Greg Paull, co-author of Global CMO: Best Practices in Marketing Effectiveness & Efficiency from Around the World, is a renowned marketing guru and co-founder of a global marketing consultancy firm called R3 Worldwide. His book looks at what Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) at some of the globe’s top companies (Coca-Cola, Adidas, GE, Colgate-Palmolive, and many more) are doing to connect their offerings to customers in the U.S. and around the globe. Paull asserts that these marketing best practices apply equally to middle market companies like yours.

We caught up with Greg Paull recently to discuss how middle market companies might improve their approach to marketing by applying practices described in “Global CMO.”

You mention in “Global CMO” that two-thirds of internet users are now in the developing world. How will this change marketing for U.S.-based middle market companies?

 Paull: It’s changing the mindsets of global CMOs and marketers everywhere, forcing them to be aware of cultural differences and differing customer expectations in these developing markets. Before, marketers might have been focusing on two or three key markets. Now they need to be connected with their teams and agency partners on the ground across the globe. David Roman, who’s the CMO of Lenovo, told us that he spends one week every month with his global leadership team and they always meet at different locations around the world. Smart companies like Lenovo are reaching out and trying to do business on a more global basis.

How can marketers from middle market firms maintain agility when the business landscape is changing so quickly?

 Paull: It’s about continuous learning, which may happen through training programs or reverse mentoring with younger, maybe more digital-savvy colleagues. There’s a quote I love from the CMO of Colgate: “It’s not really about the learning curve, it’s about the unlearning curve.” With the growth of social mobile and analytics in the last five years, the old methods of marketing just don’t apply, which means letting go of them. It’s about continuous education and course correction of marketing strategy based upon incoming data, looking at new, emerging trends and technologies and integrating them into whatever you do.

You say that an understanding of technology/digital tools just isn’t enough for marketers, they also need to understand human psychology. Why is blending these know-hows so important?

 Paull: Technology aside, great marketing still comes down to great content which generates personal feelings and emotional connection. If you look at the Procter & Gamble campaign about mothers, or some of the campaigns over the years that have really touched a nerve with customers, they’ve done it through great content and storytelling that addresses human emotion. There’s no shortcut for that.

How can marketers develop an emotional understanding of their customers? It’s critical to invest time with real consumers. Some brands do it better than others, not just treating consumers as a “target,” but actually treating them as equal human beings; and in some ways, you’re almost subservient to your consumers. You can’t catch a tiger in a zoo, you’ve got to go out to the jungle, as the saying goes, meet your customers where they are.

In “Global CMO,” you say that the CMO’s real purpose is “to fulfill the customer’s purpose.” How should marketers in middle market companies approach that ambitious task?

 Paull: All companies are created to meet customer needs. The CMO of Unilever, Keith Weed, has this great insight: “For a hundred years we were marketing at people, and today we’re marketings with people.” But because of social media and the consumer’s voice, in the future we should be marketing for people. Marketing should become a utility that actually helps the customer achieve more. Very few companies are doing this successfully, but where companies are serving as a real utility and having a positive role in people’s lives, they’re connecting strategy and customer purpose, and growing.

How can CMOs and marketers drive disruption internally rather than having it happen from the outside?

 Paull: It comes down to testing and learning, finding the opportunities. There’s so many bright, shiny objects out there. It’s a matter of finding the right opportunities to do a test and then take it from there internally. There’s a fantastic case study in the book from Coca Cola, who set up an incubator program to help drive new programs and new ideas for the company. The best way to drive disruption is to break down your internal silos, share and scale up best practices, best experiences across the company.

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder) always says “Run fast and break things.” That’s very much the mantra for the best marketers: keep testing and learning and keep trying small trials to see what might work.

What are the challenges around accessing and leveraging data for CMOs and marketers of middle market companies?

 Paull: It’s really about learning what type of customer data can and should be used at the right time and for the right purpose. I think the other challenge is to be careful not to rely too much on data. In the end, consumers are sometimes not even aware of how communication affects them, so being open to that human element makes a huge difference.

In the future, with the consumer voice, customer service, loyalty programs, etc., marketing will have a constant life cycle. All the data collected all the time is going to play a critical role in the marketing eco-system.

Why is it important for CMOs to have the right KPIs to drive success in their middle market organizations, and how can they know what the right KPIs might be?

 Paull: The availability of great data enables the CMOs and the marketing function to return to the C-suite, allowing them to prove the value of marketing. That’s ultimately what great data or great KPIs can do: help marketers show the value of what they’re doing, return them to a more prominent role as business leaders and not just as marketing leaders. The right KPIs depend upon the end-goal. Is it about making a sale? Is it about acquisition? Branding? The CMO needs to understand what results they want before they can select the “right” KPIs.

What else would you like to tell middle market company leaders about best practices in marketing as described in “Global CMO”?

 Paull: There’s really a war for talent in marketing and media right now. Facebook and Google are growing to a fifty thousand, hundred thousand headcount in a very short period, mostly attracting talent from marketers in their agencies. The question is really how to find these talented marketers, motivate them, and drive them to greater success within your own middle market company, to build that career path that most people are seeking.

Middle market companies have a license to take more risks and innovate in marketing. A large company is extremely risk averse, generally. It’s unlikely to break through the way a middle market company potentially can. We’re always noticing how the middle market is actually creating the trends and leading the way in marketing. They have enough scale and agility to innovate and then scale up their success.

Listen to "NCMM Interview with "Global CMO" author Greg Paull" on Spreaker.