The evolving role of the CMO

There have been many articles highlighting the trends that are impacting the future role of the CMO. Many of these talk about the impact of big data, the importance of analytics, the need for attribution/performance measurement and the increasing need for technology enablement.

Here is a great list from Ryan Somers at SAP where he identifies the most widely recognized and evident qualities required by a modern day CMO. However I think there are some less obvious but important areas that will be influencing CMOs in the near future and these are as follows:

1. Marketing to be assessed on share performance 
There is increasing hype that marketing will be held responsible for revenue performance. Clearly marketing will always have a responsibility to contribute to revenue achievement but other functions such as sales will also be major influencers to successful performance. The important aspect is that marketing need to have clear responsibility for share of market (rather than revenue per se). This requires marketing to take responsibility for strategic focus by applying models such as RWW (Is it Real? Is it Worthwhile? Is it Winnable?) and for aligning the organization to those areas where the company can compete successfully and win well.

2. Marketing to build brands based on behavior not just messaging
Successful brands of the future will be dependent on a strong, well-defined culture. A culture that ensures a brand’s core values and overriding proposition are brought to life by every employee every time a consumer interacts with an organisation. So very simply, marketing needs to take responsibility not only for how employees describe the company and its offerings but more importantly how they behave. This includes work environments, incentive plans, performance review programmes etc.

3. Marketing to work closer with HR
Marketing is becoming more and more a people function. It is becoming the glue that helps align every employee to act and behave in a way that supports the strategic direction, core values and culture of the company. Internal communications are now as important as external communications and it is imperative that marketing takes responsibility for building brand understanding, commitment and passion amongst all employees. This includes induction programmes, training, internal events etc.

4. Research to be centered on customer journey management 
Brands need to build long-term relationships with customers and to do this companies need to clearly understand in finite detail exactly how a customer engages with a brand / company from first touch all the way through to point of advocacy. This encapsulates and requires a very integrated approach with both sales and customer service. Understanding this journey is a must have and marketing need to lead this initiative.

5. Focus will be on user experience
The expectation of consumers has risen dramatically. There is also a very saturated media environment. It is estimated that the average American is exposed to approx. 3000 marketing messages every day. It is clear that for a brand to break through, be noticed and to influence it has to create a moment, a user experience that grabs the attention of the customer. Marketing needs to take an active role in ensuring that the experience at every touch point whether product, packaging, marketing communication, point of sale or customer service is consistent and inline with brand positioning and customer expectation.

I cannot end this piece without mentioning technology which as we all know is taking a more active role in all of our lives, both professionally as well as personally. This is not just about marketing; it is about every department or function within a company whether it be electronic-invoicing, recruitment, vendor management, logistics etc. Marketing needs to embrace technology as much as any other department. It is more than a trend; it is now a way of life and clearly every marketer needs to be comfortable, knowledgeable and willing to invest in technology to improve business performance.

 So how do you see the role of the CMO evolving?

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Choosing the White Tuxedo

Have you ever been to a black tie event wearing a white tuxedo or an outfit that was different from everyone else? You end up with that uncomfortable feeling. You made the decision to wear the outfit as you wanted to express yourself, mix it up, change the status quo. On the other hand you have become ever more visible. This is very much the life of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It reminds me of Steve Jobs and the TV campaign he inspired by Think Different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Changing how people think is one of the hardest things to do, to enable people to see the world from a different viewpoint but that is in essence the new charter for any executive, especially in marketing.

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I am constantly surprised by job advertisements that are seeking a CMO who is a digital disrupter. Digital disruption is fundamentally changing the commercial model of the company. There is a clear difference between delivering fundamental changes and making brands more relevant. Making fundamental changes means we have to go back to the basics in creating human relationships and realizing this part is not just about a brand promise but rather it is about building a business. So many times, I see that management (rather than leadership) never really gets to know their people, truly get to know their team. It’s this fundamental that helps you identify what each individual is passionate about and what they are really good at and then aligning this to the needs of both the business and the customer.

