Prior Idiot CMO Phenomenon

Prior Idiot CMO Phenomenon

There’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed that happens when a new marketing team hire joins, or a new agency is hired, or a consultant is brought in. Universally, the person that was doing the job before you was a complete and utter idiot.

They had no idea what they were doing. They made baffling decisions that seemingly undermined the company and the marketing mission. They spent way too much money, didn’t achieve anything, and left things worse than when they showed up.

Only, they weren’t idiots. Or at least not all of them are.

See, I’ve been quite guilty of this myself in the past.

I’d rush in with my cavalier attitude, completely ignoring all context, declaring everything dumb, and I set to work building my vision, and only my specific vision, of what right looks like. I implement a perfect and flawless plan and everything becomes sunshine and rainbows. I save the day and am a hero. Everyone loves me. Albert Einstein gives me $100 while everyone claps.

In reality, what actually ends up happening, is I don’t understand the company dynamics all that well, I’m arrogant about my knowledge of the market, I get tunnel vision on my own way of doing things, I don’t take into account all the stake holders, I fail to realize that just because something worked somewhere else doesn’t mean it’s a fit here, and I get frustrated and sloppy.

The result? I make a series of seemingly baffling decisions that undermine the company, the marketing mission, and leave things worse than when I was originally brought in.

Sound familiar?

Look, we all do it. Most of us, I believe, pride ourselves on our abilities and genuinely want to deliver a win to the people we’re working with. It comes from a good place, but is tinged with just enough arrogance and ignorance to make things a disaster.

Here’s what you should do instead.

Go in and say nothing. Ask a ton of questions to all the stakeholders. Understand the company dynamic. Spend more time than you think you need on customer empathy. Understand not just the stated mission, but the real mission of the company. Learn what has been done and why it’s been done that way.

Then, and only then, start slowly changing things towards your new vision, the vision that’s inclusive and actually tailor made for the company and their customers. Introduce things one by one. Listen to what people think. Bridge the gap between your knowledge and best practices with what the present reality is for the company. Use data to make decisions and test in a thoughtful and deliberate way.

I promise you things will go much better, and not just for the marketing outcomes, but for the relationships as well. Don’t be the next prior idiot CMO.