Have we seen the end of the “full stack” chief marketing officer? Karen Hayward, a managing partner at fractional CMO firm Chief Outsiders, thinks so.

“Boy, marketing has become way more complicated,” she says. And that ever-increasing complexity makes it exponentially more difficult for a single individual to master every technicality of the marketing process.

Adding to the complication is the reality that marketing needs vary depending on where a company is in its growth cycle. The problems a young startup encounters will differ from the challenges facing a mature company and product. These organizations need different marketing styles—and they need different marketing leaders.

Karen has identified the various marketing skill sets companies need as they experience different phases of product development, growth, and market leadership. She has also found that marketing leaders tend to have skill sets and interests that align with the stages and phases companies experience.

“The CMOs who really like unraveling that ball of yarn—how are we going to take this company that’s stuck and grow it? That’s a different skill set than the person that gets really excited about tweaking the operation,” Karen says.

“I think the granularity that CMOs have to deal with today is just overwhelming.”

Get the Customer’s POV

Given the complexity of the marketing landscape, it’s crucial for marketers to focus on the limited set of activities that will drive growth appropriately for any given company’s situation. 

Often that means bringing in a fresh perspective.

“I think when you’re the CMO for a long time, you stop seeing the dust on the windowsill anymore,” Karen says.

So, how do marketing leaders get the focus and clarity they need? How do they begin to see the dust on the windowsill once again?

The richest source of information any business has is its own customer base. Karen says that when companies learn to listen more intently to their customers, they mine invaluable information about why their customers choose them—what sets them apart from their competition.

She tells a story of a client she worked with. The company’s marketing leaders were working from the assumption that their customers bought from them because of their premium product. As a provider of high-end glass products, they worked with contractors and architects on skyscrapers and other large building projects.

When Karen and her team began speaking with customers, however, it became clear that the differentiator for this business was reliability. Their customers chose them because they delivered on time, every time. 

“They are known as the go-to people for consistent, reliable delivery,” Karen says. “So, their messaging is going one way, and what their customers want to buy is going another way. And they’re not even close.”

“Start with your customer. They will take you down a true path more often than not.”

Find An Independent Perspective 

Another simple way organizations can find clarity for their marketing efforts is to engage in independent win-loss analysis. The “independent” part matters the most, Karen says.

“Not sales. Not marketing. You need an independent view,” she says. “Whether you get a college student from a marketing class or whatever. Go out and understand why you are winning in the marketplace and why you are losing. Figure out what part of it is messaging, what part is go-to-market, and what part is sales execution.”

Get The Whole Team On Board

Karen says the more aligned sales and marketing can become, the better the outcome for the business. 

“Make the VP of sales your best friend. Live in their world. Understand the pressures they live under. Over-developing the relationship with the sales organization is absolutely critical.”

The bottom line is—well, the bottom line. Revenue is job one for any business. So getting on the same page with your sales team is one of the most fundamental tasks for marketing leaders. 

That means working with sales leaders to set objectives and define marketing qualified leads so that everything is in black and white and agreed to by all stakeholders. This helps set the stage for a productive relationship between sales and marketing.

While not every marketing leader will share the same skill sets, a few relatively simple things work across the board to gain big wins.

When marketing teams take the time to develop clarity, listen to customer input, and develop good relationships with sales leaders, there’s a better-than-good chance that they will be able to drive revenue to help companies grow.

Get more of Karen’s insights in this Tomorrow’s Best Practices Today episode on Leadtail TV.