Leadspace’s CEO Doug Bewsher has had a remarkable career — one which has, among other things, seen him take the role of Chief Marketing Office in Skype and Salesforce.
With that kind of illustrious marketing career under his belt, it’s perhaps no surprise that Bewsher dismisses any notion that CMOs are somehow less suited to the CEO role. In fact, speaking to Enterprise Marketer at last year’s MarketingProfs B2B Forum, he described today’s marketers as uniquely poised to assume the top spot.
Marketeers, your time is now!
In a sense, marketing has come full circle in recent years. According to Bewsher, marketers today face the same kind of business environment as during the “heyday of marketeers” in the 90s.
“When I took my first job as a marketing person, as a brand manager, I did it because… back in the 90s so many CEOs were marketing people,” he recounted.
“But then we went through this time in the 2000s, when all of a sudden product became king. So then it was Mark Zuckerberg, and (other) people who could build great technology.”
Related Article: What Does it Take to be a Great Product Marketer?
So why have things changed? In part, it’s due to the very successes of those technology leaders. Thanks to these trailblazers, the primary challenge any current or aspiring business leader faces in 2017 isn’t building a new technology from scratch; rather, amid an explosion in tech innovation, it’s about knowing what people actually want.
Enter the marketeer.
“Now with (tools like) Amazon web services, and an API for everything, and tools like Leadspace which can find your customers for you – all of a sudden it became about ‘Do I know my audience? Do I know my buyer? Am I able to develop a product that fits a user need?’ – not just, ‘Can I build a good product?’, because it’s easy to build a good product these days,” Bewsher explained.
“So all of a sudden marketing comes back to be, I believe, the most important discipline – or at least one of the most important.
“I think we’re back in the heyday of marketeers… like it was in the 90s, when all of a sudden understanding your audience, figuring out what they want and then building a product to meet those needs and building a business around that – that’s what great companies have been about.”
Build new skills – and seek guidance
That said, CMOs still face some of the same hurdles on their journey to becoming CEO, Bewsher cautioned.
“First and foremost, all of a sudden you are measured by a different set of metrics, and it’s all about P&L management. At the end of the day as a CEO… it’s about keeping cash in the bank, building a business, keeping your customers and investors happy.”
That’s one of the first pieces of advice he’d give to any CMO aspiring to become a CEO: start thinking about “how to get P&L management experience – which typically isn’t a skill marketeers have.”
“They sometimes like to believe they have it, because they manage big budgets,” he continued. But in practice, “it’s a little bit different.”
There’s also a cultural gap to bridge when transitioning from managing a team of marketers, to leading an entire company.
“You need to be able to manage a much broader set of people and figure out how you can engage and inspire and interact with” everyone – from the finance department to engineers, many of whom simply won’t appreciate a “marketeer’s” style.
Keep an eye on the future
“The three most basic tasks of a CEO are: set a clear vision for the company, hire great people, and make sure you always have cash in the bank,” Bewsher summarized.
“But perhaps the most fundamental challenge” is developing the foresight to build and prepare for the future.
“How can you build a team that can grow and scale, and have the best of what you need today, but can also grow to be twice or three times the size?” he asks rhetorically. “How do you set the organization and invest correctly between” engineering, sales, marketing and other competing budgets and priorities?
That’s not a skill anyone can develop overnight, so seeking out mentors and drawing on others’ experiences is crucial.
“We sometimes forget that those soft, fluffy interactions where we just sit down in a bar chatting to our mates about how we do things, is important.”
Getting feedback and advice from customers is just as vital.
“We have the same as a company,” the Leadspace CEO said. “We have a customer advisory board with the likes of Microsoft, BloomReach and RingCentral, helping us figure out what our vision is — not just drinking our own Kool-Aid, but making sure we get the customers’ input, and that’s incredibly helpful to us too.”
That said, even marketers who aren’t thinking about becoming CEOs should be actively seeking out advice from other marketing professionals. And as a CEO, knowing which of the seemingly endless array of marketing technologies to invest is a key challenge in particular.
“Marketing is such a diverse discipline; it’s changing so fast that the number one thing we hear is: how do I keep up with all this technology?
“That really comes down to good references, talking to people you trust in the ecosystem, and then making a few choices that you really think could make a difference.”
Of course, the bottom line is always the same: “making sure you see results in what you do.”
“Nothing else matters more.”
Your can see the full interview in the video below – and while you’re there, check out 12:06 for a great summary of how Leadspace is revolutionizing the relationship between B2B sales and marketing!
Image credit: iStock