What Is The CMO's Role?

by , Dec 18, 2013, 11:27 AM
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There are lots of CMOs in the world, and some do more than others.  In the past, I’ve said you should never trust a CMO who won’t go out and sell, but it’s more than that.  To truly understand what makes a great CMO, you have to understand more about the role they play in your organization  -- a role that will be changing over the next few years.

The CMO is primarily responsible for marketing, but a great CMO is an agent of change.   They will shake things up and create space to try something new. The concept of “fail fast and fail often” is indicative of the best CMOs, because they are willing to take risks.   One of the best books I read this past year  is “The CMO Manifesto” by John Ellet, which details all the things a great CMO can do to drive change.  I highly recommend reading it when you have the chance.

The CMO can be the point person to the world of the customer, who are the best source of knowledge for what will drive the growth of your business in the years to come. Some marketers believe the “customer is always right,” while others believe  customers don’t know what they want and need to be told.  I personally find, from the many conversations I have had as of late with some of the best CMOs in the business (past and present), that you have to balance the two.  Truly effective marketing organizations have a plan, and a plan to listen.  Don’t be so rigid as to ignore your customers, but don’t think they are going to tell you exactly where you have to go.

The tenure of the CMO has increased (thankfully) recently, to average around five years, with some of the best staying on substantially longer.  This change is important because the best CMOs are able to dig in and drive success, since they’re involved in more than just what is traditionally referred to as “marketing.” The most effective CMOs are responsible for increasing and measuring customer advocacy or customer success, or even sometimes creating the role referred to as “customer excellence.   They engage with consumers on the path from prospect to loyal advocate: a science experiment, with CMOs being the lead scientist responsible for learning and applying what they can observe during this process.  Every interaction with a customer, through online to mobile and offline, becomes a signal that can tell you something if you know how to read it.

Which brings us to one of the more recent developments: the CMO as data scientist.  The CMO of the present and very-near future is one who is not afraid of data.  Pandora’s Box has been opened and data is everywhere. The most valuable CMOs going forward will be those who balance creativity with the mathematics of marketing.  It doesn’t mean every CMO has to be a statistician or economist.  It just means they can’t be afraid of the data, and must be willing to invest in those with analytical skills to make sense of all the data

The CMO of the future is part art director, part copywriter, part analyst and all marketer. He/she must be capable of managing all the experts within these core disciplines, and she must do it well.

As the role of data continues to increase, CMOs who embrace these new areas of focus will likely extend their average tenure. They will become more deeply aligned with customer success and customer advocacy. The CMO of the future may just be the most valuable executive in the company.

Don’t you agree?

2 comments on "What Is The CMO's Role? ".

  1. John Ellett from nFusion Group
    commented on: December 18, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.
    Cory, great perspective on the role of the CMO. And thanks for the comments about The CMO Manisfesto. The marketing leaders I interviewed for the book have realized the customer decision journey has changed and that they must transform how they deliver relevant and meaningful experiences at every touch point. Actionable data is essential to that process. Keep up the great work at Blue Kai in making it easier to use customer data for enabling those experiences. John Ellett www.CMOManifesto.com
  2. Chris Churchill from AMPP Consulting
    commented on: December 18, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.
    Great article and I like the element of driving change. The reason I believe they can drive change is because the CMO influences long-term product development because they have vision (insights and market size estimates) - but are not necessarily visionaries - more like prolific readers. Marketing came out of the necessity to support sales. Historically, the VP of Marketing role rarely included input into product development cycle and salespeople blame marketing for a lack of leads. Marketers now have boundless information about where the market will grow long-term and, thus, can support sales by influencing product development as to where the market will grow the fastest and where competition is the least. Speed and execution to fill a new niche become a unified company mission which is more in synch with product development life-cycles, that the sales departments usually does not understand. The result is, down-the-road sales dazzles clients with new product offering that wow customers and build brand loyalty by striking the between "the customer is always right" and "I am telling you this is what you need". Maybe its called customer service - I don't really know, but someone should coin a phase for it.

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