Tag Archives: fortune 500


Wanted by the CEO: A Superhero CMO

The IDC “2016 Global Chief Marketing Officer FutureScape” predicts CMO turnover continuing at 25% per year or higher through 2018.

This is not surprising, as marketing continues to be disrupted and reinvented.

The CMO must anticipate the expectations of the connected consumer, master an accelerating digital learning curve and negotiate a new role and relationship to the CEO – who himself must come to terms with marketing playing a new position in the organization.

While this is true across companies in all sectors, it is a special consideration in insurance, where marketing is emerging from a historical “back seat” role in sales support and becoming the leader of customer-centricity and digital transformation efforts.

The CMO is now often expected to be a superhero – one who speedily turns customer-centricity into P&L results … uses technology and data analytics to drive performance … delivers marketing ROI … drives leads to sales channels … and advances capabilities to keep up with marketplace opportunities. She is a leader who gets beyond intellectualizing the need for change and quickly makes change happen. She gets Millennial consumers to flock to the brand.

Being data-driven is core to the wiring of the CMO who can accomplish all of this. Being a member of the Millennial generation may be useful, too. But I’m hearing a hunger for even more, from start-ups to Fortune 500 leaders.

These leaders are looking for a CMO who demonstrates:

  • Strategic, visionary and transformational wiring, with the ability to execute
  • Skill at seeding and scaling innovation
  • Analytical, technical and creative abilities
  • A collaborative style – someone who is a motivator and a networker
  • Digital native instincts and intuition
  • Links to P&L performance
  • A sense of urgency

This profile is a tall order. To find your marketing superhero:

Define what marketing means in your business. Marketing can be the high-impact discipline that connects your company’s brand with customers to create growth. If you have defined marketing as the advertising, promotions and research function, my definition proposes a much-expanded view with implications for the broader team, goals and metrics and alignment. Being clear on the function’s role is the basis for picking the must-have CMO qualities.

Maximize the CMO’s potential by envisioning a function that can:

  • Be immersed in customers’ lives and be the internal advocate for their needs
  • Surface, synthesize and apply market insight and data – pushing beyond demographics to a segment-based understanding of attitudinal, behavioral and cross-cultural attributes
  • Create experiences that attract customers and strengthen relationships
  • Test and learn – acquiring and applying data to get better
  • Have a P&L focus – connecting customer behavior to financial outcomes
  • Be a collaborator with colleagues, especially technologists and data scientists

Look to the CMO to adapt the mature methodologies that matter, and meld these with what technology and data now make possible. Segmentation, A/B testing and positioning methodologies work and are essential in an environment of channel proliferation and media fragmentation. Apply these alongside customer journey mapping, machine learning capabilities and the best social, mobile, community and other connection tactics to motivate customer engagement.

Hold the CMO accountable for metrics that make sense. The best metrics focus on the drivers of prospect and customer behavior that marketing can affect. While awareness, intent to buy and volume of qualified leads are on the list, more rigorous metrics linked to P&L outcomes also belong on the marketing scorecard – accounts opened, sales closed, evidence of loyalty such as repeat purchase and recommendation to others. Be aware of the dependencies beyond marketing, across a multi-functional business, to move these levers.

Provide sponsorship. Marketing will continue to transform irrespective of the size or stage of maturity of the business. The function’s success increases in a culture of customer commitment and insight, where leaders keep the customer at the center of decisions.

Chances are your CMO will be mortal. So, how will she succeed? Whether digital migrant, native or newbie, data-driven or intuitive, CMOs will rise to superhero status when they: 

  • Operate with a relentless customer focus.
  • Achieve differentiation that matters to your target.
  • Build and motivate a diverse team – creating, in effect, the composite superhero marketer.
  • Lead with openness, trust and collaboration, self-awareness and humility, clarity of vision and connection to execution.

This post also appears in Amy’s regular column on Huffington Post, Medium.com and LinkedIn.

Cyber Risk: Is It Worth All the Pain?

With an onslaught of bad recent cyber news, is cyber risk worth the trouble, and how should corporate directors be looking at this issue? The recent news is the high-profile breach of 4 million employee records at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management by alleged Chinese hackers and the news that even the security experts are getting hacked, with Kaspersky Labs reporting a breach supposedly committed by a nation state.

President Obama also made cyber security an emphasis of his G7 talks in Germany, commenting that the U.S. government needs to be more “nimble, aggressive and well-resourced” to combat this threat. He also urged the U.S. Congress to pass the 2015 Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a first step in a coordinated and systemic public/private response to cyber risks.

The attacks show no signs of slowing. PwC’s 2015 Global State of Information Security Survey indicates a compound annual growth rate of 66% for cyber incidents since 2009. The 10,000 respondents to the survey reported almost 43 million detected incidents during 2014 alone—or 117,339 incoming attacks every day of the year.

