The CMO’s challenge in driving growth

From The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today

How can CMOs balance strategic initiatives with the daily demands of their jobs? Jennifer Lacks Kaplan, principal, Deloitte Consulting, offers some tips.

The role of the CMO has become much more complex in today’s digital, always-on world. Now, in addition to leading brand and marketing activities, CMOs find themselves responsible for owning the customer experience, tracking every encounter with users, demonstrating the value of marketing, and driving revenue for their companies. Balancing these duties is proving to be a challenge for marketers, according to a report from the CMO Council and Deloitte LLP.

The survey reveals a large gap between CMOs’ strategic priorities and their daily activities. CMOs say they would like to spend most of their time teaming with other leadership executives on global business and brand strategy (65.7 percent), yet only 16 percent achieve this. Other strategic priorities include innovating and implementing new approaches and strategies (57.8 percent), and evolving the brand narrative (39.6 percent).

CMOs say they spend most of their time reviewing and approving plans, budgets, and campaign elements (44.6 percent); attending meetings with peers and line-of-business leaders (42 percent); and making a case for marketing spend (38 percent).

How to Achieve Balance

Jennifer Lacks Kaplan, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and consumer products and retail marketing leader, says that as digital transforms marketing, innovation, and commercial activities, it creates a need for marketers to interact more closely with other functions, leading to more time spent in meetings and activities outside the traditional scope of CMO responsibilities.

“We live in a world where the customer is always connected, blurring traditional boundaries between marketing, sales, innovation, and services,” Kaplan says. “Digital is forcing companies to adopt a customercentric mindset. CMOs, as customer champions, are working more closely with sales and product development—as well as with critical enabling functions such as IT and supply chain partners—to ensure the optimal customer experience across functions. This presents a dilemma for marketers: They collaborate more, but they also need to find time to create new growth initiatives and innovations.”

To achieve this balance, CMOs might consider evaluating decision-making processes and making some adjustments, she says. “What we’re seeing in digitally native companies is a move to flatter, networked organizations that are more responsive and agile. Such companies do not have as many layers or a tight chain of command; teams are empowered to make decisions.”

While CMOs may not be able to change their companies’ organizational structure, Kaplan says, they could potentially free some time for growth-driving activities by:

  • Putting together cross-functional teams
  • Giving more decision rights to these teams
  • Setting clear objectives for outcomes
  • Defining metrics for success
  • Holding teams accountable for decisions

Demonstrating the Value of Marketing

The survey also found that CMOs face challenges proving the value of marketing as a growth driver. When asked how well their marketing organization quantifies and communicates the business value and financial impact of campaigns and other marketing investments (Figure 1), less than one-quarter of CMOs said “quite well” or “extremely well.” Forty six percent said they are “getting better,” 21.9 percent said they are “working on measurement,” and 7.6 percent said “not at all.”

“In the past, marketing was responsible for metrics higher up the purchase funnel, such as awareness,” Kaplan says. “With digital technologies, marketing has an impact at every step of the customer journey. To demonstrate marketing value, it’s important to measure effectiveness at key stages or ‘moments’ in the journey, which can require instituting new metrics based on the outcomes marketers want to achieve.”

CMOs say the top financial, brand, and customer metrics they currently use to prove the value and return on spend are revenue growth (73.5 percent); sales velocity, funnel strength, and conversion rates (44.9 percent); and market share gains (42.9 percent).

As to what methods they can use to drive revenue and improve margins, marketers say they can utilize data, analytics and insights (44.4 percent); embrace new digital marketing, advertising, and customer engagement technologies (43.9 percent); and develop more creative advertising (33.2 percent).

As CMOs gain influence in the C-suite, they have a tremendous opportunity to help shape business strategy and growth initiatives. While the demands of the job may seem formidable, CMOs who can enlist support from colleagues, reallocate their time, and utilize new marketing technologies may be able to shift their focus to more strategic objectives and add value to their companies.

This content was originally published on the Wall Street Journal CMO Today.

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