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The job of being CEO is no easy task, just ask any of the six men and women who have been employed in the top job at Yahoo since 2007.

So it might seem a bit harsh to suggest that alongside the massive pressure that comes with the day-to-day running of a company, CEOs should also be a figurehead for their company’s marketing efforts.

But at Distilled’s LinkLove conference SEOMoz CEO Rand Fishkin suggested that those in the top job have a big role in setting the overall tone of their business, including marketing.

He said it’s natural that companies take on the passions, interests and eccentricities of their founders. As a result, the CEO can have a huge impact on the direction and strategy of their company’s marketing.

First off, Fishkin outlined the CEO’s main responsibilities:

  • Set the mission, vision and strategy. This is central to the CEO’s role and something nobody else should be doing, otherwise the CEO is abdicating their job.
  • Need to live, breathe, and share core values of the company. Core values are the actions that are rewarded internally, they’re the reason people are hired and why they’re let go.
  • Hire and manage the executive team. The executive team determines how the rest of the company operates; they set the culture within their individual teams.
  • Ensure the business is properly capitalised.
  • Allocate the company’s resources.
  • Be the brand’s chief evangelist. If they aren’t, the company doesn’t have good marketing.

Why should the CEO do the marketing themselves?

It’s important to note that Rand’s definition of marketing involves being in the spotlight and being a public figurehead for the company.

To this end, he looked at why he thinks a speaking at a conference with an audience of 1,000 marketers has more impact than writing a blog post that achieves 20,000 page views.

1. Nobody knows the business as well as the CEO. The CEO is in a unique position in terms of their knowledge of the company, its products and its strategy.

2. Nobody else has the CEO’s reach of coverage. Press and public interest is always drawn to the person in charge. For example, even though Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been in the press a lot lately due to her book tour, people are still far more interested in CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

3. Nobody else has the CEO’s authority. They are the ultimate decision maker, and much of what makes CEOs great leaders also make them great marketers, e.g. strategy, vision, charisma.

The three kinds of great CEO marketers

Fishkin identified three kinds of CEOs that make great marketers, but for very different reasons.

Richard Branson

Ordinarily Brits tend to be quite reserved, but Branson uses his celebrity to get phenomenal marketing and brand exposure.

Another example of this kind of CEO is Ben Huh , who is very successful at using his celebrity to help Cheezburger earn massive amounts of press and brand awareness.

Danielle Morrill

Referly’s Morrill is a very involved CEO. She participates in online discussions and has a very popular blog, as well as a huge social media following.

Another example is Ray Grieselhuber from Ginzametrics. He participates and comments on things online, thereby earning press attention for being helpful and well informed.

Jeremy Stoppelman

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman maintains a relatively low profile, but is passionately involved in his company’s marketing success.

Fishkin said that seven days before Yelp’s IPO, he received an email from Stoppelman in the middle of the night asking for SEO tips, which shows how much he cares about the company.

10 tactical tips for the CEOs engaging in inbound marketing

Finally, Fishkin came up with 10 tips to help CEOs master the art of inbound marketing.

He said other types of marketing aren’t worth the CEO’s time and efforts, as they don’t scale as well or make use of the unique advantages that CEOs possess.

1. Understand how your funnel works. CEOs need to know how attribution works, where traffic is coming from, and what’s getting you sales.

2. Be proactive in your industry. Write blog posts, tweet, write a book, or get involved in industry events.

3. Use the press wisely. CEOs can be creative with internal policy to gain coverage, such as Full Contact’s ‘paid paid vacation’ benefit.

4. Empower your marketing team with developers. SEOMoz has an ‘inbound engineering” team that focuses exclusively on marketing-related development.

5. Get good at one or more forms of content. Be it webcasts, blogging, slide decks, or Q&As, learn to be really good at just one thing that can help move the needle.

6. Recognise marketing accomplishments the way you do product, engineering and financial milestones. Shout about marketing accomplishments publicly to make the team feel loved and show what matters to the business’s culture.

7. Optimise your online biography and update it frequently. A CEO’s online biography will likely get shared a lot, so pack it full of links.

8. CEOs amass favours, so don’t be afraid to ask for links and shares.

9. Make use of your contacts to amplify messages. You can do this manually through email, or by using Followerwonk to export and search for social followers who might be able to help.

10. Embrace authenticity. Fishkin said that in the past as people became rich they wanted to be associated with that wealth through big brands, but today the emerging wealthy class wants to be hipster. They want a watch that nobody recognises or shoes that nobody has ever heard of. 

This stems from a strong desire for authenticity. We care more about the story of the brand than what the brand actually sells.

David Moth

Published 18 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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