Opinion

Making the transition from CMO to CEO

Former Newcastle University CMO and founder of The Measured Marketer Jacqui Daley gives the low-down on her journey from employee to employer.

I’ve always worked on the client side, using data and evidence to prove the impact of marketing, and build a successful career – reaching CMO status before breaking out on my own. I’ve been accountable to employers in cut-throat industries. Made people money. Brought in expertise where needed (thank you agencies). I always say, if I can convince academics, real-estate agents and accountants of the value of marketing and their investment, then I can tackle any industry or market.

So, 23 months ago I left my big, safe, secure, well-paid job and set out, on my own, to find some clients that I could help with strategy. Digitally-led, highly-accountable marketing strategy. Skip to today, and we’ve got our own legitimate grown-up office and there’s seven of us. We’re not an agency. We’re a digital marketing partner.

To be honest, we shouldn’t have to call ourselves a digital marketing partner. Digital’s just part of the mix, right? Well it’s the digital element that keeps the CEO stewing over their morning granola. As smart as they are, running multi-million dollar organisations, they often just don’t get the digital bit. They know it’s essential for their survival. And they seek out a trusted advisor that won’t make them feel stupid.

From my own experience client-side – and from listening to what our clients want – it’s trust. And depth. They want to partner with an agency (or whatever we are) that’s accountable and knows all the intricacies of their business. They don’t have the time or inclination to get pulled between five different suppliers with five different priorities across strategy, brand, content, digital, creative, and media buying. They just want to go to bed at night rest assured that their marketing is under control.

Technology is an important part of the mix and we’re definitely still perfecting the platforms we utilise. Project management systems (yup, we’re super happy with ProWorkFlow), social media monitoring systems, integrated reporting systems. A single system that does it all? Not quite… not yet.

A friend of mine who runs a successful creative agency once told me: “If you perfect the delivery of a strategy under a monthly retainer model, then let me know. It’s bloody tough.” He was right. It is tough.

Getting the perfect balance of time between integrating the team client-side so they’re living and breathing the client’s brand (the thing I absolutely cared about most as a CMO – “they just don’t get our business”) but still ensuring they are benefiting from bouncing ideas around and feeling a part of our team. That’s the magic formula.

Learning to say no. My weekends, and the mindfulness course I just took suggest we’re still working on that too…

The positives? Far out, there’s loads. Building a great team. Seeing something not work as you’d expect – tweaking it, and seeing the impact. I feel we’ve changed our model three times already… each time to the benefit of our clients and our business.

Somebody recently asked me what is it that makes you feel really proud and happy about what you do. It made me think to the times that I feel really proud about the work we’re delivering… I’ve absolutely and genuinely come to the realisation that it’s outcomes over outputs. A tough one to balance when clients want to see “things” before they pay their monthly bill.

Another positive is the beyond amazing relationships I’ve built. With my team, with my amazing clients, and the business community at large. I’m not afraid to ask for help when needed – and my network hasn’t failed me. I’ve paid for more than one mentor in the past two years and it’s been worth every cent. From this, I’ve met so many other talented business owners nailing their own thing. These people really keep you going when the self-doubt and fatigue sets in.

Every day is different. I don’t for a second regret my decision to start my not so agency-agency. I know that the challenges will continue to come and now, nearly at the magical two-year mark, is not the time for me to rest on my laurels.

I believe that more than ever, clients will expect us to be even more accountable. Increasingly they not only want results, but the evidence behind the results.

Jacqui Daley is the founder and principal of the full-service marketing agency, The Measured Marketer.

If you’re interested in following in Jacqui’s footsteps, a Mumbrella360 session announced today will consider why more CMOs aren’t making the step up to CEO or equivalent leadership roles and discuss how they can position themselves better to do so. Tickets are on sale now at earlybird discount.

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