In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Drew Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner David Minife, click here.
The adult equivalent of being the "new kid" at school is starting a new job. It was hard back then and not much easier now, especially when you're the not just a new colleague, but the new CMO. This was David Minifie's reality not too long ago, when he stepped in to lead the marketing team at multi-line healthcare enterprise Centene. Minifie's transition, however, was made easier thanks to his solid grasp on building brands (thirteen prior years at P&G doesn't hurt), as well as his knack for effecting change in a short period of time. The CMO Club recognized Minifie with a prestigious President's Circle Award at The CMO Awards for this reason, and the advice he recounted to me below should inspire anyone daunted by the challenges of a new leadership position in marketing.
Having a decade-long tenure at P&G helped Minifie transition smoothly to Centene, whose own clients run the gamut of healthcare services. As CMO, getting a grasp on these brands was of course his most imminent challenge. But he says that new-job hurtles can be overcome the same way no matter the nature of your transition.
Before all else, he says, it's important to learn the culture of your company so that you can talk the talk and walk the walk with ease. Second, you'll need to assess the landscape of your new brands' categories and familiarize yourself with their competition. Third, you'll need to be able to "understand, articulate, and drive your point of difference." Lastly, he says, "ensure that your resolve to getting the basics done well, first, never wavers." Cover these bases and you'll have no trouble shaking off any new-kid troubles.
Make a plan
Now, down to business. While a seasoned marketing leader might come into a company hoping to deliver a 100-day plan, Minifie says he aims for 90, and to execute on that timeline as quickly as possible. To achieve expedited results, Minifie says that his top priorities for each brand are broken into three tiers.
"First, I assess the landscape, both internally and externally. What are the drivers of the business? What is our point of difference?" he says. "Does my organization have the right culture, capacity, and capability to accomplish everything that needs to be done?" Answer these questions honestly and you'll help fill in the blanks while building-or reassessing-your brands. "Second," says Minifie, "we strive to execute all the basics well. Finally, we can work on accelerating the business." Indeed, excelling at the fundamentals was a recurring theme in our conversation, and a kernel of common-sense advice worth heeding.
Don't try to be popular
Many CMOs focus on developing their personal brand, but Minifie feels it's best to check the moniker at the door when taking a new position. That way, you'll truly give yourself a chance to grow and improve personally as you face new challenges. "I think too many marketers get caught up in their own 'brand' without understanding their own motivations, strengths, and weaknesses," he says.
Plus, the point is to swoop in and boost your company's profile, not your following on Twitter. "If your business isn't growing, isn't taking share," says Minifie, "then your 'brand' gets tarnished anyway. In other words, grow your business while improving yourself, and your reputation or brand equity will take care of itself."
Stay in touch with old friends
Finally, keep the conversation going with your peer network as you move through your new environment. "At P&G," Minifie says, "it was easy to talk marketing and grow personally, because everyone at P&G-even the R&D guys-understands brand building. In a non-CPG industry, 'getting fed' is more challenging. I need an external marketing network to keep me on top of trends, to test my thinking, and to help me get better."
It's this outside support system that demonstrates to your company the unique value you're able to provide. For example, at the time of our interview, Minifie mentions a big idea he and Centene were toying with that was made stronger through peer review. "I've tested the idea with several of my close friends and trusted marketing advisors," he says, "and identified both flaws and opportunities inherent in the execution phase." In sum, next time you find yourself making a career move, take a page from Minifie's textbook and you'll transition from "new kid" to "most likely to succeed" in no time.
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column appearing every Thursday