This article was adapted from Stacey Danheiser's appearance on the CMO Convo podcast.
I'm Stacey Danheiser, the founder and CMO of SHAKE Marketing Group, a B2B marketing consultancy. At SHAKE Marketing, we specialize in marketing strategy, voice of customer research, and aligning marketing and sales teams to effectively communicate customer value.
Over the past year, I've been focused on helping more B2B marketers elevate their impact. I've frequently heard from marketers who feel like they're merely "order takers" lacking internal value and respect, and aren't invited to strategic conversations or given a seat at the table. Through my work with CEOs and Chief Revenue Officers, I've been able to bridge the gap between marketing and the C-suite.
I've turned that experience into a mentorship program to help marketing teams make a greater impact.
Defining self-assessment for CMOs
I believe that self-assessment is essential for marketing teams seeking to improve their performance. It's like setting New Year's resolutions - you set new goals and reflect on past performance to determine what worked, what didn't, and what needs to change.
Self-assessment provides a reality check, allowing the marketing team to determine if they’re doing the right things to achieve their desired outcomes. I encourage everyone on the marketing team to take part in this exercise, not just the CMO.
The self-assessment process provides a path forward by identifying where the team is currently and where they want to be. From there, specific steps can be taken to reach the desired goal, whether it's improving brand recognition, generating more leads, or increasing revenue.
Ultimately, the goal of self-assessment is to ensure that the team is on the right track towards achieving their desired outcomes. Regularly taking the time to reflect and adjust course as needed helps us stay agile and continue making progress.
The frequency of self-assessment for CMOs
As a CMO, I recommend conducting self-assessments at least once a year. However, it's also important to do so whenever a major change occurs, such as a company acquisition or merger.
Throughout my career, I've worked at five different Fortune 500 companies and have experienced several company acquisitions. During these times of change, it's essential to reevaluate where you stand.
After an acquisition or merger, new goals are established, and new leadership may be introduced with a new set of mandates. As a result, it's an opportunity to identify gaps that need to be addressed to help the marketing team achieve these goals. It's important to recognize that the same playbook cannot be used when significant changes occur.
Whenever there is a significant change, take the time to reflect and identify any gaps that need to be addressed to help you achieve your goals. By doing so, you'll be able to stay on track and ensure that your marketing strategies are effective in achieving desired outcomes.
Performing a marketing self-assessment
At SHAKE Marketing Group, we have developed the Confident Marketer Scorecard, which assesses marketing teams in four key areas: mindset and competency, planning, execution, and leadership.
The first area, mindset and competency, evaluates whether the marketing team has the right mindset, skills, and competencies required to achieve the desired outcomes. We look at whether the team has a solid understanding of the market, customers, and competitors and whether there are any gaps in the team's skillset.
The second area, planning, assesses the foundational work that the marketing team has done before executing their strategies. It's crucial to take the time to define customer segmentation, positioning, value propositions, and ideal customer profiles before launching any marketing campaigns. The Confident Marketer Scorecard also evaluates whether marketing and sales are aligned, whether the marketing goals tie back to the business and whether there is an execution plan in place that sets the team up for success.
The third area, execution, evaluates whether the marketing team is focusing on the right activities and priorities to drive business growth. We look at marketing and sales alignment and how well the team is executing its strategies.
The fourth area, leadership, assesses the marketing team's leadership skills and their ability to inspire and set a vision for marketing within the organization.
It's important to note that doing the self-assessment is only one part of the exercise. It's also beneficial to share the results with your stakeholders and peers to get their input and evaluation. This feedback will help to identify any gaps or misalignments that need to be addressed.
It's common for individuals and teams to overestimate their competencies and abilities. That's why it's crucial to get input from other stakeholders to gain a complete understanding of the team's performance. This will ensure that your perception of your team matches up with the reality of how others see you.
For instance, in one company I ran an assessment for, the marketing team scored highly on knowing their ideal customer target, but the leadership team thought differently. While the marketing team had a document full of personas, the sales team had a separate list of target accounts they were going after. This misalignment created a disconnect that needed to be addressed.
However, many of the gaps I see between marketing and other departments boil down to a lack of communication. Misalignment can often be resolved by workshopping the problem and finding ways to narrow down the focus to the right things.
Assessments are not meant to be used as a tool for beating up on team members or pointing out weaknesses. Instead, they are an opportunity to identify areas for improvement and create a plan to tackle them. By using an assessment, you can prioritize specific areas of development for your team that will benefit not only the individual but the collective marketing team as a whole.
Addressing miscommunication between departments: Steps to improve cross-functional collaboration
As a marketer, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, "What does the team perceive the role of marketing to be?" This is crucial to understand because differing perceptions about what marketing should be doing can lead to miscommunication and unmet expectations within the organization. It's essential to take steps to change these perceptions, and it all starts with listening to how the business views the marketing team.
When I work with marketing teams, I like to start by finding out how the team perceives the marketing department. I ask them to describe what they think marketing should be doing and how marketing can help them. By listening to the language they use, we can start to understand how they view the marketing team's role within the organization.