Is cyber security risk worth it? Yes, but with a caveat. Without a doubt, the many innovations currently taking place with today’s information technologies open up many new vulnerabilities. Risks are now difficult to isolate, and a protect-and-defend model is not effective against the systemic risks inherent across any corporate ecosystem.

Attacks can also come from a growing list of sources, including hacktivists, foreign and domestic nation-states, customers, employees, partners, consultants, competitors, organized crime and the bored neighbor kid living in the basement and surviving on a diet of Cheetos, Red Bull and your weak IT security infrastructure. The direct and indirect costs of mounting an effective cyber security defense are only getting more expensive, and the risks are only increasing.

Despite this, these technologies also have an upside—a significant one as they are now competitive table stakes, as new business tools always are. These tools are changing market dynamics and customer preferences, and the technologies embody distinct economic advantages such as the lowering of transaction and engagement costs. Business models and competitive advantages are changing as a result of these tools.

These tools are shaping and defining business success, but the risks are holding many companies back. Which takes us to the caveat. The upside of these technologies outweighs the downside.

Cyber is worth the risk, but boards, directors and managers need to be looking to exploit the business advantages of these tools, while at the same time mounting a “a nimble, aggressive and well-resourced” approach to mitigating these incessant risks.

This is easier said than done; 89% of companies listed on the Fortune 500 in 1955 are no longer on the list. Business cannibalizes the companies that can’t capitalize on the opportunities presented by changing market conditions, including new technologies.

Directors need to be diligent in overseeing cyber risk as part of a comprehensive IT governance and enterprise risk governance approach. But they also need to be on top of governing cyber opportunity—that’s the only way that they can make cyber security risk worth it.

A 2015 To-Do List for Digital Transformation

The new year already feels well under way. The pressure is on to accelerate progress and increase business impact on all things digital. You’ve locked down the budget, and goals are in place. Now it’s time to reset the results meter and build momentum.

If one of your goals is to make digital matter more to employees, customers and shareholders, and you want to shake that feeling of being left out or left behind by the torrid pace of technological change, consider taking on these eight “to-do’s.”

  1. Expand your personal presence on social media. As a C-level executive, you carry the flag for your brand and for your company’s reputation. Your authentic and routine presence on social media will have high return on investment (ROI). Being part of the conversation has moved beyond “cool” or “nice-to-have.” It’s a must-do as part of your personal engagement with internal and external audiences. Your personal participation will also help you to internalize the profound impact the medium is having on everyone’s lives.
  2. Put mobile first. Feel you may be lagging on web-based development? The good news is you have the opportunity to leapfrog straight to a mobile-first user experience as you execute your digital road map. Invest in responsive design technology to align all screens to a consistent experience. Mobile devices are fast-becoming the “main screen” for an expanding range of purchases, transactions, inquiries and information sharing. If you don’t believe that, observe your own behavior, and you will surely be convinced.
  3. Recognize and reward team behaviors that foster innovation. It’s easy to pay lip service to the need for openness, diversity, transparency, creativity, exploration and collaboration and to be able to see failure as learning… all characteristics of an innovation culture. While you may not be able to project the bottom-line impact with anything approaching actuarial precision, increased digital effectiveness will be one of the payoffs of implementing a real plan that recognizes and rewards the people in your organization who live these attributes.
  4. Modernize your key metrics. The metrics that have worked really well to measure traditional financial drivers of traditional businesses may fall short in exposing the full impacts of digital. Dedicate the right analytics talent to set up a rigorous but flexible test-and-control framework that allows you to read accurately the cause-and-effect relationships of each digital enhancement.  This is not about perfection; seek sufficient precision to reveal when it makes sense to scale your digital experiments, and to inform business cases for further investments.
  5. Discourage “cutting and pasting” digital solutions from the physical world. Your organization has been at digital long enough to know that picking up what worked in the physical world and dropping it online does not even qualify these days as “version 1.0” status. The unique properties of digital experiences and the different results they generate will only be within your reach when products, service delivery, sales and other core processes are re-imagined for digital, not brought to market as re-casts of potentially obsolete approaches.
  6. Align your executives’ goals and incentives to drive digital performance. We’ve moved well beyond a world where digital is the domain of IT, the marketing department or a digital head or any other functional or business silo. Digital is everywhere in your company and requires cross-everyone support to implement. Single points of accountability are powerful to get results. But the more significant the changes digital brings to your business, the more important it will be to create “skin in the game” across your team. Digital execution at the required speed will depend more and more on full team alignment to make it happen.
  7. If you don’t have a social media command center, this is the year to commit to having one. More and more Fortune 500 companies are implementing command centers. This enterprise-level capability aggregates information from listening, publishing, engagement, analytics and routing tools to enable a comprehensive view and appropriate action on defined topics through a holistic social media lens. This is essential to affect a brand’s social media presence and understand and manage reputation, customer and broader feedback in a borderless public square. Step one is to have a well-articulated social media strategy so that your team can deliver a pragmatic and action-oriented capability, not a “shiny toy” reflecting the latest fad.
  8. Leverage open sourcing. Expense pressure won’t abate, including the pressure to manage staffing levels. But it takes talented people to get things done. Expand your talent pool without adding headcount to include people potentially any place in the world willing and able to contribute ideas and answers to business challenges. Companies like Procter & Gamble and IBM pioneered global open-sourcing and co-creation initiatives years ago and have made them integral to how they conduct business. Your approach can be as small as a time-bound contest where you award a prize to graduate students for the best approach to formulating a new model, or a weekend hack-a-thon sponsored by your brand where you can engage outside developers to build apps for your business.

