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Peeking into the Minds of 100+ CMOs at the ‘CMO Coffee Talk’ Retreat

4 min
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During a fun and illuminating breakout session at 6sense’s recent CMO Coffee Talk Retreat, more than 100 marketing leaders divided into eight groups, each tasked with unpacking important topics facing CMOs today.

Discussions ranged from the roles and responsibilities of CMOs, to building effective marketing teams, to strategies for ABM and product-lead growth, and much more. It was a lively and fruitful conversation!

Here’s a closer look at what these 100+ experts had to say during these insightful breakout sessions.

Group #1: What is the CMO of the Future?

This group unpacked the evolving role of CMOs, and how as the role expands, so too does a CMO’s responsibilities. “There’s no beginning or end to being a CMO,” one attendee said. 

Indeed, aspiring CMOs should expect to take on more responsibilities than ever. Attendees noted what CMOs-to-be should prepare for:

  • They’ll be expected to aggressively accelerate growth 
  • And continually innovate the customer experience
  • Be a strategic partner to the exec team
  • Build trust across — and beyond — the organization
  • Admit to failure
  • Assume greater responsibility in driving corporate strategy 
  • Be held accountable, using pipeline growth as a key KPI 
  • Be trusted by the board to drive growth

Group #2: The Dark Funnel™

Another group chatted about the Dark Funnel — the anonymous “digital breadcrumbs” that B2B buyers leave behind as they conduct research. Specifically, the group discussed how to illuminate and influence it.

Their key takeaway: Storytelling and consistent messaging are critical for influencing prospective buyers. The best way to accomplish this is with media such as:

  • Website content
  • Podcasts
  • Online communities
  • Trade show booths
  • 1:1 interactions

And while account engagement platforms provide incredible, automatic insight into the Dark Funnel and buyers’ interests, they’re not the only way. The group made a compelling case for asking buyers directly how they heard about a solution, what kind of information they received, and more.

Group #3: The Ideal CMO Dashboard

Every CMO dreams of having a go-to “single source of truth” digital dashboard that could provide at-a-glance info and analysis on the state of the business, the pipeline, and other key metrics. For now, no such solution exists.

But what if it did? What would CMOs want to track with this perfect product? Interestingly, this group didn’t come to a consensus on its must-have capabilities.

Why? There are many variables to consider since every marketing team is different, the group members realized. They did agree, however, that execs should have their own separate dashboard, and so should sales — but everyone should be looking at the same KPIs.

They divided up the KPIs into five categories:

  • Brand awareness/reach
  • Demand generation
  • Operations
  • Project management
  • Team/employee KPIs

Group #4: Marketing and Sales Alignment Practices

Becoming successful at ABM requires sales and marketing to be perfectly aligned — and this harmonious relationship must start from the top of the revenue team. This group of CMOs unpacked how they had aligned their own revenue teams. 

Best practices included:

  • Continually sharing objectives and goals
  • Hosting regular meetings to discuss pipeline, KPIs, ICP, personas, etc.
  • Encouraging interaction throughout the revenue team, not just the C-level
  • Get everyone educated on — and using — the same sales language
  • Give marketing and sales opportunities to educate each other (i.e., “this is how SEO helps sales” and “these are the kind of assets that help us close deals”) 
  • Have a RevOps team oversee and report on data
  • Get marketing team members on sales calls to hear SDRs/BDRs in action

Group #5: Building the Marketing Team of the Future

What does the ideal marketing team look like? Here’s what the marketing leaders in this group offered:

  • Thoughtfully divide marketing into Product Marketing and Content Marketing
  • Product Marketing should ideally drive what Content Marketing creates
  • Great marketers have these traits: problem solving skills, a growth mindset, a willingness to take risks, and leadership 
  • Not sure what roles need to be filled? Consider your strengths and those of your team members, and hire to fill in the gaps
  • If you don’t have in-house talent, outsource (In fact, if there’s no advantage to having an in-house do the job, outsourcing may be preferable) 
  • Coaching and development are critical for creating an environment where your team members can thrive
  • Diversity is critical; invest the time and effort to ensure you’re hiring from a wide pool of talent

Group #6: Product-Lead Growth Strategies

Product-lead growth strategies, such as free or limited product trials, build buyer confidence and help buyers become internal champions for the solution. There’s an emerging challenge with this approach, however: Many companies are wary of offering them. 

Many sales orgs see PLG as a threat, even though it can be a very effective sales tool, one attendee said. Letting potential customers test out a solution with their own data lets them see how they might benefit from it, and creates a way for them to share the experience with others in the company. 

Why are PLG strategies so influential? The average buyers tend to be Millennials, who are comfortable with technology and want to learn about it on their own. They also prefer to hear from peers, not analysts or salespeople, so customer references can also be helpful in closing sales.

Group #7: Communicating the Marketing Vision

Sometimes it’s hard for other divisions within a company to understand what marketing does,  and why it’s so important. This group of CMOs discussed how to best convey their department’s value across an organization. Their advice:

  • Listen to stakeholders across the org to get their perspective on marketing and understand the challenges they face
  • Understand the roles that the marketing department and each individual member of the team play in the overall marketing vision
  • Use relatable stories, like customer journeys, to help all departments understand marketing’s efforts
  • Plan a marketing roadmap that makes your goals visible and commit to meeting them
  • Show off your wins loud and proud
  • Execute, measure, and optimize
  • Proactively solicit feedback

Group #8: ABM Strategies That Work

How can marketing teams execute an effective ABM strategy? This group offered these tips:

  • Discuss the strategy in terms of ABX instead of ABM so other departments know it’s not just a “marketing thing”
  • Get a crystal-clear image of your ICP, segments, and personas
  • Start small with segmentation, and once you can prove its efficacy, double down and build it out
  • Your intent keywords and SEO keywords should be the same, or at least very similar
  • Accept the fact that MQL is dead
  • Train SDRs/BDRs to be ABM ambassadors and have them coach the account reps
  • Ensure your journey stages are clear, as well as what sales and marketing does at each stage
  • ABM/ABX means different things to different people and different companies, so be prepared to explain it when needed
  • Remember: your target account list is not aspirational
  • Successful  ABM/ABX takes time, so be patient, and don’t expect instant results

Join the Thriving Community CMO Coffee Talk Community

If you’re a B2B CMO or head of marketing and want access to a community of your peers (1,300 strong and growing) as well as numerous specific ABM-related resources, benchmark reports, tactical examples and more, we welcome you! Click here to apply for membership.

The 6sense Team

6sense helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue growth by putting the power of AI, big data, and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team.

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