Scapegoating: The Revolving Door for the CMO

You’ve done everything right. You had an idea that you know solves a problem. You’ve spoken to customers and advisors, you have taken their feedback snd been through several product iterations, and now it is time to launch.

You have high hopes for your new product. But you can’t just put it out there and hope it will be discovered. So you hire someone to make you a marketing plan and implement it. This magical marketing person is supposed to help your company grow. Mr. Marketing Magic should help your team close more sales.

But it doesn’t happen. You look at the numbers and your revenue is flat. So what do you do? You fire the marketing person and bring in another marketing person with a new and perhaps better plan.

But here are some things to consider before, like GM, you fire the CMO. Perhaps you are marketing and de-marketing at the same time, and the de-marketing is canceling the best efforts of the marketing people. As a former CMO and a current marketing strategist. I see this all the time, and usually the marketing guy/gal on the front line gets the blame.

Perhaps it is time to look for other common causes of marketing failure.

Is your marketing out ahead of your operations?

Apps and servers that crash or take too long to download, products that are sold out in the stores, and failure to deliver on time are symptoms of marketing that is out ahead of what the company can offer to back up its messaging. There is a time to draw attention to a product or service, and a time to fix your internal operations to deliver that product or service exceptionally. Eighty percent for a product or service isn’t good enough. Don’t spend the marketing dollars before your company is ready for the business.

When your marketing messages say that your product will solve a problem, does it?

I downloaded PlaceMe with high hopes it would keep a log of where I had been. The marketing said it would automatically check me in at locations I visit. But I have found on using it that it only locates me on the same block, and I have to fix over half of its entries–and some of the entries are missing altogether. Delete.

Are there flaws in your product that you’ve overlooked but customers find?

I bought a Hyundai Sonata last year–a car with a lot of marketing that says it is best in class. However, six months after I got it, the chrome trim began peeling off the cup holders in the console, and the door handles. When I brought it back to have the warranty work done to replace them, the service man begged me to fill out a feedback form on the quality of service–but I had no place to talk about the quality of the product. Do I want to spend the morning at a car dealer, even if the work is under warranty?

Are you losing customers as fast as you get them?

Customer churn is an easily overlooked issue for marketers with revenue targets. It’s depressing to create customers and then watch the company consistently overpromise and under deliver, causing those valuable customers generated by marketing’s efforts to give up in disgust and go away. There came a time not so long ago that disgruntled customers sang “I’ll never buy an American car again,” to the auto industry like a refrain. No amount of marketing could get those customers back until the product itself improved. And that’s how I feel about Quickbooks. I left it because it was too difficult to use, and for all I know it’s different now, but I am gone.

Do your customers feel under-appreciated?

Most customers do. We walk around all day long mumbling under our collective breaths, “I pay you for this,” as we endure one disaffected customer service person after another, or one inferior meal after another. “Is this the hospitality industry?,” we ask ourselves when room service doesn’t appear. “Is my time worth nothing?” we grumble while waiting in a doctor’s office.

Bottom line: no amount of marketing erases negative customer experience. Before you fire that CMO, check your product and your processes.


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