Market Overview

8 Things Every CEO Must Know

8 Things Every CEO Must Know

Some CEOs are praised for the work they accomplish.

Others are thrown out for disappointing the Board.

One of the more notable CEO shakeups of 2013 involved Ron Johnson, the former Apple Store executive who left Cupertino to run J.C. Penney.

According to Time, there were five "big mistakes" that led to his removal at J.C. Penney.

  • He misread what shoppers want.
  • He didn't test ideas in advance.
  • He alienated core customers.
  • He misread the brand.
  • He didn't like or respect the company.

If Johnson had spoken to CEO consultant Jaynie L. Smith last year, he might have been able to avoid some of these mistakes.

Smith is the CEO of Smart Advantage, a marketing and management consultancy that focuses on identifying a company's competitive advantage. She is also the co-author of Creating Competitive Advantage and Relevant Selling.

Click through the slideshow to see her eight tips that every CEO must know.

Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.

  • Most Of What You're Selling Is A Given

    Most Of What You're Selling Is A Given

    Don't bother telling your customers that you sell good products. That is a given (or should be a given).

    "If you're telling people that they should buy from you because you have good quality [products], good customer service and people who are knowledgeable, consistent or responsive -- those are givens," Smith told Benzinga.

    Regardless, Smith said that many companies think that those are selling points.

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Measure What's Important

    Measure What's Important

    "A CEO needs to know that they need to measure the things that are most important to their customers," said Smith.

    "Make sure the metrics you have are not just internal dashboards for you, but make sure you are measuring the things that are most valued by the customer so that sales and marketing can use that."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Past Performance = Future Performance Indicator

    Past Performance = Future Performance Indicator

    Smith said that claims should be stated in the past tense.

    "And I always tell [my clients], 'In business, past performance is the best indicator of future performance, unlike a mutual fund.'"

    In other words, she does not recommend that a client says, "We will deliver within 24 hours."

    "That's a promise nobody believes," she said. "But do say, 'For the last three years, we've been tracking on-time delivery and we're averaging 98.6 percent.'"

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Claims Should Be Relevant

    Claims Should Be Relevant

    "Make sure your claims are relevant," Smith advised. "Don't drown out the really relevant message with a bunch of stuff that doesn't matter."

    For example, a tour operator who promotes his status as a family business or awards that he had won. No one cares about that.

    Likewise, Smith found that it was irrelevant for a Web designer to brag about his Fortune 100 clients.

    "It was not a buying criteria," said Smith.

    "Don't wave flags that nobody cares about. Make sure you're only leading with that which is relevant."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Get Right To The Message

    Get Right To The Message

    During her various speaking engagements, Smith likes to ask the audience if they have increased their attention spans over the last few years.

    This question always gets a laugh.

    "And I say, 'Then why do we want to drown our customers and prospects with a lot of blah-blah-blah?'" said Smith.

    "You're going to lose them if you don't get right to the thing that's most relevant to them."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Relevance Trumps Creativity

    Relevance Trumps Creativity

    Smith said that too many ad and marketing campaigns rely on creativity instead of relevance.

    "That's my big complaint," she said. "You see all this creativity and jazziness, but it's not relevant."

    "If you're Coca-Cola or Budweiser, you can afford that because you're going out there for brand recognition.

    "If you're a small- or medium-sized business, you don't have deep enough pockets to do that. You need to have a very relevant message to come across immediately."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Overused Terms

    Overused Terms

    Smith typically asks a CEO if his or her company is using the following terms to promote the firm: customer-centric, customer-focused or customer-oriented.

    Then she has the CEO perform a Google search for those terms, which retrieve millions of results.

    "Do you think that's a cliché?" Smith asked. "So why are you using them on your customer? It doesn't have any meaning anymore."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Know Your Customer

    Know Your Customer

    "Make sure you get your customer straight," said Smith.

    "Half of [CEOs] don't have the customer straight."

    Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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