The Power of Purpose and the Evolving Role of Today’s CMO
The accelerating pace of customer-focused transformation is helping CMOs lead change across the organization. CMO’s now play a more active role in shaping the company’s public profile, collaborate with other C-level counterparts to manage customer and product complexities, and build new capabilities within (and even outside of) the marketing department. Sydney Sloan, CMO at Alfresco talks about the imperatives that will help CMOs make lasting business impact
Few senior-executive positions have been subject to as much change over the last few years as that of the chief marketing officer (CMO). Once the leader responsible for creativity and brand, being a CMO today has evolved to include vast and complex responsibilities reaching far beyond traditional marketing — now spanning company strategy, technology, analytics, growth and, above all, making measurable impact. In fact, a recent Forrester global survey found that “evolved CMOs” are increasingly tasked to deliver against P&L metrics — a responsibility which requires collaborating closely across the C-suite and assuming more responsibility for customer experience.
Recently Altimeter posted a study of the “six stages of digital transformation,” which found that a shared goal to enhance customer experience is a primary catalyst for CMOs and CIOs to join forces and drive organizational transformations and a set of new shared goals.
The accelerating pace of customer-focused transformation is driving CMOs to lead change across the organization. Additionally, as digital transformation becomes the new normal, these factors have led to both a redefinition of the way the marketing function performs its critical tasks and also the CMO’s assumption of a larger role as the “voice of the customer” across the company as it responds to significant changes in the marketplace.
Winds of Change
This idea of transformation fueled by changes in customer expectations really started around five years ago, and with that the explosion of marketing technologies to support this transition has been empowering the CMO to lead the way. Prior to 2010 we marketers were working in the trenches of trade shows, trade publications and marketing automation was just hitting the mainstream. Now we are able to segment, target, predict and personalize and digitize marketing to companies or teams — and measure each of those interactions. It’s moved beyond strong messages and creativity into a well-orchestrated science of online and in-person interactions — all starting with the customer at the center.
The new age CMO has morphed from being just an operational leader to more of a business intelligence leader. The need for deeper collaboration with other C-level peers to manage customer and product complexities, and build new capabilities within (and even outside of) the traditional marketing department, will only accelerate in the next five years.
To succeed in this new environment, you need to start with these two points in mind. First, clarify the broadened responsibilities of marketing in general and the role of CMO in particular. The following three imperatives will ensure the evolved CMO’s ability to make organizational impact:
- Set a go-to-market strategy and trajectory: For instance, we moved from a pure open source developer outreach model to focusing on targeting line of business buyers in key verticals. Who are your key buyers and how do you focus the company’s resources to understand intimately the business challenges and pains of these buyers that you can solve better than anyone else.
Realize your go-to-market strategy brings together all of the key elements that drive your business: sales, marketing, distribution, pricing, brand development, competitive analysis, and consumer insights. It provides a strategic action plan that clarifies how to reach your target customers and better compete in your marketplace.
- Co-own business responsibility with other C-level execs: Marketing is no longer just about filling the sales funnel. Co-ownership of the customer experience with sales and customer success are new priorities; and being connected with your peers will ensure the organization is also aligned. For organizations to remain relevant and thrive, the CMO needs to call into question all aspects of the marketing mix — across products, price, distribution channels and promotions. Driving this convergence is the sense of urgency among businesses to break down the historical barriers between marketing and IT, two disciplines that are sometimes said to speak different languages. Success in a digital world, where a customer has multiple touch points, relies on how the other C-suite executives and the CMO develop a collaborative, focused relationship.
- Foster a universal brand experience: As the volume of incoming employee and customer data explodes, marketing has a key role in spearheading data governance. Creating and scaling a common (digital) experience is crucial for employee engagement, customer loyalty and meaningful long-term relationships with your valued customers. Also, organizations that figure out how to target customers while combining off-line and online experiences in a meaningful way will be the winners in the future. Mobile for instance lets companies understand a lot about online and off-line activities. Furthermore, analytics plays a prominent role as it’s the only way to truly understand what customers are looking for, what they need, and how long they are spending on your website. It’s crucial to understanding customer acquisition on every level. Incorporating mobile, social and digital channels into your marketing mix is key in creating the kinds of universal consumer experiences that translate to genuine and long-term relationships.
To conclude, the digital explosion has been a positive forcing function for CMOs and other C-Level execs to work more closely together. Also, barriers to collaboration are quickly falling as the mix of IT spending shifts from the back office and operational management to the front office and customer engagement. That’s why CMOs will need to work to successfully realign resources, and integrate strategy, technology, execution, data governance and analytics into their role. Failure to evolve is simply not an option.