The Battle of the #CIO and the #CMO

I never read the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ), but it was dropped on my desk today. I skimmed through it after a couple of topics caught my eye, and I landed on an article titled C?O: Chief marketing, information officers see lines blur as customers go digital. Instantly caught  my attention because I battle this everyday. The role of the marketer remains: run campaigns, fill the sales funnel, and engage customers, but the way marketers are going about doing just that is dramatically different from what it was ten years ago. So, what about the CIO, and how does that even fit into this conversation?

The CIO is described as the top technology infrastructure executive. They oversee cyber security, disaster recovery, and cloud strategy (yes cloud strategy), and what has really changed within their job description is this, “Involved in making customer data actionable for the enterprise.” I thought that was marketing’s job? Maybe that’s because I am a millennial? In the IBJ article, Jeff Platon, Interactive Intelligence CMO, stated that he has been making some “CIO-like” decisions when it comes to what marketing software to purchase. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are seeing these roles melt together.

Everyone is trying to put the pieces back in place when it comes to social media, mobile, and other data driven strategies. All of the changes come down to today’s new customer. The CMO has to meet the customer where they are and that just so happens to be online and mobile… especially mobile. Gartner Inc. predicts that marketing technology spend will surpass IT’s technology spend by 2017. Marketers are relying on customer data to make strategic decisions and technology investments. Meanwhile, let’s face it, IT has been sitting on this data without even realizing its uses. In the end, neither the CIO or the CMO is going to win this battle. They are going to have to work together to redefine business processes, software purchases, and data usage.

You can read the full IBJ article here if you are ever so inclined (:


Target’s promised layoffs are here at cost of $100 million

Interested to see where this goes.


Target [fortune-stock symbol=”TGT”] told 1,700 unlucky workers in Minneapolis on Tuesday that they were out of a job as part of a previously announced round of cuts.

Last week, the discount retailer’s top executives unveiled a multi-year plan to Wall Street aimed at re-inventing its business and saving $2 billion in costs in the next two years, including the elimination of “several thousand” positions, primarily at its headquarters. The goal of the job cuts is to make the company a “much more agile, effective organization” by reducing the bureaucracy that has held Target back and made it slow to react to changes in customer behavior, notably the shift to online shopping in recent years.

In addition to the 1,700 job cuts—or which Target will incur a $100 million charge this quarter, according to a regulatory filing—the company also permanently closed 1,400 open jobs. (Target employs some 366,000 people in…

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“Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood”

I just got done sending off the first round of an email campaign today. Most of the emails are one to four sentences. Do you know how long it took me to write those few words? Forever. It was incredibly hard to avoid talking about our organization and our products. If you have ever read the Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People you know exactly what I am talking about. Individuals and organizations alike are often guilty of doing a lot of talking and not a lot of listening.

Habit number five states, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I am guilty of committing the “habit number five crime” every single day. My mind is running so quickly that I am consumed in my own thoughts while others are trying to communicate to me, and sometimes I just don’t know when to be quite. “Silence is golden” came around for a reason.

According to Stephen Covey people tend to respond in one of four ways when communicating:
Evaluating: You judge and then either agree or disagree.
Probing: You ask questions from your own frame of reference.
Advising: You give counsel, advice, and solutions to problems.
Interpreting: You analyze others’ motives and behaviors based on your own experiences.

When I think about some of the marketing emails I read and even some of them I write, they are guilty of these responses, especially advising. Marketers that fail to understand the customer first, and be understood second, are setting themselves up for failure. Is this something you struggle with as a marketer or maybe just as an individual? What are your tricks for becoming a better listener?

I am the Dreaded Perfectionist

I have always been a go-getter, an over achiever, some even call me super woman. I never really thought anything of it. I always thought it was just “the way I was wired.” I was interviewing for a job one time in a local Starbucks. The interviewer looked at me and said, “Magna cum laude really stuck out to me on your resume. What pushes you to be such an achiever? What motivates you to be successful?” This was surprisingly one of the hardest interview questions I have ever come across. I sat there for a moment at a loss for words. I might of even said, “um.”

I still do not have a crystal clear answer to this question , but I do know that the only person I am trying to impress is myself. I am the dreaded perfectionist. I strive to do everything as perfectly as possible, and it shows. It showed in high school when I played three sports, was in national honor society, on the quiz bowl team and taking college classes. Who does that? It showed in college when I played two sports, was on the executive board of my sorority, provided everyone with a finished exam review guide, and led every single group project I was involved in. I wanted to be proud of my accomplishments.

I still wonder why I’m wired this way, and I wonder if I will ever get too tired. Being an over achieving perfectionist is exhausting. Today, I am a full-time marketing specialist, a varsity soccer coach, and a full-time MBA student. People think I am crazy, and sometimes I do, too. There are some days where I can’t even remember if a ate lunch, and if there is even one dish in the sink when I get home, I stress out. I’m trying to learn something so important in life and that is letting things go. Instead of constantly making a list with goals, deadlines, and achievements, I am making a list of things to let go and I highly encourage you to do the same. Trust me, it feels good.

