9 Powerful Pieces of Advice From Some of the Most Successful Marketers

We talk to a lot of smart people on The Content Strategist—CEOs, founders, CMOs, marketing gurus—and have learned plenty from their industry experience. So, to help you succeed in your own career, we’ve assembled a “best of” list of our favorite marketing wisdom from our past interviews. Think of it as a “That’s What I Call Music,” except for marketing thought leadership.

1. Solve Problems Like Product

Most marketing organizations are not set up in a way for smart people to be successful. They’re built in an old hierarchal command and control structure: ‘I am the head of marketing. I know more than you do about the use of this color. I know more about the use of an email. I know more about data collection than you do.’ It’s kind of a farce that you have to break down. It’s all about how you empower a team to focus on solving a problem. Not the way that marketers used to solve problems, but the way that product teams used to solve problems. If you’re a product person, you’re thinking about how to make a product better for your customer. And you’re probably using lean agile techniques and the way that you set up the KPI’s for the team are all built around how do you develop a more successful customer relationship.

—Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mozilla Firefox

In case you haven’t heard, marketing is changing dramatically, and your team should, too.

2. Focus on Growth, Not Metrics

The board is tired of hearing about marketing metrics. The CEO couldn’t care less about marketing metrics. We need to move beyond marketing metricsto business metrics because CMOs are now operating as growth drivers. They are looked to for top-line revenue.

—Alicia Hatch, CMO, Deloitte

According to a CMO Council/Deloitte study, CMOs are now seen as the primary drivers for growth and revenue generation—even more so than the CEO.

3. Get More Involved in Data

It all comes down to how disciplined you are gathering your data, keeping your data cleansed, and making sure your data is in a format that can be easily translated into multiple systems.

—Henry Schuck, CEO and Founder, DiscoverOrg

Schuck was talking about leveraging artificial intelligence, but his comment also applies to the whole marketing funnel. As software continues to drive marketing, maintaining a clear, accurate data machine is more important than ever.

4. Optimize the Customer Experience

If you look at how quickly you can call for an Uber or pick a movie on Netflix, our tolerance and our attention span right now as consumers is wildly, wildly, wildly shorter than it used to be. You’re dealing with a world where they’re expecting that you know who they are, you can understand their needs, and you can fulfill them in real time.

—Sameer Patel, CEO, Kahuna

As digital titans like Amazon and Uber change how business is done, customers are setting new expectations. As a result, optimizing the customer experience has become a rallying call of sorts for marketers.

5. Go for Better, Not Perfect

Few things in marketing are about achieving perfection. They’re largely about doing a better job than your competitors.

—Scott Brinker, Editor and Founder, ChiefMartec

Marketing is a margins game. If your content only converts at a 5% rate, that may still be a win if your competition only converts at a 2% rate. Brinker is spot on that too many marketers strive for perfection instead of simply outperforming their competition.

6. Think Fast

There’s one thing that’s very loud and clear when it comes to how users are embracing Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP, and it’s that they love speed and fast content. If users aren’t going to wait more than 400 milliseconds for content, why would they ever wait for an ad?

—Jarrod Dicker, Vice President, Commercial Product and Innovation, The Washington Post

Speed is a big deal, both for SEO and the customer experience. Google and Facebook—which control the majority of digital advertising—realized early on that speed would engender users to their platforms. Marketers should, too.

7. Collaborate Cross-functionally

When we have a product or idea, the whole team comes together. We’re not that linear. We don’t start with a product then move to advertising then move to content. We bring everybody together in the same room, and they start working on: What are the right choices within the 360? That model then dictates what’s the right content for us to leverage.

—Julia Goldin, CMO, LEGO

Content can’t exist in a silo. Not surprisingly, LEGO has the right idea: Content must be an integrated, strategic process that includes the entire marketing organization.

8. Write More (and Often)

I don’t have a secret. I just write like I talk. I think almost anyone can do it, but most people aren’t diligent enough for our trade. You know, I blogged for three or five or 10 years, depending on how you measure it, with almost no one reading my work. If you show up—the same way we get good at walking, the same way we get good at talking—you can get good at it.

—Seth Godin, writer and marketing guru

Good marketing often comes down to good writing. And Seth Godin knows the only way to get better at it: Write a lot.

9. Build Channels First

Our philosophy is: If we build it, they won’t come. I think we never take for granted that our content is going to necessarily find that audience on its own. We all know there are too many choices and channels and ways to spend your time. You’ve got to work backwards.

—Linda Boff, CMO, GE

Organic growth can be hard to come by as Google and Facebook change their algorithms. That’s why sophisticated distribution and sophisticated channel strategies are more important than ever.

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