The Ties That Bind: The CEO & CMO Relationship

There are tons of articles written about the transformation of marketing due to data-driven platforms, customer-driven solutions and more.  Many of these columns speak to challenges facing marketers such as a cluttered marketplace of solutions and infrastructure, but they all overlook one very important issue: without executive-level buy-in, none of these programs can succeed.

In a roundtable last week, I heard a group of very savvy marketers express frustration about the process for implementing DMPs and other enterprise marketing technology solutions.  Through all of the discussions, there was a single common thread: a company’s CEO -- not just the CMO and the CIO -- needed to be included in the strategic development of marketing stacks.           

In most cases, the IT team, led by the CIO, is being forced into an internal services role, responding to the needs of the other departments, and marketing is simply becoming another one of those squeaky wheels.  As marketing tries to venture down the technology path, there is a tactically important relationship between the CMO and the CIO. But the most strategic relationship is still with the CEO  -- and that one (for some reason) is overlooked.



The investment in marketing technology is one that can transform the entire organization.  As the role of marketing expands, every area of the business becomes involved in the process of “marketing.” Every interaction with customers, including call center and customer service, become a chance to improve the customer-to-brand relationship, and that is an aspect of marketing.  CEOs have their own set of challenges ranging from operations to profitability, but marketing is fast becoming a more important element on their list.  Marketing  and brand reputation are both vitally important to long-term business growth.

The successful marketers in this roundtable all agreed it’s important to get CEOs on board and treat them as valuable influencers while developing an enterprise marketing stack. In some cases, CMOs would position themselves as partners with the CEOs, including them in all the initial vision development and demonstrating the real business value of the decisions being considered. With that additional layer of executive sponsorship, the team is empowered to make the right choices with a long-term goal in mind, rather than the traditionally short-focused view of marketing.  Too often marketing is seen as a cost center, but by involving the CEO early in the process, you can show the accountability of your future marketing efforts and how they impact measurable business metrics such as revenue, household share, and more. 

On the opposite side of things, when the marketing team operates in a vacuum and only reports to the CEO, they are viewed as expendable.  In my days as an account person, servicing many Fortune 500 brands, I lived by the rule that if you gave your clients too much time between sessions, they would tend to wonder what you were up to.  Client “wondering” is a horrible situation when you are in the services business, because the natural inclination is to assume that you aren’t doing anything. 

If you have a constant interaction with your customers, they feel a part of the process. The same dynamic operates in the CEO to CMO relationship!  If CEOs are involved at all stages of development and they clearly understand marketing’s positive impact on the business as a whole, they will support the path toward success.

So the lesson I learned, and the one we shared at the roundtable: In order to truly transform the marketing team in your organization, you have to demonstrate true business value (not “increased awareness and positive brand perception metrics”), and you have to involve the CEO early, as that is a very strategic relationship.

Don’t you agree?

1 comment about "The Ties That Bind: The CEO & CMO Relationship".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Jeff Revoy from Viralheat, August 28, 2014 at 7:03 p.m.

    One of my favorite sayings is “companies should change tactics as needed, however, strategy should stay constant." As a former CMO and current CEO, I agree that there are significant advantages for the CEO to be involved in early stages of the CMO's strategic plan. This does not mean that I believe the CEO should drive the plan or make marketing decisions (that's the point of hiring a knowledgable CMO), but it is important for the CMO to have a full visibility to the CEO’s overall vision, thoughts, and direction of the company before the marketing team starts going down a path. The CMO may already have an idea, but it's important to have clarity before moving forward. As a side benefit, this early involvement will also give the marketing team an unsuspecting ally - an informed and bought in CEO can really help drive the importance of marketing's efforts across the organization.

Next story loading loading..