Marketing & Sales

The 5 Things CEOs Get Wrong About Marketing

A Guide to Avoiding Common Pitfalls


Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




The 5 Things CEOs Get Wrong About Marketing
The 5 Things CEOs Get Wrong About Marketing

With over 20 years of experience guiding CEOs, I've identified five critical marketing blunders that deplete resources, dishearten teams, and stifle growth. This article slices through the complexity to expose these errors and presents a clear, actionable guide to sidestep them. Discover this distilled collection of insights to shift your marketing viewpoint dramatically—you’ll never look at it the same way again.

Forget the polite introductions; here's the hard truth: many CEOs are quite good at sales but fall short when it comes to marketing. My pedigree is in sales, and I moved over to marketing, using my sales-first approach to inform how I engage marketing, and I’ve been using what I’ve learned across a long career to directly help CEO’s approach and apply marketing for their company in a much more meaningful way. 

It’s clear to me that CEOs excel in driving sales, understanding its direct path to revenue. Yet, when navigating the more nuanced world of marketing, they often veer off course. The irony? Marketing’s ultimate aim is to fuel revenue—something every CEO inherently values but doesn't always connect the dots back to. Essentially, I see CEO’s making the same fundamental mistakes over and over again in how they view, conceptualize, and approach marketing. 

My aim with this article is twofold: to identify the common misconceptions and misapplications of marketing by CEOs and to offer a clear perspective on why these approaches fall short. Furthermore, I intend to outline actionable steps that CEOs can take to harness marketing as a powerful growth engine. This approach is designed to not only correct common errors but also to empower CEOs to unlock their company's full growth potential through strategic and effective marketing practices.

Problem 1 | A Lack of Clarity of Intent for Marketing

The Unfocused Intent of Marketing

A frequent stumbling block for CEOs is an unclear focus and intent for marketing. Where sales objectives are sharply defined—sell, the goals for marketing can appear diffuse and multifaceted by comparison. This ambiguity often leads to a scattergun approach in deploying marketing resources, diluting the potential impact and effectiveness of marketing efforts. The key to overcoming this challenge lies in establishing a singular, unwavering focus. 

What is the focus? Simple. Marketing should be about driving revenue opportunities. 

By concentrating on generating leads that are not only plentiful but also precisely targeted and well-informed, businesses can ensure their marketing efforts are both intentional and impactful.

Marketing as a Revenue-Driving Machine

Understanding the true purpose of marketing is critical to overcoming the issue of unfocused intent. At its heart, marketing is not a nebulous concept; it is a disciplined strategy designed to drive revenue—not solely through direct sales but by creating a conducive environment for sales opportunities to flourish. Effective marketing is about developing highly qualified, educated leads that represent genuine revenue opportunities, which the sales team can then pursue and convert. The strategy here requires a pivot from a broad, unfocused application of marketing efforts to a laser-focused approach aimed at cultivating leads that truly matter.

Problem 2 | Measuring What Matters

So Freaking What If You Have 100,000,000 Visitors!

When it comes to marketing, there's no shortage of metrics. This abundance, however, is a double-edged sword. CEOs are often presented with a plethora of data points, each vying for attention. The real challenge lies not in the collection of these metrics but in discerning which metrics truly matter. My own journey from sales to the role of CMO highlighted this challenge starkly. Early on, I encountered a situation where our marketing agency boasted about the significant traffic flowing to our website. My response, informed by a sales-oriented perspective, was direct and possibly a bit snarky: "Yeah, so what?"

This question wasn't about undermining the effort but rather about challenging the value of these metrics. Upon closer examination, it became apparent that while our site attracted a vast number of visitors, their engagement was superficial at best. Visitors stayed for barely a second and didn't bother exploring beyond the landing page. This revelation painted a clear picture: high traffic numbers alone were not indicative of success. They were, in essence, vanity metrics—impressive at first glance but shallow in value.

