Saving The CMO

Want make a room full of B2B executives uncomfortable?  Start a conversation on whether the CMO role is dead or alive. The topic heats up every year as it has been simmering under the surface for years.

At a high level, the debate goes something like this:

CEO: “I don’t understand why getting ROI from Marketing is so hard. What do all those people do, anyway? I don’t understand the answers when I ask.”

Sales: “We need real leads that turn into deals. We need help in the field to tell a differentiated story. We need content that customers want. Why can’t Marketing deliver?”

Customer Success: “We have to create everything when it comes to supporting customer engagement. Why can’t Marketing help us deliver the experience customers value?”

Marketing’s response – aside from escalating frustration, burn-out and fear – is to reallocate scarce resources to address the tactical complaints and explain, again, the strategy, KPIs, ROI as well as the challenges they face. Most marketers, to survive, have adopted a four prong strategy:

  • Talk about marketing only in terms of revenue attribution.
  • Automate, automate, automate and integrate.
  • Keep the team focused on execution and aligned with the latest marketing trends.
  • Implement an array of mitigation strategies to satisfy various internal stakeholders.

There are exceptions, CMOs that lead the direction and strategy of their companies. Elisa Steele, who was recently named President of Jive Software, Lisa Arthur of Teradata Applications, and Mariann McDonagh of inContact are a few. Most marketers, however, strive to define a job scope where they can survive and that’s often not a happy place. According to IDC “one in four CMOS will be replaced every year through 2018.”

What’s missing in the ‘CMO is dead’ or ‘alive’ debate is the role of the CEO. Just as a coin has two sides, CEOs bear significant responsibility for the state of marketing. While most CEOs and board members are not marketers that does not give them a hall pass from investing the time to understand how their biggest revenue generating function operates.

To fix the situation, CEOs and CMOs need to partner on understanding and optimizing the revenue line-of-sight from target market segments to booked business. The reward is predictable revenue growth.

The question these two executives need to answer, jointly, is – do I know my customer, deeply and actionably? According to IDC, “only one in five companies will retool to reach LOB buyers and outperform” their competitors in 2015. In other words, you don’t know your customers well enough to move the needle.

Knowing your customer is not about antidotal information or ‘inside out’ journey maps. It’s about knowing, in detail, the actions they take, whom they talk to, how they define value, and what cues trigger which behaviors along the lifecycle, from awareness through next purchase. Knowing this is important because therein lie the seeds of brand preference, loyalty, and satisfaction.

It’s about knowing what makes a prospect – not according to your qualification guide or lead scoring – but what makes YOU a prospect in THEIR purchase decision. This knowledge gives you the decoder ring for your marketing and sales strategy.

It’s about understanding how customers decide they can trust you. It’s about what kind of experience customers expect after they’ve purchased. Knowing this tells you what skills you need to have onboard and how to structure your processes to consistently deliver to customer expectations.

If CEOs want different results from marketing, they need to step up and partner with the CMO to understand, in detail, the above paragraphs. For those CEOs and CMOs that claim they know this already – I challenge you to an assessment to see how well your organization scores.

If you suspect that the CEO or CMO might not have the depth of answers needed to drive increased revenue attribution and loyalty, below is a four step framework based on the Sellers’ Compass™. Start with the “Learn” block, followed by “Fix”, “Align”, and “Innovate”.

4 Step Sellers Compass

The value in the CEO and CMO partnering to go through the framework is three-fold:

  1. Both intimately understand their customers and expectations.
  2. The CEO will learn what marketing really means and what’s involved.
  3. The CMO will learn the business’ financial value chain and what marketing needs to deliver.

Along the way, the CMO role will be redeemed and redefined along with the skills CMOs must possess and their KPIs. CEOs will be more effective in providing the guidance marketing has needed and wanted. An example of what can come out of CMO-CEO-customer collaboration is a new structure and staffing model for marketing. Instead of a siloed team of employees, the marketing team is highly matrixed and comprised of a handful of specialized roles, strategists, project managers and behaviorists with the majority of work performed by employees from other functions like project management, engineering, sales, finance, etc. The model builds common understanding and shared goals across the organization of what it takes to win and keep customers, grow the business, and how each function contributes to the mission.

Most importantly, customers are the real winners because they’ll have a valued experience from a trusted partner they want to do business with – something they might even pay a premium for.

First published in Forbes.

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