  1. Getting straight A’s
  2. Having a spotless house
  3. Looking like a supermodel
  4. Being more than comfortable financially
  5. Comparing myself to others
  6. Worrying about what society thinks of my actions or decisions

Your list might look completely differently than mine, but the point is, some things we just need to let go. I’ve been working on my list for a few weeks now, and my stress levels have significantly changed. I finally feel like what I am doing is not just good enough for the world, but good for me. I have learned that I can be a perfectionist in my own way, in my own life, and on my own terms.  

The Resurgence of the Leadership Trait Theory

The early trait theories appeared in the 1920’s – 1930’s. The management research during this time focused on identifying personal characterizes that led to great leaders, and personal characteristics that made people non-leaders.  Those traits included energy, stress tolerance, self-confidence, internal locus of control, emotional maturity, and integrity. Those various traits were matched with three defined skills including technical, personal, and conceptual, to produce a great leader.

At the time, researchers stated that you either had the leadership traits or you did not. Traits were not something that could be influenced or learned by a leader. The early theories also made it very clear that these traits were completely unrelated to a leader’s situation. The idea of the trait theory of leadership slipped away as it was rather subjective and researchers did not have the statistical capacity to truly analyze assumptions.

In the early 1980’s statistical research methods saw significant advancements. With new ways to gather statistical data, the trait theory was revived. Researchers now had a way to correlate personal trait data with leaders. The modern leadership theory includes motivation, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, creativity, and intelligence 

Locke and Kirkpatrick revisited the idea of the trait theory of leadership in the early 1990’s. They believe that there is evidence suggesting leaders do have a very distinctive set of traits which make them successful. They believe those key traits include drive, motivation, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, and business knowledge. They also suggest that traits such as creativity and flexibility play a role, but are not fundamental traits of leadership. Lock and Kirkpatrick claim that these traits help the leader created a vision and execute a plan. They do believe that being in the “right place at the right time” may be a factor of success, but leaders are ultimately successful due to a set of personality traits.

Moreover, Zaccaro is also a very well-known modern researcher of the trait theory. He believes that the process of becoming a leader, and the traits involved, are both influenced by the environment.  He believes that leaders are effective through a combination of a distinctive set of traits, cognitive abilities, and social capabilities. He believes leaders go through a process which includes emerging as a leader, demonstrating effectiveness, and then seeking advancement as a leader. Zaccoro’s theory is based on the idea that there are proximal and distal traits. The proximal traits apply directly to the leaders abilities, while the distal traits indirectly affect the success and ability of the leader.  Problem solving, motivation and knowledge are examples of proximal traits, and emotional intelligence (EI), self-confidence, and intellectual capacity are examples of distal traits.

The trait theory continues to be a highly used leadership theory in regards to management. It is easily digestible and it has been around for an extremely long time. Psychologists continue to advance the trait theory with new statistics and  modern technology.

Are You Selling a Brand or a Product?

This is a question I have been asking a lot lately. So many organizations continue to promote their products over their organization, but the fact of the matter is that when consumers go out into the market and look for a solution to their problem, they are not looking for the right product, they are looking for the right organization. Products don’t provide solutions, organizations provide products that provide solutions.

According to The Futures Company, We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today. So let’s say your organization sells 10 different products. If you brand each product differently, you are sending so many different messages to the market that you end up not sending one at all.

Think about Nike. They don’t put a different brand symbol on their sports equipment than they do on their shoes or clothing. That would completely slash the brand equity that Nike took so long to accumulate with their signature “swoosh.” Nike is a great example of a powerful brand that bridges a rang of products through one corporate identity, and in return, creates extremely loyal customers.

Let’s look at this idea of brands versus products in a different way. Do you ever have those songs on the radio that you know every word to, but you have no idea who sings it? You know all about the song, but nothing about the artist. That makes it extremely difficult to run out and buy their album. This is what happens when organizations focus solely on selling products. They lose their organizational identity. Think of it this way… How can a customer recommend your product (in this example an album) if they don’t even know who sells it? Fact is, they can’t.

On the other hand, when customers are loyal to your brand (not your product) you enhance the value of that individual customer. Your organization is able to cross-sell and up-sell based off of customer loyalty. Let’s go back to the Nike example. Someone who buys a pair of Nike shoes and falls in love with them is much more likely to buy Nike clothing their next trip to the sporting goods store. They associate with the brand; not the shoes, not the pants, not the socks, not the baseball bat.

The Coming Jobs War: People Are Big & the Nation is Poor

In an earlier post in my series on The Coming Jobs War, a book written by Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton, I touched on the book talking about America’s focus on innovation and neglect of entrepreneurship. That post mentioned the idea that every small contribution adds up to a major movement. One part of the book where this was extremely relevant revolved around America’s healthcare crisis. Every single unhealthy individual is contributing to the crisis, yet people still continue to blame the government for sky-high healthcare costs. The only thing Clifton blames the government for is putting a band-aide on the situation, and then turning around and giving these people a lollipop for being unhealthy.

