I have argued in We Are NOT Our Market that the marketer (ultimately, the CMO) has responsibility for standing up for the customer. A recent McKinsey Quarterly article The Evolving Role of the CMO, makes a similar point, and goes further. As McKinsey argues, the very best way the CMO can stand up for the customer (and other key elements of their role) is to get CEO commitment to supporting the CMO. Too many CEOs leave too much of marketing to the CMO, partially because the percentage of CEOs with marketing backgrounds has declined in recent years. This overdelegation reduces the CMO’s ability to impact the organization.
Too many CMOs don’t step it up to insist on CEO involvement and support. I believe a CMO must make substantial CEO support a requirement to take the job in the first place.
McKinsey discusses many challenges faced by the CMO. While the role of the CMO should be broadening, the CMO finds themselves limited by narrowly defined roles that focus on building brands, making advertising more effective and market research. Here are three key items the CMO must get the CEO’s substantial support on:
- Helping the company (especially the Sr. management team) understand what’s really happening with customers. How are your market segments evolving? How are customers changing their decision-making processes? What are the social influences on their decision-making? The CMO, the CEO and other senior executives must be part of the conversation about customers.
- Creating a closer connection between marketing and the rest of the organization. This becomes particularly critical when a CMO is asked to lead major corporate initiatives on strategy. The CMO-led initiative must be viewed as sufficiently strategic to ensure that the right senior executives are involved, rather than their delegates. With CEO support, the right senior executives will want to be involved, ensuring that the CMO-led initiative has needed impact on the organization.
- Providing coaching to the CMO as they lead the transformation of the marketing organization. Transformation will be required as the CMO takes the mantle they deserve and increases their responsibility and impact on the organization. CEOs often have the organizational development skills that a CMO needs to ensure this effort is successful.
The old “CMO as “Chief Marcom Officer” must go. The accelerating pace of change in markets, customer decision-making, social influences, etc., will make the CMO evolution more and more important. What do you think the CMO should do?