Advice from the World’s Top CMOs: Collaboration Drives Results

How do some of the world’s largest companies foster collaboration? Top marketing executives share their secrets.


Marketing today is all about breaking down the walls that once existed between work teams, the company or organization, and its customers. Collaboration is essential to developing innovative products that serve the customer where they are, not where the company wants them to be. How do you develop a more collaborative team culture? Top CMO’s understand that it all begins with open communication, social collaboration, constant customer feedback, and supporting customers at all stages of their lifecycle.

Siloed teams are a thing of the past

Once upon a time, marketing operated separately from sales, product and PR. Today. however, marketing is almost entirely interdisciplinary. Not only are different fractions of marketing departments communicating and collaborating like never before, they are also influencing products, sales and customer success. For marketing to succeed, it’s essential to have an open line of collaboration between teams to better understand customer needs. In lead generation campaigns, it’s crucial that leads coming at the top of the pipeline are ones that sales can nurture all the way to close.

When leading a marketing team, managers should champion collaboration between teams. By embodying the collaboration you wish to see, you will help everyone else in your organization do the same. Veteran CMO Elisa Steele of Jive Software shares her approach to running a successful marketing team:

“As a leader you have to believe in collaboration. Your leadership organization needs to live that. You’re not just guiding your organization to be collaborative, they simply are collaborative. Your head of PR is talking to your head of brand. Your head of brand is talking to your head of product about ways they can work better together.”


Engage with customers at all stages of their journey

Marketing is not just about selling a product. It’s about understanding the needs, concerns, and dreams of your customer at all stages of their lifecycle. To accomplish that, marketing not only needs to enable sales to do their job, but also to become storytellers of the customer journey.

As the CMO of GE, Beth Comstock sells big ticket items like jet engines to enterprise customers:

“You can’t just sell a customer a jet engine,” Comstock explains on a recent panel at ExactTarget’s Marketing Conference. “Instead, you have to sell a holistic message that will resonate with your customers’ needs, and their customers’ needs.”

Marketing is less about pushing a product or service and more about attracting customers with helpful content and campaigns, so that they can find the solution that’s right for them. Successful marketing nurtures at every stage of the customer lifecycle by sharing meaningful stories and solving challenges.

Collaboration bridges the gap between marketing and IT

Marketing is becoming increasingly technical, and it is no longer only the CIO’s job to understand and implement technical initiatives. Gartner predicts that CMO spending will outpace IT by 2017, and that 65% of marketing departments will have their own capital budgets.

The marketing technology landscape is a crowded space, increasing ten fold in just the last couple of years. Marketing teams benefit from collaborating with the CIO and IT department before sinking time and budgets into marketing software. CMO’s get a better understanding of the solutions available to them if they collaborate with IT on their buying decisions. Scott Brinker CIO of ion interactive, offers similar advice:

“Collaborate with the CIO to leverage the company’s existing capabilities to the fullest degree, to coordinate integration with other technology initiatives in the company, and to find that right sweet spot of division of responsibilities between marketing and IT (which will vary from one organization to the next).”


Social collaboration, not social media

Too many marketing teams treat social media like a megaphone for their product. Social collaboration isn’t about broadcasting what you can do for the customer, It’s a two-way street between the customer and the company. Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP describes how social collaboration allows customer feedback to become scalable and helps customers shape new products and marketing initiatives:

“One of the things I worry about when people say social media is that they focus on the word media, and immediately they think ‘this is an augment to my TV commercial, billboard or newspaper ads, it becomes an outbound thing. To me social business is about the business. How do you look at your business and amplify them using social technology.”

Social collaboration allows marketing teams to create a constant feedback loop with customers to ensure that the right products are getting built and that the right messaging is coming through.

Gabriel Stricker, CMO at Twitter says that social collaboration is the path to better, customer-centric products:

“There’s been a tremendous amount of innovation that has boiled up from the user base.” Because Twitter’s users — not its executives — invented and promoted the hashtag. “It’s been this really virtuous cycle of seeing what was existing in that community of the user base, figuring out how to surface what the best of it is, and then ultimately incorporate that into our innovations.”



Marketing teams can no longer afford to work in a vacuum. As these top CMOs have illustrated, collaboration and communication is key to driving results. They’ve led their teams to tremendous success by breaking down the silos that plague many companies, and by listening to the customers needs at all stages of their lifecycle. Top CMOs support their customers not just through a product, but through stellar content as well. They collaborate with their CIOs to spend the companies’ budgets and resources wisely.

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