Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The Endangered CMO: Survival Tips From Microsoft's Grad Conn

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2017

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The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO’s average of 7.2 years. It’s tough being a CMO in today’s fractured media landscape and its ephemeral social media trends — repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find.

I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. He was speaking at a media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr — an enterprise-ready social media tool set used by Conn and a team of more than 150 social media managers.

The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his job nearly twice long as the industry average. Here’s some of my notes from the conversation and some insights into Conn’s approach to social media.

- Conn said that he had to accept some harsh facts that much of what he had learned about marketing in school and as a former P&G product marketing executive no longer worked or had lost much of its effectiveness. 

- To understand the social media platforms such as Twitter it is important to be active in them.

- It is important to be responsive to any complaints and to give the social manager managers the authority to quickly respond and to take conversations to a private channel.

- Standardizing on a set of tools and metrics is important. The changing nature of digital media should be supported by the toolset and integrated into the management dashboards.

- The media landscape is constantly changing that’s why the CMO has to be involved and needs to publish a lot. Conn is very active online and offline as a speaker. 

Foremski’s Take: Grad Conn is a near perfect example of what a tech company CMO should be like.

- He is not afraid of attention — look at the way he dresses.

- He is active in social media, blogging, video and is a frequent speaker at conferences.

- He has built a social media center and trained hundreds of social media managers to act independently and independently react to any crisis with full trust of the management.

- He knows what tools to use and how to use them and why. 

- He understands that what works today in marketing might not work for long and that new marketing processes will likely be needed.

- He can make a quick decision and be confident that it is the right one for that particular time. 

Marketing is most definitely an art otherwise you could just buy your marketing outcomes from a menu. And like all the arts it requires experience and practice. It cannot be achieved by managing a process — a machine can do that.

Most CMOs have mostly none of the above qualities demonstrated by Conn. Most CMOs are extremely cautious and curiously are publicity shy. But they know how to keep their CVs updated.

[ A version of this article first appeared on ZDNet: In My Humble Opinion.] 

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