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5 ways to impress your CMO

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One of the most elusive and challenging executive roles in larger corporations is that of the chief marketing officer (CMO). Typically responsible for all aspects of marketing, from initial product and sales pipeline development to customer retention, the CMO's role is both broad and significant. In fact, the pressure on most CMOs is so tremendous that the average tenure of a consumer brand CMO was 45 months in 2012. With such relatively high turnover, job security can be tenuous. Corporate marketers, agencies, and vendors looking for a long-term relationship with their CMOs must be able to make a positive and lasting impression on them. The following article outlines five key areas offering the greatest opportunity to impress your CMO.


5 ways to impress your CMO


Apply your understanding of roles and responsibilities


One of the most valuable lessons I've learned as a lifelong agency account manager and owner is the importance of developing a deep understanding of your client in order to have a productive and lasting relationship. Possessing working knowledge of the CMO's current roles and responsibilities is the essential starting point for a successful relationship. Beyond the standard CMO job description, each company has unique perspectives and expectations for this role. Make sure you know how your CMO differs from others.


A relatively new addition to the C-level executive suite, the CMO role has evolved beyond oversight of brand and marketing initiatives over the years. The modern CMO is being asked to own the customer experience through the entire product lifecycle, not just the top of the sales funnel. This requires breaking down internal silos and mapping marketing to the customer experience, rather than internal infrastructure. The modern CMO must rely heavily on technology vendors, data aggregators, and multiple agencies to measure marketing efforts, gain insights, and generate results.


Above all else, a CMO's survival is based on his or her ability to demonstrate a measurable return on investment (ROI) on any and all marketing efforts to the CEO and the rest of the C-suite. In some cases, the C-suite must first be educated on the value of marketing and the value of a CMO overseeing marketing efforts. Most CEOs, however, see the value of someone overseeing the "big picture" for the brand and understand that the role requires agile, creative thinking. Unfortunately, technology, social media, and changes in the way our culture consumes media makes the CMO's success a moving mark.


Experts within the marketing community believe the evolving CMO role will become more of a "project manager" who understands fully integrated issues, bringing together concepts of data, design, public relations, marketing, and advertising. The previous path from VP sales to CMO will become extinct in the near future, as a broader set of skills, knowledge, and experience will be required. In other words, the modern CMO's role will be all-encompassing, as the CMO will be playing the roles of collaborator and coordinator across the organization. Other experts believe the CMO title may someday be replaced by the chief customer officer (CCO), as a deeper understanding of the customer will ultimately lead to smarter marketing.

Demonstrate an ability to support overall business and marketing objectives


Armed with an intimate understanding of your CMO's current (and future) roles and responsibilities, the next step is to tackle the organization's key marketing objectives for the year. While always looking for innovative "big ideas," CMOs need to see creative concepts tied to an overall strategy that supports the organization's objectives. The lengthening tenure of CMOs is allowing them to think more long-term than in the past. As such, CMOs may put less emphasis on one big idea and more emphasis on delivering on the brand promise over time.


While non-marketing executives (CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs) typically prioritize driving revenue over acquiring new customers, the top three most common CMO priorities include developing new products or services, customer acquisition, and driving revenue. Additional CMO objectives may include profitable growth, increased operational efficiency, correlating advertising to sales, and measuring media buying effectiveness. Technology-centric objectives may focus on measurement, particularly of multi-channel attribution. The CMO's relationship with the C-suite, as well as technology companies and agencies, will ultimately define how successful the CMO will be in the digital world.


Embrace technology and measurement


The primary directive of every CMO is to move the needle and prove a positive ROI. A heavy reliance on measurement to justify marketing initiatives means a heavy reliance on technology. In fact, CMOs are predicted to outspend CIOs when it comes to investment in technology in the near future. According to recent research, only 12 percent of 200 CMOs surveyed said they had a real-time, well-integrated view of customer interactions across their enterprises, and 45 percent said they felt they had underinvested in information and intelligence systems. As a result, only 16 percent said they trusted the accuracy, depth, and reliability of their customer data.


