The role of the CMO has been under attack in recent years.
Two out of three CEOs say they don’t believe that their chief marketing officers possess the business acumen or leadership skill their role requires, according to research by Accenture. Maybe that’s why some prominent companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Hyatt, and Uber, are eliminating the position altogether.
If companies don’t understand the value that CMOs can bring to the business, our work can feel like endlessly pushing a boulder up a hill. That puts CMOs into a defensive position—always fighting for the space to contribute to the company’s wellbeing.
It’s time for CMOs play offense instead.
Rethink the “ing” in marketing
CMOs are hampered by their company’s lack of understanding of the power they wield, research from Korn Ferry found. We’re often put into a no-man’s-land between Sales and Marketing, which muddies the waters of the CMO role and makes it more difficult to demonstrate its value.
I’ve been on both sides of the marketing and sales fence and I’ve found that merging the two functions under Sales doesn’t work. Demands between the two teams are different, and when marketing team members get caught up in reactionary month-to-month tactics, they lose the time they need to mull over the market’s long-term prospects to build long-term value.
Much of the challenges that CMOs face is tied to the term “marketing” itself. It’s a verb that encompasses creating blog posts, press releases, events, and speaking engagements—all to-dos and no strategy. Such expectations leave many CMOs stuck, unable to step back. But stepping back is necessary to understanding the market’s needs and aligning the company strategy to meet them. No wonder we’re wearing ourselves ragged!
Fortunately, forward-thinking CEOs are beginning to empower their CMOs to go beyond tactics—to focus on their markets, instead. In fact, 83% of global CEOs say they believe that Marketing can be a major growth driver.
But we CMOs can go a step further. I see a shift to becoming chief market officers, which is why I changed my title. I’ve been studying what great chief market officers do, and in the process I’ve learned a lot about myself, my team, and my company.
A lot of work goes into making that shift, and here’s what I’ve learned about the key areas chief market officers need to focus on.
Your strategic plan is a living document that details what your goals are and how you will reach those goals. Far-reaching, multiyear, strategic plans filled with objectives and key results (OKRs) are understandably popular, but a plan with a shorter timeline is a better place to start:
Instead of OKR, I use V2MOM (vision, values, methods, obstacles, and measures), and I’ve seen it used well at other companies. It’s helped me to develop clear and prioritized strategic plans as chief market officer.
Glean customer insights
A CMO’s main duty is to understand the market. To do that, we need customer insights: in-depth knowledge of what our customers really want from us.
Today’s B2B buyers, however, don’t openly share that information. Instead of raising their hands by filling out forms or downloading gated content, buyers do their research in what my team refers to as the Dark Funnel—anonymizing their data and forcing marketers to do guesswork.
To unpack the Dark Funnel and get real insights, I suggest that you…
Backing up your plans with data not only motivates change but also shines a light on much of the buying process that is hidden from view. You can see every stage of a customer’s journey, and plan accordingly.
Design your category
Chief market officers not only represent the market in their organizations but also establish their companies’ positioning in that space through category design. If you don’t do that, whatever you’re marketing may not be what the market needs—or, worse, you may find yourself in a crowded market without the differentiation needed to compete.
Much goes into category design; I recommend focusing on these key points to start:
Master company culture
A great company culture creates a community of employees, partners, and customers driven by a single purpose. It’s powerful. And, as company-culture champions, CMOs get to wield that power.
If you haven’t thought about company culture before, where should you begin? Here’s what’s worked well for me:
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The elements outlined above will enable us chief market officers to build an understanding of our markets, create a measurable plan to deliver success to our companies, and highlight the leadership qualities we bring to the table.