Redefining the CMO role
The first step to addressing these asymmetries lies in reaching a consensus on what the CMO job description should look like. Most executives agree that the modern CMO role should be principally a strategic position. Marketing is no longer simply a support function for Sales, but must work with senior leaders in the business to ensure the value proposition is right for today’s marketplace – and for tomorrow’s.
This wider remit reflects the unique position of Marketing at the center of the business’s data-science initiatives. CMOs may remain acutely conscious of the four Ps that once defined their role – product, price, place, and promotion. However, these are no longer amorphous concepts but rather issues that can be measured and addressed directly, in real time, due to the volumes of data now available to executives. Using that data, businesses can chart their strategic direction precisely. Marketing is an essential part of this in terms of making sure the business’s path follows closely those of the markets it is targeting.
In organizations where Marketing is still regarded as simply the function to turn to when a set of posters needs printing or social-media messaging needs pushing out, this potential is being wasted.
There may be a small number of businesses that operate in a static marketplace or do not feel they rely on customer insight for growth, which decide they do not need a strategic CMO. However, businesses such as this will be in a shrinking minority, as offerings tailored to the customer become essential to survival.
By providing the data and insight to underpin experimentation, innovation, and a virtuous circle of continuous improvement, strategic CMOs can be the driving force behind a refreshed company culture that identifies and fearlessly explores new opportunities for growth.
Empowering to deliver
Once the CMO job description is fixed, the incumbents must be given the necessary power within the business to deliver on that mandate.
As a strategic leader within the business, the CMO should occupy a prominent seat at the board table – a privilege marketing leaders have rarely been afforded to date. One recent study of Fortune 1000 companies found fewer than 3% of them had appointed marketing leaders to their boards. It is little wonder, then, that many CMOs are still stuck monitoring net promoter scores, rather than watching the innovation pipeline or identifying new markets.
Better-aligned performance metrics will be important. CEOs should not be surprised if CMOs held accountable only through metrics such as the results of a marketing campaign or the outcome of a website design have little to contribute to strategic discussion. The strategic CMO, in contrast, will expect to be judged on relevant enterprise-wide goals such as revenue performance and top-line growth, and will formulate strategy ideas accordingly.
It is not, of course, all on the CEO. CMOs invited to join the board must bring plenty to the table – above all, an ability to look “up and out.” While marketing leaders may crave more strategic roles, it is easy to be sucked back into the tactical day-to-day role of micro-managing the Marketing function, rather than operating as a growth leader. CMOs must strive to justify their elevation in the business.
Equally, CMOs will require broader skillsets than in the past. Research published by the Harvard Business Review found that only 6% of CMOs held Marketing degrees; the rest had learned exclusively on the job, meaning their skills were rooted in their professional experience to date. Building on that experience, particularly in areas such as data, analytics, and digital transformation, will enable CMOs to deliver what their CEOs are now asking of them.