CMOs: How To Become A Chief Silo Buster

This tweet from @TravisCleays hit home:


After receiving it I retweeted with the comment:


Travis is absolutely right when it comes to the CMO role. The changing landscape of brand intimacy in marketing doesn’t allow any team to work on an island unto themselves.

For me, the role of Chief Silo Buster is shared by 238 colleagues @ConsumersCU. A recent example is our Professional Development Day. Every year we close our offices and open our minds. The day brings us all together to break silos, create synergy and learn new ways to provide the ultimate in customer service to our members.

Breaking silos is not easy. How often have you found yourself becoming the expert in ‘it’s easier just to do it myself.’ Yes, sometimes it is. For ultimate success, it is much more effective to build and work with teams and break down silos while you’re at it.

When we gather together @ConsumersCU for professional development, we learn about each other while learning about member needs and how to meet those needs. Together we are like dynamite. We explode with new ideas. It’s why, when I speak on ‘Brand Intimacy in the Digital World,’ I use the analogy of TNT. Teamwork. Next Steps. Training. Now.

Our role in marketing is to implement ideas as products or services to our members and communities. Implementation cannot be accomplished in a silo environment. How does this play out in real life? Here’s how we create TNT:


The first step is knowing the direction we need to take. Prioritizing products and services is required to move the needle toward strategic goals. Including others in various departments is building the Team that will do the Work. That’s TeamWork. Note it’s not department by department work. It’s departments joining together as a team that works.

The second step is using the Teamwork structure to take the Next Steps. At this stage, we need to ask difficult questions. This forces us to think differently. We start by bringing the member experience to the center of our planning and conversation. My favorite question to ask is “If THIS Then WHAT?” We build scenarios together that flush out barriers to the ideas we are working on. ‘Next steps’ can be the reason a plan or idea never comes to fruition.

Asking difficult questions during the process of turning an idea into reality can hurt. It’s hard to let go of something you have invested time in. Collaboration makes success AND failure that much more fun (if an idea never comes to fruition it’s much more palatable to share in any disappointment). Listening is the key at this stage. Keeping ears wide open and inviting others to give input keeps silos from reappearing on the horizon.

Once an idea, product or service gets a green light, it’s time to create the plan of action for success. This is when our most important step of implementation takes place: Training.

We train internally before we launch externally. For large projects, we have created ‘How To Guides, videos, infographics, and summaries for BOTH internal employees and our external communities (our members). Having duo-purpose training and education guides is an AH-HA moment in action.

An employee needs to see and understand first hand what our members will see or use before our members see or use it.  It’s critical to bring brand consistency into our internal team communication. New products and services are tested by employees, before there is any release to the public. This takes an amazing amount of coordination and collaboration between departments. When we collaborate and train everyone wins. Confusion is eliminated. Teamwork is strengthened. Silos disappear.

When it’s time to communicate the new idea or service, marketing wants to do it NOW. Yet, NOW is the perfect time to step back and ask if everyone is informed and feels a part of it. Our motto is “if the team doesn’t know the campaign doesn’t go.” We communicate first to our internal teams with set launch dates and summaries – this is tough to do in a fast-paced digital world.

It is easy to slip up at this step of communication. As marketers, we want to immediately get information and products to the market. That’s the point, right? It’s when we rush to market that we can easily miss out on a more intimate customer relationship. We must avoid the ‘deer in the headlights’ scenario – it goes something like this; Marketing sends out amazing information about a new product. A customer sees the information and walks into the nearest retail office and says I’d like more information. If your retail staff doesn’t know about the product launch the ‘deer in headlight’ look may be given. When that happens, the trust in the brand is tarnished. Sharing and transparency with colleagues along the way cements brand integrity and builds multi-level ownership in your organization.

Marketing has a responsibility to blow up the silos in our work. There is no island a marketing professional can stand alone on or run to. We must build the teams and communication lines to succeed in our roles, and to provide the best service to our customers. Reach up, down, sideways, circle, repeat, repeat, and repeat communication and strategies.

Silos only build frustration and stress. Are you ready for a title change? The Chief Silo Buster is here to stay.