In January, Fortune published an article that explored the ‘shrinking role of the CMO.’ The surrounding conversation, which called for the elimination of the Chief Marketing Officer, has stirred both concern, disappointment, and a ‘are we really here again’ attitude in the marketing community. This conversation is not new, with a recent Marketing Week article highlighting just how much the ‘marketing as a cost’ attitude continues to persist. It’s troubling to witness a lack of recognition for the ever-evolving significance of marketing in today’s business landscape.  

I strongly believe that marketing plays an irreplaceable role in strategic decisions. Who else better understands your target market, the dynamics playing out in the industry, how the buying journey has changed, as well as the messaging and technology needed to break through the noise? Marketing is far from a dispensable function, it stands as a vital artery within the organisation’s anatomy connected to every part of business strategy. While the CMO role may be changing, the impact of marketing holds more power now than ever. 

The Data-Driven Role of the CMO 

Key to this argument is the increasingly data-driven nature of modern marketing. CMOs are no longer in charge of just brand and creative. We carry out research and hold the key to information such as industry dynamics, ideal customer profiles, what’s happening during the marketing & sales funnel, sentiment and emotion throughout the customer journey, using it to build insights that inform vital strategic decisions made at the c-suite and board levels for business growth.  One quick example: My team recently implemented an account-centric model and the process uses AI to serve up tiered accounts based on demographic/firmographic data. We pair that with target accounts identified by our sellers. This data allows me to serve up key insights that might help drive decision making at multiple levels: 

  1. We can see things like regions, sub-industries, contact gaps in our Top 10 and A accounts, which can direct campaign, event and other investment focuses.
  2. Looking at where the tiered vs. sales prioritised accounts align and don’t align can highlight where to direct awareness campaigns, or potential gaps in sales enablement on key markets. 
  3. At a board level, I can serve up data around market penetration and account engagement within our ICP, as well as potential investments needed for awareness or adding new segments due to demand signals we receive.

It’s important that CMOs elevate data-driven decision-making like this in their organisations, especially in the boardroom, where our insights can help inform investment decisions. By advocating for and embracing marketing insights at the highest levels, CMOs can unlock untapped potential for organisational growth. 

Breaking Through the Noise with Insight

Beyond the power of data, the true strength of the CMO still lies in the ability to articulate how your products and services make meaningful contributions to business impact in dynamic markets. At the heart of this is the communication of a company’s vision that goes beyond the rhetoric and is rooted in real-time customer data and insights.  

Every marketer worth their weight in gold knows that messaging and positioning can make or break a company. There are the outliers that just have the best product market fit in a competitively empty marketplace, but that is the exception not the rule. Most companies these days are dealing with crowded markets, buyers that want to remain unknown, and are looking for answers from other consumers rather than a sales pitch. How do you break through the noise in that type of situation? 

Yes, data is important, but not just as a CRM or demand gen tool. You need to understand who your product serves and the value your customers or consumers perceive they get from you. This takes research, analysis, validation, and cross functional input. As the CMO, you have to champion that cross collaboration and gathering of data. Your sellers are on the front lines seeing what’s landing and what’s not, your service and support teams know what customer expectations you are nailing and the ones you are missing. And most importantly, you need your customers or potential customers to see themselves in your messaging and positioning.

Don’t get me wrong – words matter. But without insights, your words will get lost in the sea of unopened emails, unclicked ads, and scrolled past social posts. 

The CEO’s Role in Supporting and Empowering the CMO 

For CMOs to truly be able to fulfill their potential as drivers of an organisation’s growth, it is crucial that we receive unwavering support from the top. This starts with support from the CEO. 

CMOs and CEOs need to ensure their expectations and perceptions of each other are aligned – and ideally, the CMO is a direct report of the CEO.  If your CEO only expects brand and thought leadership content from you, then your role isn’t going to be elevated within the business or the boardroom. But if your CEO is looking to you to understand the dynamics that are playing out in the market, in your business and expects you to have a point of view on how that will impact future growth, you have a seat at the table. 

Forbes reports that approximately 46% of CMOs in business-to-consumer companies report to individuals other than the CEO. This disjointed dynamic complicates the alignment of strategies and ideas in the C Suite – and as CMO, you may not be in the room where decisions are made. A direct line to the CEO and a role within the C-suite fosters better communication, strategic alignment, and a unified approach to market challenges. 

Support and Empower CMOs for Sustainable Growth 

The evolving role of the CMO demands a reimagining of organisational structures and a new commitment to empowering marketing leaders and their teams. By recognising the indispensable value of CMOs, businesses can chart a course toward sustainable growth and success in an increasingly dynamic market landscape. Unifying CMO responsibilities and improving conversations with the C-Suite is just one step in that journey to prosperity. 

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