It’s time to face the facts: Major shifts in technology, consumer behavior, and media have changed the marketing department and its chief marketing officer forever. More than ever before, the CMO is expected to move beyond traditional responsibilities and optimize marketing’s contribution to overall business revenue and goals. The path forward is clear: Today’s marketer must become a modern businessperson first.
Marketers are now responsible for more than just building the brand. In addition to having traditional marketing, public relations, and brand skills, the new business-focused CMO needs to be part thought leader, part strategist, part industry analyst, part emerging technology junkie, part finance executive, and part team and culture builder. The CMO must be able to look at the landscape and identify opportunities for growth. Under this expanded focus, the CMO becomes much more than just a marketing leader; he or she will inevitably take on an increasingly crucial and strategic role in moving the business forward.
This increased influence in the C-suite is not without its own set of challenges. Chief marketers often find themselves in a position where they need to find new ways to remain valuable. Additionally, more visibility commonly means more scrutiny from the CEO and board. How do CMOs succeed in this environment? They need to focus on six key skills.
1. Fostering agility: Agility is not an option; it is a necessity. Marketers can no longer push their own agendas but rather must become part of the nonstop conversations taking place in and around the brand. This means preparing for and responding to market, societal, political, and technology issues in real time. To achieve true agility, CMOs must fundamentally change the way marketing departments have traditionally worked, implementing processes and structures that allow for fast yet thoughtful shifts in strategy whenever and wherever needed.
2. Employing emerging technology: Not only do CMOs have to understand and utilize new marketing technologies such as automation, they also have to be part of the team who analyzes the implication of new technologies on the company’s business. Technological savviness goes beyond an understanding of digital channels and social media. The best CMOs can leverage data to identify patterns and draw actionable insights that address changes in customer behavior. Additionally, they can use data to connect business success with marketing activities.
3. Cultivating customer obsession: Sales and service enablement are now “must-haves” instead of “nice-to-haves” as marketing involves itself in the entire virtuous cycle. Equipped with a deep understanding of the customer’s view of the company and its products, the CMO must be the center of the customer experience, not only predicting the customer’s behavior but also continually improving how the business connects with the customer.
4. Advancing the brand voice: Style guides and similar tools are still required, but the real value is in connecting it to the company’s mission, values, corporate social responsibility efforts, and employee advocacy. Before, employee concerns were not considered part of marketing’s purview. However, in today’s business landscape, every employee and brand interaction has the ability to impact customer experience and shape perceptions of the product or service and, ultimately, the business itself. It’s critical that CMOs take the necessary steps to ensure a consistent brand voice inside and outside the organization.
5. Initiating strong storytelling: Some CMOs are hyper-focused on quantitative results. While these are critical (never underestimate marketing qualified leads!), the CMO must craft the qualitative business story. Creating meaningful and selective content that is differentiated and captures consumers’ attention in a few meaningful channels is an art that today’s CMO needs to bring to the business.
6. Taking on a multihyphenated role: Gone are the days when marketing departments could act in a silo. It’s not just about aligning marketing with various internal departments either; it's about aligning strategies and sharing information. The CMO needs to think not only like the chief marketer, but like the CEO, CFO, and more to drive business strategy, incorporate analytics and technologies appropriately, seamlessly integrate digital efforts, and be the all-around team player. Simply put, chief marketers need to be fully integrated into the business.
From informing technology-buying solutions to effectively communicating high-level business strategy, CMOs are integral to every part of the business. It’s no wonder we have seen so many CMOs elevate into the CEO role recently. Those who achieve success are the ones who instinctively put the overall business first and use their marketing prowess to help drive strategy and growth.