Last night, I attended a Smart CMO Roundtable hosted by VIVA Creative, JAgency, and AMADC, the Washington, DC chapter of the American Marketing Association.  I was worried there might be a test at the door to make me prove I was actually a “Smart CMO,” and unfortunately I was right.  Upon collecting my name tag, I was led past a velvet rope and down a red carpet (nice touch) to a reporter and camera crew (complete with klieg lights) that wanted to ask me some hard hitting marketing questions.

“How do you define marketing innovation?”

“What are you doing to make your marketing program more global?”

“How do you measure your marketing results?”

After failing miserably at my on camera interview, the Smart CMO (#SmartCMODC) leaders told me I could still come in, but suggested I stop at the open bar first.  Good advice.

The main event was a panel of local marketers:

I knew I was in for a good program because no one uttered the words social media for the first 40 minutes.  Highlights:

  • Next time you think that marketing your cause is difficult, that your competition is overwhelming, or that your target audience is too small, think about Tom Shelley. Tom is President (and former CMO) of Space Adventures, the leader of the rapidly growing Space Tourism industry, which has been conservatively estimated at growing to over $10 billion over the next several years. Space Adventures has a product (send private citizens to space) that costs $50 million per trip. If that weren’t difficult enough, his competitor is one of the largest brands in the world: Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic (a much more economical $200,000/per seat). Tom’s challenge reminded me of what event fundraisers go through on a daily basis when trying to find a major corporate sponsor for their event.  In Tom’s case, he has found only eight customers for his product so far (a.k.a., $400 million in revenue). How is Tom going to find his next $50 million? He starts by turning down a lot of partnership requests and only creating genuine partnerships with organizations that are aligned with the Space Adventures brand and can provide incremental marketing exposure.
  • K12’s chief marketing officer Celia Stokes reminds her staff to be 1% better everyday. That sounds small, but if you just get one percent better today and do that every day then you will double how good you are in 72 days. One specific way she is encouraging is through better measurement.  Celia noticed that the further away her company got from paid Search Engine Marketing campaigns, the harder it was to measure marketing performance.  To close this gap, she recently gave her social media marketers a revenue quota. One of the goals: to connect blog engagement with revenue. The program is only a few months old, but Stokes said that her marketing team is already hard at work trying to document the link.
  • Blackboard’s Kevin Alansky talked about the importance of making sure their marketing campaigns are replicable rather than a random series of “one and done” campaigns.

During the Q&A portion, one of the attendees threw out a great two-part question from the floor, “What do you not do and why? And what inspires you as a marketer?” (You’ll have to wait for a future blog post for the answers!) And eventually, the conversation turned to social media and content marketing.  After the seminar, I did a little research to see what CMO’s are getting marketing right. The infographic below was created using state of the art sentiment analysis technology from Lithium(formerly Scout labs) and social media metrics from HowSociable, Klout and Social Mention.

The Top 20 Social CMOs of the Fortune 100 (infographic)

Jono Smith is vice president of marketing at Event 360. You can find Jono on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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