I was looking at an invite to an Economist event at the Cannes Lions festival this week (not that I’m there). It was for a CMO panel and something struck me.
When I looked down at the three speakers – all eminent, all from well-known companies – only one had a CMO job title. The other two were chief brand officers. Nothing wrong with that, from my point of view. I’m sure they’re all worth listening to.
But perhaps this struck me because for years I’ve seen the same dance performed around IT job titles, with the same hand-wringing in some quarters about who is worthy and senior enough to be given attention.
I’m sure we all know that while semantics and words in general are important, what someone does is more important than what they say. It’s certainly more important than what they describe themselves as on a name badge or LinkedIn.
And note here the difference too between someone’s official job title – usually the decision of that person’s boss and an HR department – versus how people describe themselves in a chat over a cocktail or on that LinkedIn opening blurb.
So we’re left with a situation where people who are appropriate to listen to at an event or, more to the point, target as people to sell to, are ignored because of what they’re called. Or the reverse happens.
In IT, about 10 years ago everyone wanted to reach chief information officers, or CIOs.
At the time I was running a CIO club at a B2B tech publication and, while we knew some CIOs, a bunch of other job titles were still commonplace. We had:
IT director – still the big title of the 1980s and 1990s.
Head of IT – speaks for itself
IS director or Head of IS – where IS stands for information systems.
CTO – though we always championed this as the head of a company’s own tech, say if you’re a telco or tech company.
Then all kinds of complementary or new roles came about – director of change, chief digital officer, you name it.
And of course we heard flavours of CIO – group CIO, global CIO and so on.
The point of all this is that plenty of people with these titles were the right people to listen to. And they often still are (though ‘head of IS’ has gone out of fashion – for obvious reasons).
We had to assess them one by one. That’s not great news for someone doing mass marketing. But in an era of account-based marketing (ABM) and B2B marketing in general, profiling a target and being genuinely in tune with them is important.
A good starting point is being genuinely helpful. Are there nuances to different job titles? Sure. This is a way to tailor content to them. But be careful writing off whole layers of management or those who don’t fit a strict target title.
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