As the new year approaches, CMOs are working with their teams and vendors to set their 2023 marketing strategy. But what does “strategy” actually mean to them?
As president of the only PR agency in the U.S. dedicated to B2B SaaS, representing companies from growth-stage to publicly traded, “strategy” is a word I hear often.
To you, strategy might be developing specific tactics to achieve definitive outcomes. To me, strategy could mean combining art and science to reach a broader goal. To your CEO, strategy might mean something completely different than either of us.
The ambiguity about the word “strategy” is that it can be defined as all, any or none of the above.
I recently spoke to top SaaS CMOs about what strategy means to them. Here’s what I heard:
- Playing chess, not checkers — thinking about the long game.
- Creating defined objectives and key results.
- Making data-driven decisions.
- Using competitors and the market to inform actions.
- Determining the “how” and “where,” not the “what.”
So, what does this all mean for you?
Figure out what “strategy” means to your CMO.
“Strategy” touches every single line on a CMO’s priority list — from defining brand purpose to putting measurement practices in place, which are two of the areas Forrester recently cited as CMO trends to drive B2B marketing growth.
It can be an interesting conversation when your CMO walks in and asks, “What’s the strategy for our _____ efforts? (insert “PR,” “content,” “advertising,” etc.)?” if you haven’t quite yet figured out what they mean by the word. Sure, you could guess what they mean because you probably know them pretty well — but if we’re honest, we’ve all been there at least once, and we know it typically ends up in piles of rework. While the examples I shared above give us a good idea of how your CMO might define strategy, they aren’t your CMO’s exact definition so you have to figure it out for yourself.
If you don’t already know the overall marketing strategy which maps to the larger business strategy, start there! You need to understand your organization’s broader business goals to align your departmental strategy. Then, ask questions to get to the heart of their expectations, like, “What aren’t you seeing in our current plan that you need to see?” and “What do you see as the ideal outcome of executing a ___ (again…insert “PR,” “content,” “advertising,” etc.) strategy?”
Reframe your work to fit their strategic lens.
Sometimes, “strategy” is just reframing what you’re already doing to fit the lens your CMO is looking through by asking the right questions. Often, a robust discussion about competitors, data, the market or specific campaigns can leave the CMO feeling you are aligned on strategy — even if it doesn’t change anything specific about the tactics you’re executing.
Once you get to the bottom of what “strategy” means to your CMO, you can reposition your current efforts to align with how they define the term.
For example, as a PR firm, while we execute similar tactics across our client base, we always develop a unique strategy that changes based on a client’s growth stage and business objectives. For a Series B company focused on customer acquisition and expansion, our announcement strategy (there’s that word again) will look different from an announcement strategy for a Series D company focused on business optimization for an exit. The same goes for a thought leadership strategy for a CEO focused on employee retention versus a thought leadership strategy for a CEO looking to exit in the next 12-18 months.
The bottom line
Strategy means something different to everyone, and that’s OK. As a marketing team member or vendor, your job is to uncover how the CMO defines the term and adjust your communication and tactics accordingly.
About Lindsey Groepper
As President of BLASTmedia, Lindsey is responsible for overseeing the strategic direction and operations of the B2B SaaS PR agency, as well as driving client acquisition. Over the past 15 years with BLASTmedia, Lindsey has managed PR campaigns, led account teams and brought key clients on board for the agency, ranging from well-funded SaaS start-ups to publicly-traded powerhouses.
Lindsey is both a featured speaker and regular media contributor to outlets like Forbes, Inc. and MarketingProfs. In addition to her role at BLASTmedia, Lindsey was Principal at a recently-acquired digital advertising agency and BLASTmedia Ventures, an investment company providing capital and marketing support to technology start-ups.
Prior to joining BLASTmedia, Lindsey worked at Fleishman-Hillard Chicago in the consumer marketing practice group. At F-H, she was responsible for executing national PR campaigns for global brands like Nike, Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Abbott Labs.
Lindsey graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, major of Public Relations.