or My 3 Top Marketing Grievances for the Year

I’m actually feeling quite optimistic for the year 2020 for B2B Marketers…but I guess I’ve gotten overwhelmed with Top 10 lists and feel like I have to get a few things off of my proverbial chest before settling into my lounge chair for a mid-week break of more football, champagne and chili! So, in no particular order…

Grievance #1 – “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, ” said Mark Twain the CMO

A mere seven years ago, I blogged in disagreement about a then popular post by Andrew Chen entitled, Growth Hacker is the New VP of Marketing. Well, as Andy Johns of Unusual Ventures points out in his Jan of 2019 post entitled, a post mortem on growth hacking, Growth Hacking is in decline, and fundamentals of product, product market fit, and positioning still matter in B2C and I’d add in B2B organizations.

Now in 2019, the siren call of the Death of the CMO is summarized in this 2018 post by Edwin Abl, entitled Chief Revenue Officers: Why They Are Replacing CMO’s.

I will save a point by point rebuttal on this latter claim for another blog. Suffice it to say, organizations that eliminate CMOs run the risk of not only short term thinking and loss of vision, but also greatly underrate the value of the right CMO as the balancing point between sales, product and strategy.

Grievance #2 – King Me? – Category is Not Always the Winning Marketing Strategy

After the CRO, the next hottest trend is being a Category King, popularized by the book Play Bigger, and now the siren call sung by investors to all B2B CMOs.

I don’t argue with the data presented that “Category Kings” get far better returns and you should strive to be one. But my grievance is in the timing (always now) and the process (pick the category then build around it). Category building is NOT for everyone all the time. Sometimes we are sadly not the first mover, and sometimes the market isn’t ready for a new category.

But my biggest gripe here, is the idea that category is some amazing short cut to success. We have to start with our story, what makes us unique, and the transformational value we have to our customers. Until you understand those, you can’t create message market fit, let alone become a “category king”. As my one client so succinctly said to me, “I thought the strategy should drive the story, but now after our work together I understand the story should drive the strategy.” So just like the CRO is not a silver bullet, neither is the “self-declaration” of Category.

Grievance #3 – “Not All Wine Turns to Vinegar” – Endemic Age Discrimination in The Valley?

Last month, a well know executive recruited made a post on LinkedIn that really got under my skin (It appears it’s now been deleted, so all of this is from memory.) Essentially, the post said, ‘don’t hire an experienced CMO, hire an up and comer’. It went on to imply that experience will stifle innovation and those experienced folks can’t be up to date on the latest in marketing, harkening back to Grievance 1 :). The not so subtle message I saw implied (whether intended or not) was don’t hire anyone over 35 to be your CMO. In my response, I pointed out that some of the most innovative marketers I know are “experienced”, and that there is a LOT to the job beyond knowing the latest and greatest tech.

But beyond this post, I see age discrimination as a significant problem in the valley. With people’s careers stretching well into their sixties, and with older parents the new norm around here, more and more “older” workers are going to be around. And they can add so much to even small start ups. We should hire to the job, NOT to some pre-supposed profile, be it age, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation. In my mentoring and advising of later career folks, I see them struggling with this issue consistently. The valley might be seen as funding young 20-somethings to find the next Zuck hiding in his or her dorm room, but folks in their 40s, 50s and even 60s can be key contributors to every firm at every stage. Find the right person at the right time for the right job, and if it’s a 28 year old from another start up and you are ready to take a chance on them, great, but be open to all!

Well, I had fun airing some of my grievances, join me below in my Festivus celebration by adding a few of yours!

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