We’re living in the dawn of technology and a social marketing revolution that has been forcing organizations to be ever more transparent, focused and relevant. The only way we can keep up is by putting the customer at the top of our organisation chart. When the customer is at the heart of what we are doing we can begin to see the challenges we need to meet and what outcomes we are seeking. This means that to be successful executives need to provide clear guidance on where the organisation is going but more importantly support and empower their teams, especially those that are on the front-line and engaging with customers every day.

Creating fundamental change doesn’t start with planning your team structure. Does your organization structure have dotted lines, direct lines and every other type of line? When you have dotted lines and dashed lines in a certain sequence in Morse Code, it means SOS (Save our Souls). The big challenge is that you don’t need dotted lines if you align the organization around the same customer goals. Get your planning right and the organizational structure will take care of itself.

Is your marketing plan defined by a budget in a spreadsheet?
If the first question being asked is what investment budget do you need next year, you have lost already. A plan should start with desired outcomes and then identify what resources are required to deliver on them. This then becomes a prioritization exercise based on customer needs and not a financial numbers game.

Do you take every network meeting or call?
I have an open door to everyone. You never know where the next great idea will come from. In addition, the world is changing so fast that to keep pace you have to remain connected. And always remember that someone who is willing to start a company and put everything on the line sincerely believes they have seen something that no one else has. Don’t you want to know what that is?

Does everyone complain that you have too many initiatives at the same time?
Changing people’s perceptions and priorities has to happen if you want the business to change. This means executives need to be the catalysts for change by constantly changing the status quo with initiatives that build motivation, passion and innovation. Try and test new things; some may not work perfectly but if they have contributed to how people think, what they know and what skills they have acquired, then there is still enormous benefit to be accrued.

KEY TAKEAWAY: When deciding which tuxedo or outfit to wear to the party, ask yourself whether you are prepared to stand out and be different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

CMO leadership: how to succeed in the modern era

I am deeply honored and delighted to be nominated by the CMO Club for its annual CMO President’s Circle Award.  This award recognizes CMOs who have demonstrated success in leading teams, leadership in marketing innovation, and leading beyond just the marketing department.

Usually I am embarrassed by recognition such as this but it sparked me into thinking about what are the key leadership characteristics that would help make a CMO successful in today’s world.

When I think about leadership I always refer back to Jim Collins and his excellent book “Good to Great”.

In this book he talks about Level 5 leadership. Jim defines a Level 5 leader as “Building enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”. In effect it is the ability to create and establish absolute clarity of purpose whilst ensuring that success is only seen through the action of others. To achieve this it means your primary focus can only be on two areas; the people you work with and the ability to build market understanding.

So here are some proposals as to how you can be an effective leader in these two areas. It is just a selection but hopefully it will be useful:

People and teamwork

  • Start with culture and establish a function that is built on respect, transparency, collaboration, shared success and fun.
  • Great culture will attract great people. Jim Collins once said; “if I were running a company today, I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could”.
  • Get to know the skills and competencies of your team members and focus their efforts on areas where they excel.
  • Always recognize, support and motivate your team members by focusing on the positives, whether it is success or opportunities to improve. This will ensure your team contributes more so imagine everyone gives a further 10%, you have just increased your FTEs by 5 people for a team of 50.
  • Allow people to be personally accountable and give everyone the chance to show what they can deliver.
  • Set goals on outcomes and not activities, this way you allow freedom to experiment and innovate.

Data, knowledge, wisdom and foresight

  • Always start with data.
  • Try and ensure that every decision made has considered all available insights.
  • Establish a marketing sciences team and empower them to always provide recommendations with any analysis.
  • Create a structured, uniformed segmented view of the market so everyone is looking at the market in the same way.
  • Set targets based on market / customer segments so you can better gauge progress at a micro level.
  • Make sure objectives are based on business outcomes and not just on specific activities as these end up being proxies.
  • Apply the concept of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) so you report performance across all stages of the customer lifecycle in a joined up fashion. There is no benefit in doing 4 out of 5 things well if that one element that you don’t do well breaks the chain.

To best summarize this it brings me to the magic of Arthur C. Clarke who once said; “The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.”

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So, in signing off, if you get the right people onboard, establish a culture in which they can express themselves and then empower them with the best possible insights, you will have gone a long way to becoming a successful marketing leader.