While there is clearly a need for improved data collection, measurement, and reporting, there is also a talent gap forming. According to another study, internal marketing talent is not evolving as fast as the technology. That means there are opportunities for consultants and agencies to fill the gap in the near-term. Improvements with data-driven marketing platforms will allow greater personalization, "mass customization," or "narrowcasting" of content delivery. As the promise of big data materializes, however, security will become an increasingly larger issue. CMOs will be responsible (and liable) for customer database breaches, which will require greater integration and collaboration with CTO/CIOs.

Anticipate and leverage trends


One trend we at Anvil have capitalized on in the past year or two with our "Cheat Sheets" is time-compression. Even with significant delegation and support, there is simply not enough time in the day for CMOs to stay on top of changes in consumer behavior, marketing strategy, and technology platforms. CMOs need thoughtful yet succinct briefs on the latest technology, tools, and trends. In your briefs, outline the issue or opportunity, why they should care, and how they might best take action (download a copy of one of our "Cheat Sheets" for an idea of how to lay out a CMO brief).


Beyond the need to communicate effectively, however, is the need to understand how specific trends will impact CMOs down the road. One of the most intriguing trends you can look forward to seeing in marketing departments is an annual "marketing framework" replacing the traditional "marketing plan," which will be periodically reviewed throughout the year and revised based on market conditions and opportunities. One of the key factors influencing the need for a marketing framework is the evolution to a market-driven economy, where customers help create and define messaging. A related trend will be a more pronounced reliance on brand advocates and influencers fostering peer pressure and less reliance on traditional advertising and PR-driven persuasion strategies.


As referenced earlier, the traditional career path to CMO is changing. Progressive organizations will look to "whole-brained," multi-dimensional CMOs who are as comfortable with data analytics as groundbreaking creative. In a similar vein, these modern CMOs will be channel and technology agnostic, breaking down internal and external silos to better understand and leverage knowledge of the buying process. Lastly, the teams supporting these CMOs will be dominated by "marketing immigrants." The new interdisciplinary team may consist of cognitive psychologists, nano-mathematicians, data scientists, sociologists, and software developers. Although not a new trend, the concept of a single agency of record (AOR) will be replaced by a host of specialist boutique agencies with an intimate understanding of the complex and dynamic digital marketing landscape.


Prepare and present your case


Fully armed with a clear understanding of the CMO's job description, measurable objectives, reliance on technology, and evolving trends impacting success, it is now time to act. Develop measurable strategies and supporting tactics that clearly align with organizational objectives. Before you present your ideas to the CMO, however, it is important to do a bit more homework and keep the following tips in mind:



  • Understand what makes a CMO tick by reading related articles and following the most influential CMOs.

  • When preparing documents or presenting information, demonstrate your new-found knowledge of the CMO mindset.

  • Properly frame every discussion: What is it (at a high level)? Why should I care? How can it help me be successful as a CMO?

  • Always back your ideas with research and data, and always back your objectives with metrics and goals.

  • Help the CMO become a star to the CEO (and board) by arming the CMO with pertinent information and measurable results. (Fifty-three percent of business executives indicate their current CMO could one day become CEO.)

  • Regardless of your role or relationship with the CMO, speak the language (e.g., measurable results, ROI, improved performance, proactive, innovation, integrated, cross-channel, connectivity, long-term, big picture).

Your success is directly correlated to the success of the CMO you support. Understand what keeps your CMO up at night, solve those problems, and become a trusted advisor. Anticipate your CMO's future challenges, and turn them into opportunities for greater job security that may result in you outlasting the CMO. If you do your job well, your CMO may be your future CEO. You have 3.75 years to make your case as a trusted advisor, so get started.


Additional resources



Kent Lewis is president and founder of Anvil Media.


On Twitter? Follow Lewis at @kentjlewis. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Image of businessman in black suit against dark background" image via Shutterstock.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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