The Average Chief Marketing Officer is Replaced After Two Years: Why That’s Great News for Printers
It’s not always great news, but it certainly can be. The industry has been advised for many years to concentrate its selling efforts outside corporate purchasing departments and go directly to marketers and communicators. This can be a problem as executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart reports that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is now only 23.2 months. The rule of thumb, in my experience, has been that it takes six months for a new executive to become familiar with their environment, a year to accurately diagnose problems with all of their subtleties and implications, and eighteen months to show progress. Five months later it seems, they are gone.
There are many problems with this, of course, but we’ll limit the discussion to how it affects printers and the content development and production businesses. First, if you are a new vendor, it takes considerable time to start the selling process of introducing your company and breaking down pre-existing business relationships to induce them to try your offering. Sometimes you have to wait until current suppliers fail before you get your own opportunity to work with that client. (Reminds me of the old saw about the bad sales rep who said “I’ve never messed up one of your orders. All I want is a chance.”)
Second, the players are always changing. Because selling outside the purchasing department requires knowing decision-makers, influencers, gatekeepers, and others, a more complex network of relationships needs to be maintained. Understanding that network and nurturing those relationships takes time and effort. Many printers feel that they should keep selling to purchasing departments because they perceive that there is greater stability and certainty in those relationships, and the costs of selling using other strategies may have greater risk and higher, uncertain costs, with longer sales cycles. What they give up in lower selling prices, they feel, is balanced by lower and more predictable sales costs. (What some in the industry consider to be a lack of sophistication among printers in selling and marketing may actually be an economic decision based on a realistic acknowledgment of their inability to execute a grander strategy; but that is a topic for another time). Indeed, the marketplace rewarded such production-oriented management in the past, but things are not that way anymore. The marketplace does not reward such activity today. In fact, multi-tier selling is critical in this environment, because it offers a more balanced view of the client and provides for additional relationships that maintain communication when there is a change of command. This can benefit the incumbent as well as a new salesperson, when the changing of the guard opens the window for new opportunities.