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 Zhivago.
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..." trap:
"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 power.
"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 decisions."
Of course, that also means that you have to think hard about structure and statistics -- and if the product fails, it's all on your head.
"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 permanent employee.
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) Kristin Zhivago Zhivago Marketing Partners, Inc. 381 Seaside Dr. Jamestown, RI 02835 401-423-2400 firstname.lastname@example.org www.zhivago.com
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