One question that I love is, "Is marketing viewed as a trusted advisor by our stakeholders?" One stat I found revealed that, unfortunately, 67% of people said no, they're definitely not thinking of marketing in that way. This is where I go back to the feedback that I hear over and over again. My team feels like order takers, they're not invited to strategic conversations, and people don't understand the value of marketing or the ROI.
The goal for me is to change that perception. I don't want our team to be seen as order takers, I want them to be seen as strategic partners and advisors to the business. And so, we need to start by understanding the key competencies and mindset of great marketers.
One of the key mindsets is being customer-focused. This is a complaint that I'm hearing a lot from the C-suite lately. They feel that marketing doesn't understand their customers and hasn't interviewed them or talked to them. This gap is already a problem, and we need to start fixing it.
Becoming a customer expert requires more than just scouring review sites or social media. Marketing needs to be involved in customer meetings and calls with the sales team. The sales team has a short-term view of the customer, but marketing needs to look at the long-term view of what customers need and how economic situations and technology impact their business. The C-suite wants marketing to sit at the table and be the expert in what's happening with the customer, and we need to start by looking at this key competency.
Tips for staying objective in marketing team assessments
Assessing your marketing team's capabilities can be a challenging but critical exercise for the growth and success of your business. However, it's important to approach the process with objectivity and honesty to get the most out of it.
One of the main advantages of conducting an assessment with a third-party consultant or facilitator is the benefit of having an objective perspective. Other team members can also provide valuable input and weigh in on areas of strength and opportunities for growth.
It's important to be aware of recency bias, where recent successes may cloud your judgment and lead you to overestimate your team's abilities. To avoid this, it's crucial to be mindful and honest with yourself about your team's actual capabilities and whether everyone is bought into it.
Another potential pitfall is overthinking the assessment. If you're doing the assessment for self-reflection and improvement, and you're not sharing it with anyone else, there's no need to be overly critical or second-guess yourself. It's also important to be honest about whether you've shared your accomplishments with others or if they're sitting on your computer, unknown to the rest of the team.
As a CMO, I've seen firsthand how easy it is to work yourself out of a job by becoming blindsided by the reality of your team's capabilities. Conducting regular assessments can help you avoid this pitfall and ensure that you're always working on the right improvement plan for your team.
Remember, the purpose of the assessment is not to beat yourself up or dwell on the negative. Instead, it's an opportunity for self-reflection and a chance to identify gaps and opportunities for growth. By remaining objective, honest, and mindful, you can use this tool to set your team on a path to success.
Owning your growth: The importance of self-assessment in marketing
I am admittedly a self-assessment junkie. I take any quiz or tool that comes my way because I love this kind of stuff. For me, getting the results of a self-assessment is helpful in identifying areas where I can improve.
Some assessments are objective, such as determining whether or not a task is documented, and not meant to beat you up. Instead, they offer insight into what successful people do, and if you want to be in that category, these are the things that you should be working on.
Self-assessment is a way to own your growth and leadership and empower your team to take control of their own growth as well. It's crucial to be honest with yourself when completing self-assessments and identify gaps that you can work on.
This is especially important when you're the head of a marketing team. CEOs and Chief Revenue Officers want marketing professionals to own the growth plan and roadmap for their department. They want you to present the vision, where the team is currently, and where you want to be.
It's important to have an ownership mentality when completing self-assessments. You are responsible for your team's development and growth and pushing things in the right direction. Self-assessments can be done in many different ways and do not always require a budget.
Internal workshops, for example, are great for elevating marketing to the role of the orchestrator of everything. When you think of yourself as the orchestrator and try to make things happen, you can take a different viewpoint and play a different role.
Taking self-assessments can be a valuable tool in identifying areas of growth and improvement. They empower you and your team to take control of your development, and ultimately help to make you a better marketer.
How to approach a self-assessment process with a positive mindset
As a CMO, I believe that anyone who has made it to this role is already demonstrating strong leadership skills. And one of the best qualities of a leader is the willingness to be open and honest about improvement and self-development. This is why I think it's crucial to put your leadership hat on and embrace the opportunity to model the behavior you want to see in your team.
The truth is, this is what employees want. They desire opportunities to grow and enhance their skills. This structured approach to team development is a way to address specific strengths and areas for improvement while encouraging individual ownership over development.
Traditionally, companies have assumed that employees know where their gaps are and told them to find a class or training on their own, but this approach is more holistic. By assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the entire team, we can develop specific training opportunities that will benefit the entire marketing team.
For example, one common gap is evaluating marketing activity and putting together ROI models that are easy to communicate back to finance. This requires a unique skill set that straddles both finance and marketing. This is where identifying specific opportunities for development can benefit the entire team, not just an individual.
So, my advice is to embrace this opportunity as a way to foster a culture of growth and development within your team. It's an opportunity to identify specific areas of improvement that will benefit everyone, and it models the kind of behavior and mindset we want to see in our team members.
What are the core things you focus on when assessing your and your team's capabilities? Share your insights with a global network of marketing leaders and CMOs on the CMO Alliance Community Slack Channel.