in the book I especially agree with:

  • Marketing leaders are change agents for the company
  • As leaders they impact strategy, revenue and the overall success of an organization
  • Focus and clarity (clear priorities) are especially important for a marketing team
  • Customer insights should guide all decisions
  • Vision, optimism and resiliency are essential traits of a good marketer

John organizes the book in 12 best practices for a marketing leader:

  1. Lead positive change
  2. Bring clarity and inspiration
  3. Build Relationships and trust
  4. Channel the voice of the customer and Insights
  5. Focus leads to greatness
  6. Drive agility and accountability
  7. Build capable, committed, collaborative teams
  8. Find the balance between chaos and process
  9. Do plan but focus on action
  10. Continuously measure and optimize
  11. Leverage new tools and technologies
  12. Remain resilient in front of challenges

Another thought leader, Ashley Friedlein, from eConsultancy recently published an update to his Modern Marketing Manifesto, which also happens to have 12 points. This manifesto has a slight digital marketing bias but is quite compatible with John Ellett’s point of view: There are many similarities and a few points that can be complementary :

  1. Strategy. Marketers should sit at the board table and set strategy. Strategy is shaped by knowledge of markets, products, customers and positioning. Digital needs to be part of every strategy.
  2. Revenue. Marketers must be accountable for revenue, have a common point of accountability with sales, and must understand P&L.
  3. Customer experience. Improving CX for the most valuable customers must be the relentless focus of modern marketing.
  4. Integration. Customers do not understand the distinction between mobile and desktop, online and offline, above and below the line. Marketing must focus on providing an integrated customer experience.
  5. Brand. Consumers control the message, forcing brands to be authentic and transparent.
  6. Data. Marketers must turn data into insight and action – hence the importance of research, marketing automation, predictive analytics, etc.
  7. Personalization. Relevance and optimization to each customer and his context.
  8. Technology. Marketers will have increasing ownership if the technology tools.
  9. Creative. We need creativity just as mush as we need technology.
  10. Content. Content marketing and the focus on owned and earned media.
  11. Social. Social is not a choice.
  12. Character. The modern marketer must be accountable, ethical, customer focused, agile, collaborative, innovative, brave and passionate.

What is obvious by reading both manifestos is that the marketing function is getting more complex, is evolving to play a more strategic role and becoming more and more interesting.

It’s a good time to be a marketer.

Are you ready to become a Social Business?

What is a Social Business

What Exactly is a Social Business?

Here we go again – we have a new buzzword, all the social media experts are talking about the “Social Business”

Peter Kim defines social business [link ] as “a social business harnesses fundamental tendencies in human behavior via emerging technology to improve strategic and tactical outcomes” – interesting but it sounds like something a consultant would say.  IBM defines it as an agile, transparent and engaged organization (of course, they sell collaboration, community and social listening tools).

I don’t think it is that complicated. What does it mean to be a social business? To me, it is not about having a team of people monitoring Linkedin, Twitter and, if you are in the ‘leading edge’, Google+ and Pinterest. Those are tools, communication channels.


Photo courtesy of Tobym under the Creative Commons license

What it means to be a social business can’t be relegated to a small rapid-response, crisis-prevention team. The social strategist should be a customer interaction strategist, not the leader of a support team that is trying to move quickly to avert a Comcast-like crisis or a United breaks guitars viral video incident. There is no formula to make content viral either.

To me, running a social business has a much deeper meaning. I say ‘deeper’ because it requires a fundamental culture change that spreads across the business and changes the way the business operates.

Social Business is about being sincerely interested in listening to customers and empowering employees to have an open conversation with them.

What do I mean? On one side Marketing is paying (struggling) to reach to customers to tell the company message while ‘customer service’ is trying to reduce call volume- that is, trying to talk less to customers. Does that make sense to you?

Why would a company provide better service via the social media team on Twitter than via the 1-800 phone line. [link!/augieray/status/187539854303838209] Figure it out. Previously I talked about how Social is not a strategy [link } and how companies need to develop holistic customer interaction and customer service strategies that span traditional and social channels.

Is your Business sincerely interested in listening to customers and empowering employees to have an open conversation with them? To help you find out, here is a short Social Business test

  1. You are not a social business if you leave people on hold for 30 minutes. If you do that, the message to customers is ‘we don’t want to talk to you’. I am proud to work at Rackspace where on average it takes customers 6 seconds to connect with a person who cares.
  2. You are not a social business if the emails you send to customers come from ‘do not reply’. Think about it: you are talking to customers and telling them, “Please don’t even try to talk to us, we don’t care, your email won’t even make it”.
  3. You are not a social business if you don’t publish your contact information on your site and encourage customers to contact you. How many times have you as a customer navigated nests of pages to try to find an email or 800 number? How many buttons does it take in your phone system for a customer to speak with a human?
  4. You are not a social business if you don’t have a formal customer feedback process, that gives the team designing products and services the opportunity to understand what customers want. A system that makes it easy for front-line customers to pass feedback, makes it easy for customers to volunteer feedback, a system that collects and summarizes it, and a product development team that reads the summaries and acts on it.
  5. You are not a social business if at least everyone in marketing spends time with customers every week. When I was responsible for social strategy for a F500 company back in 2004, every single employee in a division of many thousands was required to spend at least 4 hours interacting with our customer community. Ask your team, when was the last time they spoke with a customer (and listened)?
  6. You are not a social business if you don’t empower front-line empowers to help customers. If you don’t allow them to have an honest conversation with customers.
  7. You are not a social business if you speak to customers in a different language: you can’t connect with customers if you talk to them in consultant-speak, corporate-speak or marketing-speak (I am trying, it is hard). Talk to people like people, like you would if you were having a conversation between two humans (you are).
  8. You don’t have a social business if your social media team spends most of their time fixing customer problems via Twitter and broadcasting self-centered communications and discounts via Facebook.

