17 Pieces of Advice from 10 of Marketing’s Best Leaders

When we started CMO Secrets, our goal was to conduct interviews that would help other marketers learn and grow. To help make sure we accomplished this, we frequently asked our interviewees to share the best career or general marketing advice they had been given, as well as their own advice they would like to pass along. Below is a sampling of their answers, and many more golden nuggets of wisdom await within each of the interview posts. Be sure to check them all out!

1. “Whenever smart people disagree, the best way to find your way forward is to use testing and data to validate and illuminate things.”

2. “Empathetic and creative marketers that use data effectively and are relentless are unstoppable. Those that can drive things on their own and also play well with others are even better.”

David Meiselman

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3. “[Hire] the best possible people you can find and barely afford. I think I learned this mostly through pattern matching. Every great executive I’ve worked with is perpetually in recruiting mode and leveling up.”

4. “Curiosity is so underrated and so utterly critical. Read and think broadly. Not business books, necessarily. You’ll be amazed by how many creative connections you make and ideas you trigger by simply looking in unexpected places. Also, be human. Demand more than platitudes and marketing-speak. And be humble. That’s always the better long term play. Ego driven leadership will catch up with you.”

Jake Sorofman

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5. “Fridays are for checking metrics and celebrating success.”

6. “Triple the time you spend on recruiting and hiring. I’m very hands on with networking, sourcing and interviewing for my team. A lot of people outsource that to recruiting or HR, which is a mistake. You can partner with them and get their help, but you need to own your own team building. Even when my team was 100 people and we were hiring 3 new people a month, I still interviewed all candidates before they got offers.”

Mike Volpe

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7. “If you’re thinking about doing a conference for the first time, here’s a few suggestions. First, do a survey of your customers – find out what topics they want to hear about, and what format they like in conferences they value. Also, start with a moderate win in year one – build your budget, venue selection, content, speaker line up with a limited scope, one that you know will succeed with minimal risk. Then in subsequent years, you can expand the content, attendees, adjacent events, etc. Lastly, don’t skimp on production value or food. Cheap AV and rubber chicken reflect badly on any brand. Cramer’s Perspectives is a great destination for visionary marketers who want to deliver kick-ass events.”

Charlie Ungashick

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8. “Measure revenue and things that directly lead to revenue. The latter will depend on your specific business model. At RapidMiner, we obsess over monthly active users. Whatever you look at, pick something that you’ll consistently measure over time. I’ve seen companies change metrics far too often, which makes it hard to understand patterns and trends.”

Tom Wentworth

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9. “Look to your data. Analyze it. Tie it together and look at your customers’ lifecycle. All keys to success IMO.”

10. “It’s not the number of years of experience that matters. It’s willingness, passion, grit and ability to communicate that matter the most!”

Lynne Capozzi

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11. “That Maya Angelou line about people not remembering exactly what you do, but always remembering how you made them feel – that one has always resonated.”

12. “I’ve never been particularly concerned with getting fired. As a result, I’ve enjoyed a self-imposed liberation to do what I think is right, without a surplus of concern over the consequences. One could say, “Well people know you in marketing, so you have an unfair advantage.” But the truth is, I’ve always been this way.”

Joe Chernov

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13. “People. It’s all that matters. There’s no point in hiring people and giving them tasks to do, it leads straight to mediocrity. Hire awesome people who are way smarter than you, treat them like royalty, and make sure they say you’re the best manager they ever have (which is different for everyone). For aspiring CMOs, admit you don’t know everything, humble yourself, and get out there and meet a ton of people. I try to meet with at least one fellow CMO per month. It’s best way to stay connected, keep yourself sane, and generally get some brutal self awareness learnings about where you need to improve. I also love to ask my boss each month what I suck the most at? It sounds funny, but it always leads to awesome conversations. Drop the ego and get better, or else it will come back to bite you.”

Dan Slagen

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14. “I know this might sound corny, but some of the best advice I’ve been given is to listen to your gut and stay true to yourself. If the work doesn’t feel right or you don’t feel passionate about the business, how can you expect to be successful working 50+ hours a week with/for/about/on – fill in the blank – the people, the product, the market, etc. This advice came from an executive coach with whom I worked with for several years.”

15. “Most recently, we hired Dr. Steve Bull, sports psychologist and author of “The Game Plan – Your Guide to Mental Toughness at Work” to speak at our sales kick off. One of the many nuggets I took away from his talk is “control the controllables.” This is important advice and will reduce the stress in any situation, whether worrying about the weather PMC weekend (I need to stop doing this BTW) or staying in a job that makes you unhappy. If you can’t control certain aspects of a situation, then it’s a waste of energy to worry about it – control what you can control.”

Robin Saitz

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16. “Keep your eye on the goal. Especially in marketing, it can be easy to get distracted with the new shiny thing or demand of the moment. But I have learned, and coach my teams, to ask how does it help us fulfill our commitments to the business and achieve our goals. It can be hard to say no, or not right now, but it can mean the difference between meeting and missing your goals. And because marketing is tied to sales, missing those goals can have real impact on the success of the company.”

17. “I believe any good marketing team really knows their buyer(s). Everything stems from grokking prospects’ pains, their dreams, their challenges, their biases, and so on. The better you know them, the better you can communicate (and find the right vehicles for communicating) the value your offering delivers to them, and make a match. It can be easy to lose sight of that when you’re wrapped up in the mechanics of marketing. I encourage all of my employees to ride along with sales people on calls and get out into the field at events. It’s hard to forget the faces and the feedback you get from those experiences – and undoubtedly informs the decisions you make the next day about a message, or an email or ad, or product offer.”

Allyson Barr

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