CMOs Should Be Responsible For Revenue, Too

The most effective, and valuable CMOs of the future will also be responsible for revenue, including direct sales and channel sales. I challenge any CMO in the industry to defy that prediction. 

In the past, marketing was a cost center, but more recently it has transformed to be a business driver. When the economy went south and costs needed to be cut, marketing was always the first thing to be reduced. These days we operate in a different world – a world of accountability. In a cluttered marketplace, where consumers are “in control,” marketing can be the difference in driving a consumer from consideration to purchase, and marketing channels are more accountable now than they were in the past. This is a powerful one-two punch to rival Mike Tyson in his hey-day. An increasingly competitive environment coupled with increased accountability means marketers are driving measurable revenue impact, even if they are not held 100% responsible for it. Yet.



As business continues to revolve around the consumer, and marketing is the group that typically owns the relationship and the communication with the consumer, the role of marketing in the business organization is increasingly more important. It used to be that the path to become a CEO went through either finance or operations, but these days it goes through sales or potentially marketing because the CEO is the ultimate person responsible for selling the vision to the masses. Marketing and sales have always been inextricably linked, but they are separate in many orgs, with the COO or even a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) being held to the metrics of sales. While marketing worked hand in hand to help drive top-of-funnel interest, it was a separate department and the two were forced to work together as best they could. As the accountability increases, I would argue the folks filling the pipeline will be more responsible, and probably most well equipped, to manage the process all the way to closure. In this model, while you still have a team that runs sales, they could, and even should, report into marketing. Marketing fills the funnel; marketing develops the messages and fills the channel with interested consumers. Why shouldn’t they be responsible for driving the numbers?

I’ve always said you should never trust a CMO who’s unwilling to go out and sell. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the marketer is the one driving the message the customer sees, and if they aren’t willing to take that message to market and live or die by the response, they have little to no business in that position. The other thing I have always believed is your sales team is the most important component of your marketing because, in most cases, these are the people on the front line talking to customers. In a direct sell, these are the folks responsible for pushing the message. In an indirect sell, like CPG, these are the folks responsible for the channel relationships that result in sales. They generate shelf space, and they develop marketing programs. These are the folks who execute the vision, and I would argue that sales and marketing need to fall under the same roof to ensure a nimble vision. A vision that is “agile” enough to respond in real-time to customer feedback, purchase behavior and sales results. That direct line of feedback creates an endless loop which results in optimized programs and higher revenue in a more efficient manner.

Of course, there are two groups who may argue with me on this point; operations and sales. I know very few heads of sales that would want to report to marketing. I can also think of many COOs who would be unhappy about losing some of their purview into marketing. Part of this reluctance will be due to the fact that not all of the current class of CMOs is trained to review and optimize to revenue. These are marketers trained as marketers, and maybe don’t have the skills to own sales. In any era of transformation, some people are unhappy with change. I would think that a tighter relationship among marketing, sales and operations would be something the CEO would embrace, and the CEO is ultimately responsible for the vision of their organization. In recent years the tenure of the CMO has started to increase and I think it’s because the most successful CMOs are taking on more accountability to the revenue numbers. Some of the smartest CMOs I know already own revenue reporting or responsibility as part of their organizations, and I see this as an inevitable trend which will go further. There should be no “Chief Experience Office” or “Chief Customer Officer”, and the oft-referenced “Chief Marketing Technology Officer” is a figment of the imagination. The Chief Marketing Officer is already all of these things, and their role in the organization has become clear; to ensure that accountable marketing strategy is woven into every aspect of the organization, resulting in the differentiation of the brand and a “leg up” on the competition that results in increased revenue and market share.

Now what possible argument can the organization have to say no to that?

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