Insurers Win Big With Social Media

Insurance agents have long understood the need to be social as a part of their sales process: the best agents have always been those who build strong relationships with and educate customers, keep in touch and ask for referrals. But new ways of communicating have resulted in new expectations buyers have, such as being able to Google an agent and check out his or her LinkedIn profile before deciding to proceed. This means that insurers need to rethink the sales process and the tools that they provide to their agents, so agents can take full advantage of the power of social media.

The profile information and status updates that more than one billion people share each day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer agents incredible insights into what is happening in the lives of current and potential policyholders. These insights signal to agents what types of insurance are needed by the customer and generally allow the agent to build trust through personal connection and personalized service. As a result, agents can now be smarter about when they contact customers and prospects and more directed in their communications, saving agents time and improving business results. Researching prospects on social media and understanding what's happening in their lives ensures that every call will be warm. In the era of social media, the cold call is dead.

The insurance industry has been an early adopter of social technology. While regulated industries, including financial services and insurance, tend to be cautious because of compliance concerns, a study by International Data Corp. found that the insurance industry has actually blazed the trail with social media. Farmers, Nationwide, Thrivent Financial, Northwestern Mutual and other Fortune 500 insurance organizations have instituted forward-thinking initiatives on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that have demonstrated social success that other industries are attempting to replicate.

But it's time for all insurers to move to the second wave with social. In the first wave, many companies rushed to get as many “likes” as possible on their Facebook pages. But research shows that these “likes” have failed to convert into lasting value and tangible return on investment. In the second wave of social, insurers are realizing that they need to focus on results achieved through true engagement and authentic relationships. Just as it has always been, since long before the digital age, developing long-standing relationships is key to building a successful business in the social era.

For insurers, moving on to the second wave means two main things:

First, insurers need to provide unique and relevant content that agents can use on their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds. For an agent, sharing relevant content via social channels builds credibility and helps establish them as a trusted expert that their connections will turn to when they need insurance. Marketing departments already know the type of content that resonates with customers and are typically producing professional content used in other online and offline channels. For example, success stories about the value of insurance or financial planning tools are valuable pieces of content for agents to share socially.

Second, insurers must empower the field. As an example, Thrivent Financial, a Hearsay Social client, has hundreds of agents actively managing their own local Facebook pages. As financial experts, Thrivent Financial representatives share value with their close-knit communities by consistently posting relevant content, like IRA calculators and market analyses. In addition, Thrivent reps share personal updates and plan community events, building an authentic social presence while still appropriately representing brand.

Organizations that empower agents to create their own local social-media presences are many times more effective than when the same messages are shared from a corporate page. While having five million fans wins bragging rights for any brand marketer, from the consumer's perspective, it can be much more powerful to hear the story from a local representative that you know and trust.

A local insurance agent's Facebook page

Savvy chief marketing officers at insurers have done a great job of making a relatively abstract product tangible by creating some of the most interesting and memorable personas in the history of marketing — Mayhem the Allstate villain, Flo the Progressive Girl, Snoopy representing MetLife and the GEICO gecko. For an industry that sells a product you can't hear, see, smell, taste or touch, this is impressive. And the characters can drive social-media strategies, allowing a company to create a social-media asset for a character (e.g., the Facebook page for Mayhem). Getting consumers to “like” the page can provide yet another entry point into the News Feed, increasing engagement for the brand and driving sales. When your local MetLife agent posts a picture of a sleeping Snoopy with the text “TGIF,” how can you not click “like”?

While insurers are off to a great start with social marketing, there is so much more that they can do to leverage the power of social media into sales. By coordinating enterprise-wide social selling programs, insurance companies can empower agents to attract more prospects and build stronger relationships, leading the way by selling socially.