New research shows CMOs need to expand their comfort zones

CMOs should focus on driving enterprise business growth to keep pace with the evolution of the role

Changing expectations for the CMO role

Marketers continue to be asked to drive growth of the business, but many seem to lack the comfort in doing so. New research by Deloitte in partnership with CMO Council, a peer network of top marketers from across the globe, finds that CMOs need to take full advantage of their power to build market share or margins.

Expectations for the CMO role have evolved over the past decade from brand and marketing responsibilities, to accountability for business-wide growth. A 2016 Deloitte report unpacked this trend, concluding that senior management and company boards increasingly held CMOs accountable for growth.

New findings suggest that chief marketers, as a group, are less comfortable driving business expansion than they are in their role as corporate storytellers. They typically play commanding roles in brand development, customer engagement, and communications, and they are able to resolve friction in the sales experience. But only 32 percent of marketers feel prepared to impact market share, and just 20 percent feel prepared to drive gross margin–two areas considered critical to growth by the business. These findings suggest many CMOs lack the appropriate confidence and training to steer growth transformation within their organizations but also position themselves as central contributors to business strategy development.

Among the other key findings in the study

  • CMOs are limiting the definition of growth compared to CXO counterparts.
    Marketers and the business agree revenue is the top measure of growth for the organization (95 percent). However, others in the C-suite view gross margin and market share as leading indicators, signaling a split between what the business and marketing view as critical to growth.
  • Future success depends on adopting a finance-based view, yet few feel like they have the skills to do it.
    Marketers who offer expertise on strategy can help a CIO make technical decisions, or help a CFO understand customer initiatives in financial terms, for instance. However, based on research from the Spring 2018 CMO Survey, only 5.3 percent of respondents said they'd prioritize financial acumen when hiring new marketing leaders.
  • Marketers are most successful when they embrace data and intelligence.
    Traditional marketing rests on a foundation of creativity. But modern marketing often takes a keen eye for data and analytics. Yet as marketers scale their digital capabilities to meet these goals, there can also be a risk for digital overload. Data-gathering tools have created vast opportunities for marketers to glean greater insights about customers. Marketers also often need room to focus on the enterprise and not merely on the tasks–such as market research, digital marketing, or public relations–that create those insights. The challenge–and the opportunity–for CMOs can be to merge data gathering with creative pursuits to create a "center-brain" mentality that allows a range of capabilities to emerge and thrive.

Business acumen

In order to achieve their growth goals, CMOs also likely need to focus on specialization in other key business areas—and battle a number of headwinds—our research found.

For instance, there's typically the need to compliment brand-building and experiences with leadership that drives long-term, sustainable growth. Yet in our 2018 study, 52 percent of marketers polled said they 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.

Talent recruitment is another area where CMOs can leave their mark. Findings from our most recent CMO Survey shows that having the right team in place is the most important factor in driving future organic growth. One way this can come to life is through social media. As marketers have increased their social media spend, they can also take greater ownership of social media activities, bringing management, investments in training and new talent in-house.

Responses in the CMO Survey around hiring support the trend; hiring is taking place at the fastest clip since 2012. So, what are companies seeking in marketing candidates? Predictably, digital skills are in great demand. Marketers are also looking for talent with creativity, natural leadership abilities, and emotional intelligence, among other soft-skills.

Speaking the language of C-suite partners is another top focus area for marketers. Consider that CMOs are allied with their CEO (71 percent) and head of sales (55 percent) in the development and shaping of new growth strategies. Yet CMOs often do far less to involve supply chain, product and operational partners—key leaders who sit at the front line of customer experience. And while many CMOs say they are aligned with line-of-business leadership (37 percent) and the CFO (34 percent), surprisingly few are connecting with heads of service and support (14 percent).

Another surprising response is how few CMOs pointed to the CIO as a key ally and champion (only 23 percent). As CMOs aim to evolve their sales-centric definition of growth, new expertise in data and having the right tools and tech to enable new insights will likely top the list of items needed for success.

Charting a common course

Achieving sustainable growth can require CMOs to chart a course for the customer and organization alike. To do so, CMOs should align their vision of success with that of their customers and the business.

As CMOs decide where to allocate their investments, how to measure success, and how to balance the demands of evolving responsibilities, they will likely also have to figure out how to use their expanding knowledge to shape strategy across the organization. The mandate is clear: CMOs should move beyond their comfort zone as chief storyteller and embrace being an enterprise business growth driver to keep pace with the next evolution of the role.

Learn more about our results from the "CMO's and the Spark to Drive Growth" research piece at Deloitte.com/us/CMOGrowth.

Back to top

CMO Council insights series

Loading content...
Did you find this useful?