Kim Blog ImageCMOs are in the hot seat today in ways never before. As the CEO’s expectations for the CMO grow, one of the most critical success factors for marketing leaders is the ability to grasp and manage these shifting expectations. Drawing from Spencer Stuart’s key insights into senior business leaders’ perspectives, I’ve outlined a few considerations for how marketing leaders can improve their overall effectiveness — and make a significant difference in their organizations.

The Chief Growth Officer

No surprises here: CEOs want and, most importantly, expect revenue growth from their CMOs. But what does that actually mean for the CMO? Driving sales, profit and growth is expected across organizations and, thus, is not limited to the marketing function. However, the CMO can play a specific role in growing revenue by guiding the organization through a disciplined process that focuses on the best opportunities, such as:

  1. Developing go-to-market strategies tied to distinct customer segmentation data.
  2. Generating the best ideas and develop actionable plans to bring them to fruition.
  3. Driving a culture that places a premium on learning — learning from mistakes, customers, other brands, and from data.

Define and Redefine the Role

The CMO is described by many as the “Chief Change Agent’” for her key role in advancing and advocating for new technology, serving as the voice of the customer and tackling emerging competitive threats. As organizations wrestle with the evolution of social media and the advent of new technologies and communication platforms, the CMO must learn how to structure the role to be effective given the current environment. Here are some ways CMOs can pursue and deliver growth for their organizations.

Focus on Innovation
Make innovation a key priority. This shift may require new team members, a different allocation of resources and an entirely new tolerance for risk. “It can’t be just the CMO who’s the innovator or driving innovation; it needs to come from an environment that allows people to feel that they can be innovative or can collaborate around an idea,” said Maureen McGuire, CMO of Bloomberg, who made the comment as a panelist at a past Spencer Stuart CMO Summit.

Serve as a Change Agent

In the ever-changing world of media and social networking, companies have to figure out how out to connect with consumers and allow them to be part of the brand rather than just being communicated to about the brand. Customer data, especially data generated from digital channels, will help companies develop relevant content and programs for an increasingly fragmented customer base.

As a result, CMOs will have to master analytics to better understand customer behaviors and develop insights to inform decisions made related to customer acquisition, customer relationship management, product and service development, pricing optimization, and marketing spending.

Get the Marketing Mandate Right

Demonstrate marketing’s ability to contribute to business strategy by providing solutions to the problems of the company at large, not just issues related to the function, while also avoiding the tendency to speak in the language of marketing.

“Oddly enough, my advice to marketers is don’t talk about marketing. Bring the CEO ideas that can make the business better or solve a problem,” said Andy Berndt, a vice president at Google and head of its Creative Lab. Berndt made his remarks as part of a panel at the CMO Summit.  “Sometimes you just have to drop all the marketing talk and just say, ‘Where does the business hurt?’ Then, we can do all the marketing stuff behind the scenes.”

Walk the Halls
In today’s heavily matrixed organizations, where email often replaces face- to-face communication, it’s absolutely imperative to engage with your colleagues, associates and, in particular, your peers across functions. A successful executive shared this insight: “I’ve scheduled 20-minute chats weekly with junior-level to cross-functional peers. Being proactive and taking the time to learn, listen and share has been one of the most effective ways in building credibility and success.”

The Bottom Line

Few senior roles are as open to interpretation and redefinition by others in the organization as the CMO’s. Results from a Spencer Stuart CMO Survey revealed that the most successful marketers will immerse themselves in the business, understand the needs and challenges of other functional and business leaders, and forge successful internal and external partnerships. They will also press for an organizational structure that positions them to be most effective. Ultimately, one of the most critical success factors for CMOs is the ability to not only respond to changing conditions and demands, but also to proactively shape marketing’s role and its contributions to the greater organization.

Kim McKesson, Advisor

Currently a member of search industry leader Spencer Stuart’s global consumer goods practice specializing in the retail, apparel and luxury goods sectors, Kim formerly served in multiple executive level marketing & merchandising positions at The Home Depot.

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