To drive the point home, you can have a social business even if you don’t have a social media team and if you don’t have a Twitter account. Think about the small business that talks to customers every day, where employees know customers on a first-name basis and not only know about customer’s personal lives but they actually care about them. Everyone in the business understands what customers want, and there is a relationship with customers that goes beyond transactions. To me, that’s a social business.

Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are only tools to interact with customers. They are awesome tools that have incredible potential to transform your business and the relationship with customers. But you may want to start by simply answering the phone and talking to customers.

This post originally appeared at MarketingProfes as a contributed article.

Update: based on the comments I received to the MarketingProfs post, I want to add that I am not against the philosophy aof social business as expressed in the social media and collaboration circles. I am a fan of Peter Kim and many of the contributions from the Dachis Group. In fact, I have been an advocate of taking advantage of social media for almost a decade as well as empowering employees with enterprise social collaboration (now thwe Enterprise 2.0 conference calls itself the Social Business conference – how quickly buzzwords evolve).

The key point I am trying to make is that we marketers are too quick to chase the shiny object and pursue ‘advanced’ marketing technique when we have not really though about the basics. Markeitng is common sense. Becoming a social business is part of a business strategy that is centered around empowering employees to share knowledge and a personal interactionw ith customers, it is not about a set of ‘social media’ tools that a company can license.

Looking forward to more comments.

How can CMOs Build an Effective Social Media Strategy

This post was first published in the American Marketing Association blog.

Bazaarvoice and the CMO club recently published a report about how CMOs think about social media and how they are finding ROI (or not).  You will find a number of stats and details in the report itself. I want to share my own perspective on what I think are the implications made evident by the research.Crossroads

Social is Important. Every marketer knows it. Customers have shifted the way they buy. Social is here to stay, there is no question about it. Every CMO knows they need to have a social marketing plan. This should not be a surprise to anyone, the report simply confirms it.

Measuring results is harder than expected. The report shows social media is harder to measure than what CMOs expected. By looking at last year’s report, it is clear most of them thought by now their social marketing efforts would have matured enough to have a good measurement framework. Today, most marketers are measuring engagement, not actual business impact. Many are still chasing shiny objects. Consider how many companies are trying to grow their Facebook fan pages without a clear reason why they are doing it or a strategy to convert fans into business value.

Social Marketing is too tactical. Without an indication of results, CMOs can’t make investment decisions on social media. As a result, most companies are still in experimentation mode. Only two years ago, social marketing meant blogs and wikis. Last year it has been about Facebook and Twitter. Now GroupOn (which is not even social, IMHO) and Foursquare join the category of shiny objects. Small and large businesses are jumping on the GroupOn mania, getting 25 cents on the dollar, often without thinking through a strategy.

Sadly, without a framework for results, CMOs have a hard time deciding how much to invest in social. According to research by Altimeter, the average large company is investing only $830K per year in social marketing. This budget can cover salaries for a team of three people, maybe a community platform to run support forums and a listening platform.  The amount of resources, budget and results in social marketing is insignificant relative to overall marketing efforts. The danger is that a CMO hires a social strategist, two people to “man their Facebook and Twitter pages”, start a blog and ‘check’ – they have a social strategy, they can move on to more important stuff. 

CMOs know they need to shift their investments from traditional advertising to social and digital efforts, but they can’t do it blindly. Even if a CMO wanted to shift $20 million dollars to social, they would have a very hard time finding where to spend it.

Reading the results from the research can be heartbreaking. The obvious question is: How to build an effective social strategy? There is no easy answer, however, I want to offer four ideas to help you build social into your marketing strategy:

  1. Social is not a Strategy. Eventually, the word social will go away. Humans are inherently social, most human activity is social. We don’t talk about digital computers or electronic calculators, it is assumed. Companies are in business to make money. According to management guru Peter Drucker, the only valid business purpose is to create a customer. That is a paying customer. Social is not a goal, it is a means to an end. Should you experiment with social? Sure. What I am suggesting is to always think about how each social marketing activity will support your business goals.
  2. Social as a marketing tool. Social tools can help marketing, innovation, customer support and other functions. But this is a blog for marketers. Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend who asked me if he should hire a social media strategist. To his surprise, I said ‘No’. I suggested he should hire a marketer that understands how social media can support the organization’s marketing goals. A marketer that understands how social marketing efforts can work together with ‘traditional’ marketing efforts to create more customers. To make money.
  3. Smart social metrics. In any business functions leading indicators are important. For years, online marketers have measured page views as a leading indicator for customer engagement that then can be converted into paying customers. In the same way that email newsletter subscribers are an engagement metric that companies can leverage to do permission marketing to drive sales, the number of Facebook fans are also an interesting metric that enables permission marketing to drive sales. But you have to think through the experience: from leading indicator to business impact. Build a model that uses social media tools, to drive engagement and activity that then impacts business goals. Take a look at the model in this slideshare from two years ago, and at a more evolved model in Jeremiah Owyang’s Social Media ROI Pyramid
  4. Social drives Advocacy. Social Marketing can be used by marketers in many ways: to build confidence in customers, to learn from customers and monitor your brand to make your organization more customer centric, etc. If you are looking for a quick win, I suggest consider using social media to drive advocacy: tap into Facebook , customer reviews and other forms of social media to empower your customers to sell for you. Word of Mouth is nothing new, it has been around forever. Social Media online makes it easy for happy to customers to drive advocacy and makes it scalable – and often measurable – for marketers.

Good luck with your social marketing efforts. Have fun. Be authentic. Experiment. And learn.