Type in “obesity crisis in America” into Google and the most notable thing that pops up is Gallup data. “The obesity epidemic is showing no signs of retreat in the United States. As of this week, the nation’s obesity rate for 2014 stands at 27.7 percent, according to new Gallup data. That’s up from the 2013 rate of 27.1 percent, which was the highest annual rate ever measured by the polling organization.”

America is so busy spending money on preventable illnesses that it fails to see the root of the problem. According to the CDC, Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. These are some of the leading causes of preventable death and they all relate back to obesity. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. These statistics have only gotten worse. America’s healthcare costs are undeniably related to this epidemic, and an epidemic it is.

All that aside, Clifton brings up a great point to consider when thinking about the healthcare crisis. What would happen if we cut the obesity rate in half? What if America increased their physical well-being? The answer to those questions is pretty obvious. The American people would significantly lower healthcare costs. So what does it take for people to make the change? If you ask me (or Jim Clifton), it isn’t the government pumping millions into health programs. Going back to The Coming Jobs War, Clifton gives a great example of changing societal perceptions to fix a national problem. He brings up smoking. People didn’t just stop smoking. People used to smoke at work, on the train, while they were eating, and at the doctors office. Yes, the doctor’s office. People stopped smoking because society decided it wasn’t “classy” not because it was bad for you. Today, people often put a stereotype around individuals who smoke and none of that change came from the government. It came from simple societal perceptions.

And for some reason, the American society has decided to embrace obesity instead of fix it. The idea that there are hashtags floating around on Twitter like #BigandBeautiful is a problem. The idea that companies are coming out with “plus size” clothing lines left and right is a problem. The idea that commercials tell you to be happy you are “big” is a problem. This new societal perception is directly contributing to the healthcare crisis and nobody seems to notice because they are too busy complaining about rising costs. Someone needs to step up and let everyone know that big is not beautiful (or healthy), its expensive.

Can You “Learn” to Lead?

I recently sat down with my boss, Randy Sorensen, VP of Sales & Marketing at CTI Group, to discuss his leadership style. Randy has a solid track record of working for some of the largest technology and development companies in the world including IBM, AT&T, Avaya, Roche, & Cisco, yet somehow he ended up with an exceptionally small organization.

Throughout our discussion Randy could not stress enough the major differences between working in a large corporation versus a small organization (strangely in favor of the small organization). That being said, I was shocked when he contributed some of his success as a leader to training programs. Training programs aren’t something I would expect working for a small organization, but Randy recommends them.

My takeaway on this was that it’s not necessarily about a formalized program, its more about letting others enlighten you with advice and knowledge straight from their personal experiences. Having an open mind and being receptive to others thoughts and opinions allows anyone to grow as a leader whether it is in a major corporation like IBM or a small organization like CTI Group.

The Coming Jobs War: Innovation vs Entrepreneurship

I just finished the book The Coming Jobs War, by Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup. It provided some shocking insight into how the American economy is changing and some startling predictions for the future. When I finished the book and sat it down, I could only think one thing, how refreshing.

Clifton pleasantly surprised me with his take on government’s role in creating jobs. American’s are so quick to blame the government for economic failure, yet we are a nation founded on the ideals of capitalism. Clifton empowers individuals in cities across the country to take responsibility for job creation. Innovation and entrepreneurship create jobs, not wasted government dollars. That being said, Clifton brings up an extremely interesting point on the topic of innovation. He claims America is full of innovation and starving for entrepreneurs. This came as a surprise for me.

By definition, innovation means “a new method, idea, product, etc.” Seems pretty simple, but when we look at the definition of entrepreneurship, it’s a little more lengthy, “Entrepreneurship is the process of starting a business or other organization. The entrepreneur develops a business model, acquires the human and other required resources, and is fully responsible for its success or failure. Entrepreneurship operates within an entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Clifton brings up a great point. An idea doesn’t create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs.

Dean Buntrock and Wayne Huizenga were entrepreneurs, unless you consider trash collection in 1968 an innovation. They founded Waste Management Inc. in Chicago in 1968 through a merger of several garbage companies in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida. They developed a business model and acquired the resources to make it happen.

On the other hand, there are innovators. Innovators within the United States Defense Department laid the ground for a revolutionary technology we now call the Internet with the ARPANET project. But many people wonder if the world would have access to the Internet for commercial purposes, if someone didn’t step in and say, “Take this to market.” People criticize Al Gore for stating he “created” the Internet. He knows he didn’t invent the Internet, however, he might have been the entrepreneur of it.

The Coming Jobs War sparks great conversation around the idea of innovators versus entrepreneurs. The fact of the matter is, America needs both. The country needs cutting edge innovations paired with an entrepreneurial minded individual armed with a solid business plan. If America wants to win the coming jobs war, we need a lot more entrepreneurs to share these endless innovations.