Vanity Metrics vs. Meaningful Metrics

The distinction between vanity metrics and meaningful metrics is crucial. Vanity metrics, like the high volume of site traffic with minimal engagement, may offer the illusion of progress but ultimately fall short of contributing to the company's goals. On the other hand, meaningful metrics—such as engagement rates, conversion rates, and the depth of visitor interactions—offer tangible insights that directly correlate with business growth.

The lesson here is straightforward but fundamental: do not be swayed by the allure of vanity metrics. Instead, anchor your marketing strategy to metrics that genuinely matter. These are the metrics that can be closely tied to revenue opportunities, serving as your north star in navigating the complex terrain of marketing analytics. By focusing on what truly contributes to the bottom line, CEOs can ensure their marketing efforts are not just visible but genuinely impactful.

Problem 3 | It's Not About Your Features, It's About Their Problems

The Feature-Focused Fallacy

Many CEOs are quick to highlight the features of their products in their marketing content, and understandably so. Pride in your product's capabilities is a natural reflex, especially when you've invested significant time and resources into its development. This perspective, though, while human, often overlooks a crucial aspect of marketing: the customer's viewpoint.

In the race to showcase product features, CEOs must pause and consider the lens through which their prospective clients view the world. Prospects are not drawn to your product by the features themselves; they arrive at your doorstep driven by a problem they need to solve. Recognizing and addressing these problems is the first, crucial step in truly connecting with your audience.

Empathy Before Solution

To make your marketing resonate, it's essential to demonstrate a deep understanding of your prospects' challenges. These challenges are not just inconveniences; they represent real pain points that cost time, money, emotional stress, and can significantly hinder progress toward goals. The initial focus of any effective marketing content should be to acknowledge these issues, establishing a connection grounded in empathy.

Once this empathetic foundation is laid, showcasing your product's features and benefits becomes exponentially more impactful. The key lies in presenting your solution within the context of the problems faced by your prospects. By doing so, you align what you offer directly with their needs, transforming your product features into relevant benefits that speak directly to their situation.

Contextualizing Features as Solutions

With an empathetic approach, the features and benefits of your product are framed in a way that is not just informative but deeply relevant to your prospects. This method transforms a simple list of product attributes into a compelling narrative that demonstrates how each feature solves a specific problem or alleviates a pain point. By contextualizing your product’s capabilities in this manner, you're not just listing what your product can do; you're illustrating how it makes a difference in the lives of your customers.

This approach not only builds trust at an order of magnitude greater than the conventional feature-focused marketing but also positions your company as a problem-solver that truly understands and cares about its customers' needs. By prioritizing their problems and presenting your features as tailored solutions, you ensure that your marketing efforts connect more effectively, fostering stronger relationships and driving meaningful engagement

Problem 4 | MORE MORE MORE!

The Quality over Quantity Debate

"When I work with CEOs on marketing content, the prevailing thought often seems to be 'more is better.' While it's true that 'more' is indeed more, this philosophy doesn't necessarily translate to better outcomes, especially when it comes to driving revenue opportunities through marketing."

In our digital age, where content is frequently hailed as king, the allure of producing content in mass can be seductive. The logic seems straightforward: the more content you produce, the higher your chances of engaging with your audience. However, this approach often overlooks a critical element—relevance and quality.

Creating content that genuinely resonates with your target audience demands a commitment to depth and relevance over sheer volume. High-quality, focused content is inherently more engaging and likely to convert prospects into leads than an ocean of generic content. It's about striking a chord with your audience, addressing their specific needs, and providing value that is both perceived and real. This level of engagement is seldom achieved through quantity alone.

Investing time and resources into the quality of your content serves multiple purposes. First, it establishes your brand as a thought leader and authority in your field. This perception is invaluable, fostering trust and credibility among your audience. Second, quality content is more shareable and has a longer shelf life, continuing to draw in leads long after it's been published. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, prioritizing quality significantly enhances your return on investment. Well-crafted content that aligns with your audience's interests and needs is more likely to drive meaningful actions, such as inquiries, sign-ups, and sales, than content that fails to engage.

