CMOs and the spark to drive growth

How will marketing leaders drive the growth agenda?

Study shows marketers' narrow view of their own influence may limit prospects for growth over the long haul.

Chief marketers are continuing their ascendance as growth drivers as senior management and company boards increasingly hold them accountable for growth. But a new study of more than 200 marketers worldwide by Deloitte and the CMO Council reveals that many top marketers are not positioning themselves for the next evolution of the CMO role as enterprise business growth leader. And importantly, the research reveals a split between what marketers and the business believe are critical for growth.

CMOs and the spark to drive growth

Our survey reveals that chief marketers have yet to fully embrace the growth-leader role. Though CMOs assume the mantle of lead storyteller, few view themselves as the explorer of new routes to revenue. Even fewer say they are the data guru that understands the voice and expectations of the customer.

As CMOs focus on brand development, customer engagement, and customer experience strategy, they are missing opportunities to drive growth. Leading initiatives around in-store operations, supply chain optimization, and distribution channels are areas where marketers can do more to add value—and ultimately help drive revenue. If marketing leaders intend to drive the growth agenda, they have to exert influence over the entire customer value chain.

Executive perspectives: Kelly Starman

As part of the "CMO Action to Spark a Growth Reaction" research, the CMO Council interviewed several marketing executives to gain an understanding of their growth-driving practices. Kelly Starman, AetnaHealth, Inc. vice president of marketing, is one of twelve executives profiled in our report.Athenahealth

“We realized that as a company, we had been experiencing really rapid growth, and as such, we were investing in resources to keep pace with our growth with no real long-term structural plan,” she
says. “So last year, we set about restructuring the organization with the goal of flattening the organization, cutting out inefficient spend and aligning teams to be able to move more rapidly.” 

We restructured the organization to flatten it, cut out inefficient spend, and align teams.

She says the company capitalized on an underserved market segment: rural hospitals. To be able to deliver services to that segment, they acquired a company that focused on rural health. To help ensure full integration of the company, they took their code and rebuilt it from the ground up within their own system.

Key findings

Growth is not an enigma, but marketing’s impact on growth is. And while growth has evolved, marketing’s drive toward the business’ definition of growth and success has not advanced. Fully 95 percent of survey respondents say revenue is the top measure of growth in the organization, and 70 percent feel most confident driving growth through revenue. However, only 32 percent feel prepared to impact market share, and just 20 percent feel prepared to drive gross margin—considered critical areas of growth by the business.

Marketers embrace their role as storytellers, but those same CMOs are far less comfortable with expansion. They play commanding roles in brand development, customer engagement, and communications, and they are adept at spotting and resolving friction in the sales experience. But the next evolution of the CMO will be a shift from brand-builder and experience-orchestrator into an enterprise executive who directs and drives long-term, sustainable growth. Yet half of the marketers polled are absent from discussions on mergers and acquisitions, 40 percent take no part in global expansion planning, and only 19 percent view themselves as digital transformers as organizations grow.

Today’s marketers are growth leaders when they embrace data and intelligence; tomorrow’s leaders will thrive if they adopt a finance-based view. The next steps for growth include evolving content strategies to meet customers’ digital expectations and introducing emerging technologies. While 56 percent of marketers say data and intelligence can help them advance the growth agenda, only 18 percent believe deep understanding of the product portfolio will help them proceed to the next stage of growth.

Silos, culture, and outdated mindsets are threats to marketers’ confidence. Though 46 percent feel their organizations are well-poised to meet growth targets, roadblocks remain: 45 percent cite concern that functional silos are an obstacle, while 31 percent say their organization lacks the right talent in marketing. Others expect change overnight, as 23 percent sense unrealistic expectations for immediate return on investments.

Next steps: CMOs shift to value creation

This survey is the first in a series of new reports in 2018 examining the CMO as the growth driver. More than a quarter of respondents held the title CMO. One-quarter of respondents were from companies with over $5 billion in revenue. Key industries represented included software and IT, manufacturing, financial services, technology, media and publishing, and health care and pharmaceuticals. Respondents hailed from global firms: 95 percent have operations in North America; about half are in Europe and Asia-Pacific; and about a third operate in the Middle East, South America, and Africa.

Next in this series will be a summary of investigative dialogues with growth-driving CMOs from fast-growth, sustained-growth or emerging-growth organizations.

CMOs and the spark to drive growth insights series

Look deeper into the new 2018 study by Deloitte and the CMO Council with insights from our leaders.

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