Nov 05, 2003
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Kristin Zhivago walks into companies and takes over their sales
and marketing efforts for up to a year. "I work for the CEO and
go in and re-engineer their processes," she explains.
It's not an easy job. As a short-term employee brought in to fix
things, other employees sometimes "don't like me because I'm
concerned with getting it right," she says.
Not that she cares. To succeed, "You have to stop trying to be
liked by everyone."
Zhivago shared 5 steps marketers can take to find power -- both
within their companies and without.
Step #1. Get your CEO's respect (and others will follow)
"If you don't get the CEO's respect, you'll never get anyone
else's," Zhivago says. "But once you do, the other heads will
grudgingly -- and it's always grudgingly -- respect you."
In a way, she says, it's disturbing that marketers are not liked.
On the other hand, when people come to her saying they can't
understand why they're not respected, she tells them, "You don't
deserve respect. You have to earn it. Get over being liked, get
over being shy."
a. Understand what the CEO wants
"He's your audience," says Zhivago (and yes, it's usually a
"he"). "Every CEO has a boss. The boss could be his mother-in-law
for all you know, but there's someone he has to answer to, like a
board of directors."
They also have their own prejudices that they think are important
or useful or appropriate.
"What you have to do is understand where they're coming from."
b. Understand what the customer wants
Get on the phone with your customers and build a system to manage
how you contact them on a regular basis. This gets the customer's
voice into the marketer's head.
"All good marketing comes from that one pivotal thing," says
Once you know what your customers want, you'll have the
"contextual confidence" that will let you know what needs to be
done in your work environment.
"Without that confidence, a marketer will be beaten up by sales
people, because they're always out there talking to customers."
Focus groups and surveys won't do it, she says. You've got to get
on the phone with them and begin gathering anecdotal evidence
(which sticks in the memory better than statistics) that you can
share with the CEO.
Marketer who don't do this begin seeing their reputations in the
company going down, and they end up leaving, she says.
Step #2. Rise out of the marcom quagmire
"There's a lot of people out there who are marcom people and
they'll be marcom for the rest of their lives. They're underpaid
and underappreciated and it's really sad, but they'll never get
up there with the big boys," Zhivago says.
Why is that? Partly because they fall into the "where's my..."
"People are running up saying, 'Where's my brochure, where's my
press release?'" Zhivago says. "So all these pressures are
intense because if you don't meet your deadlines they send out
incriminating emails to 15 people."
When this happens, the customer isn't heard at all. The internal
voices drown out the external ones.
Make time to listen and learn, no matter what it takes. Don't be
so much into deadlines that you don't have the chance to pull
back and look at the big picture.
Step #3. Become a strategist
There are implementers and there are strategists, Zhivago
explains, and if you happen to be an implementer, you can teach
yourself to think strategically by always asking questions.
If the boss tells you to do something, an implementer might say,
"Okay boss, whatever you say," she says. "They're just lap dogs."
A strategist might say yes, but as they implement the project
they're thinking, "Is this really what we should be doing?"
"The CEO will respect you if you come back into their office and
say, I heard what you said, and I went back and thought about it
and did some research, and here's what I think we should do and
here's why, and here's how we're going to do it," Zhivago says.
Step #4. Try product management
According to Zhivago, CEOs are starting to understand the
importance of the product management role, and it's a good place
for marketers to position themselves if they're looking for more
"When doing product management, it's like being an internal
business manager for a particular product," she says. "So you're
responsible for profit and loss and pricing and product
Of course, that also means that you have to think hard about
structure and statistics -- and if the product fails, it's all on
"It's risky and marketers tend to be risk averse," Zhivago says.
"But that's not how you get someone's respect."
Step #5. Cultivate other CEOs
If you think you'd like to have a job like Zhivago's, begin by
building your reputation within your own company.
Then begin cultivating CEOs. "When you meet a unique CEO, engage
his intellect and try to place yourself where he'll be," she
suggests. "They're intelligent people, and they want to be around
other people who can teach them things."
It's all about relationships, because this is not the type of job
you can get by cold-calling. CEOs want to know that what has been
started will be finished, so they almost always prefer a
That's not to say that it can't be done, especially if you've got
a good strategy.
"There's no shortage of implementers," Zhivago says. "We need
more marketing strategists in the world."
FYI: Zhivago's contact info for you (please don't abuse it)
Zhivago Marketing Partners, Inc.
381 Seaside Dr.
Jamestown, RI 02835