The endangered CMO: Survival Tips From Microsoft's Grad Conn

It's tough being a CMO in today's fractured media landscape with its ephemeral social media trends - repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor
Grad Conn

Grad Conn in center in blue at Sprinklr media dinner.

The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO's average of 7.2 years.

I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. We spoke at a recent media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr -- an enterprise-ready social media toolset used by Conn and a team of more than 150 Microsoft social media managers.

The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his job nearly twice as long as the industry average. Job security is certainly uppermost in the minds of CMOs -- even the successful ones.

Here's some of my notes into Conn's approach to social media and job security:

- Conn said that he had to accept that much of what he had learned about marketing in school and as a former P&G product marketing executive was wrong or was no longer as effective.

- To understand the social media platforms such as Twitter it is important to be active in them. Experience is important because they change all the time.

- It is important to be responsive to any issues and to give your social manager managers the authority to quickly respond and to take conversations into a private channel.

- Standardizing on a set of tools and metrics is important. The changing nature of digital media should be supported by your toolset and integrated into management dashboards. For example: Sprinklr says it is constantly integrating newly acquired technologies and creating new services

- The CMO has to have the confidence to publish a lot and has to seek attention. Conn is very active online in many media platforms and also offline as a speaker.

Foremski's Take: Grad Conn is a near perfect example of what a tech company CMO should be like.

- He is comfortable with a reasonable degree of self-promotion and he constantly seeks attention online and also offline -- look at the way he dresses.

- He is creating a persona and a following by knowing how to communicate publicly in an authentic and relevant manner.

- He is very active as a self-publisher in social media, blogging, video and is a frequent speaker at conferences.

- He has trained hundreds of social media managers to act independently and react to any crisis with full trust of the management.

- He knows what tools to use, how to use them and why.

- He understands that what works today in marketing might not work for long and that new marketing processes will constantly be needed.

Most CMOs have mostly none of the above qualities. But they know how to keep their CVs updated.

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