I recently read that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is 24 months, up from 18 months not very long ago. While that’s good progress, it’s still much shorter than other c-level positions.
Why is CMO tenure so short? It often comes down to the credibility of the marketing team. Too many marketing organizations erode trust by focusing on activities instead of results, by taking credit for things that can’t be proved, and by building walls between their teams and the rest of the company. Furthermore, marketing is such a broad discipline that there are always many possible marketing solutions to any business problem. The breadth of viable approaches makes for an infinite opportunity for misalignment between CMO’s and their leadership peers.
In this environment, what becomes important for CMO’s is how we build teams that work well with the rest of the organization. To this end, here are the three values that we have developed for marketing at Indeed:
Value #1: Test many things. Fail often. Stay grounded in the data.
When it comes to both our marketing and the product, we are continuously surprised at what works and what doesn’t. Companies that measure learn quickly that it’s very difficult to guess what will have the biggest impact on the business. Results will continually surprise all of us. What we do know is that if we continuously test lots of different ideas, we’re more likely to find approaches that really move the business.
One of the best examples of testing vs. intuition came from when Indeed product management finally tested the words on the Indeed job search button that allowed users to create job alerts. The original button — which said “save alert” — had been used for years but never tested. Product management came up with six new options to test: Sign up, get jobs, save, subscribe, activate, and send me new jobs. Two interesting things happened with the test: First, every single tested option outperformed the original best guess of the team that originally created the feature. Second, the highest performing option, “activate,” took all the experts by surprise. With a 12.8% increase in job alert creations from that one change, Indeed was able to send more than 1/2 billion additional job alert emails that year.
At Indeed, we’re lucky to have incredible access to data and a culture that embraces testing. So what do we test? Everything. Here are a few illustrative ideas of things we test: video ad creative for salience and recall, headlines for effectiveness, sales presentations for conversion, every word and every visual on call-to-actions for app downloads, the subject lines of email for click-through rate, the creatives for promotions for conversion effectiveness, and just about anything else where optimization can have an impact on performance.
To make testing easy, we’ve established a campaign lab that helps with the orchestration of tests supporting all of our functions. With more than 500 documented tests completed since the beginning of the year, we encourage our teams to test many permutations of tactics, messages, and creative approaches. The vast majority of these tests fail but the benefits of the few that succeed more than cover all of the expense. By staying grounded in data and encouraging our teams to fail, we discover impactful ideas and approaches that we otherwise never would have attempted.
Value # 2: Be transparent and avoid marketing ourselves
As marketers, we only get the full-impact of measuring and testing if we pair it with a marketing culture that looks objectively at activities and results. As a marketing team, there is often a temptation to apply our craft to our own results. Nothing diminishes our trust faster than spinning results or sharing only the good. On the other hand, few things can increase trust faster than being transparent about our struggles and failures.
Not marketing marketing is one of the hardest adjustments for new employees to make when they join our team. Although it is difficult, we ask everyone to be objective about the impact of our programs. It’s easy to find a metric that went up and to call a program a success. We try to be careful to not “spin” our programs to look better than what we may really know. We look at all of our results with a critical eye and are careful to present results impartially inside and outside our organization.
Being transparent requires us to make data on our tests and performance available as broadly as possible. By sharing data and insights and avoiding marketing our own work, we all learn the same lessons together. This makes us better. When we hide bad results, we lose the opportunity to share in the learning and risk repeating the same mistakes.
Over the last month, we’ve even set up mechanisms for anyone in the company to see and provide feedback on new advertising at all stages of production. In many companies ads are worked on secretly by a small team and then unveiled with grant fanfare upon completion. By sharing our work broadly at all stages, we get useful ideas, feedback, recommendations that helps us make all of the work stronger.
Value # 3: Our most powerful impact will come when we work through other teams
One of the things that I worry about most is that as our company and team continues to grow, we’ll lose some of the fun and impact to a monotony of meetings, complex approval processes, and uncoordinated projects spanning disconnected organizations.
For this reason, we’ve structured marketing to embed directly with the teams that have the center-of-gravity for every initiative that we support. When we’re the center of gravity, we ask other teams to embed with us. With a shift of our traditional online marketing teams to a growth marketing model, our teams are spread out and embedded directly with the product and engineering teams for the products we’re working on. As we support sales, we’ve centered our marketing planning efforts around our country marketing managers who sit with the sales teams and directors we support all around the world.
For everything we do, we ask where the most appropriate center of gravity should be — whether that is sales, client services, product, engineering, international, marketing or any other team. We then sit and work with those teams together as one team focused on solving problems together with as much day-to-day collaboration and as few giant meetings as possible.
While these three values may not be unique to our marketing team, they are part of a deliberate effort to avoid the silos, hype, misalignment, and politics that undermine the credibility of too many marketing organizations.