In summary, while the temptation to prioritize quantity is understandable, the evidence strongly supports a focus on quality. For CEOs looking to leverage content marketing as a powerful tool for growth, the message is clear: invest in quality. It's not just about producing content—it's about producing content that matters to your audience and drives your business forward.

Problem 5 | Operating in Silos

The Cats & Dogs Conundrum

One of the most pervasive challenges I encounter across companies is the tendency for marketing and sales departments to operate in silos, often with a relationship that mirrors the quintessential cats and dogs dynamic. It's a curious phenomenon—two critical departments, both fundamentally aimed at driving revenue, yet frequently at odds. Why does this happen, and more importantly, why is it allowed to persist?

Tracing the Roots: A Lack of Clarity

The root of this issue often circles back to what we've identified as "Problem 1 | A Lack of Clarity of Intent for Marketing." Without a clear purpose and a well-defined north star established by leadership, marketing and sales find themselves inadvertently set on divergent paths. This lack of directional clarity from the top naturally fosters an environment where silos thrive, undermining the collective goal of revenue generation.

Bridging the Divide

Yet, my experience has shown me that this division is not a foregone conclusion but rather a reversible and avoidable operational flaw. Although ideally addressed by a COO, the imperative to break down these barriers starts with the CEO. It's crucial for CEOs to clearly articulate the shared objective of both departments: to generate revenue. This clarity of purpose can dramatically shift the dynamics, transforming competition into collaboration.

Marketing's effectiveness is significantly enhanced when there is active engagement with the sales team to understand what strategies are resonating in the field. Conversely, sales teams are more inclined to share insights and cooperate with marketing when they see their feedback being utilized to refine lead generation strategies. This synergy shouldn't be episodic but a regular feature of how these departments interact.

By addressing the underlying issues of clarity and communication, CEOs can dismantle the silos that keep marketing and sales at odds. In doing so, they pave the way for a more cohesive, efficient, and effective approach to driving revenue—a goal that both departments share and can only achieve through collaboration.

Pro Tip | Setting a Course and Sticking to It

A common pitfall in aligning marketing and sales efforts is the tendency to agree on a plan only to have sales push for changes before giving the plan ample time to bear fruit. Flexibility is important, but constant shifts in direction will ensure that neither department reaches its destination. Success lies not just in agreeing on a strategic plan but also in committing to a timeframe to let that plan unfold. It's this discipline, coupled with regular, open communication between sales and marketing, that can turn erstwhile rivals into a unified force for growth.

Conclusion: Reframing Marketing for Impactful Results

The common pitfalls outlined here reflect a misalignment in how marketing is often perceived and deployed by CEOs, particularly in the B2B tech sector. However, the crux of making marketing work for your business lies in intentionality—the deliberate application of marketing strategies with a clear focus on driving sales opportunities.

Marketing doesn’t have to be some esoteric complex dark art only to be wielded by trained mages. It can be straightforward and accessible when CEOs commit to a few key principles: anchoring marketing efforts on the genuine problems of prospects, crafting content that resonates deeply rather than broadly, ensuring a symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing, and measuring success with metrics that truly reflect business growth.

By focusing on these areas, marketing transcends its traditional role, becoming a powerful conduit for sales rather than just a parallel process. It's about making every marketing effort count, with a laser focus on generating leads that are not only numerous but are the right fit—leads that are ready for conversion by an informed and aligned sales team.

This approach underscores a fundamental shift: viewing marketing not as a separate entity but as a vital part of a cohesive strategy aimed at driving your company’s revenue. It invites CEOs to view marketing through a new lens—one that sees beyond mere activities to the strategic potential of marketing as a significant driver of business success.

If you liked this article and are looking for some relevant content then look no further.

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Meet Cody Strate: A Revenue-Driven Tech Marketer and Thought Leader




The 5 Things CEOs Get Wrong About Marketing