How “Great” CMOs Can Still Fail

CMOs can still fail

Take an increasingly familiar situation: faced with stagnant growth and awash in a rising tide of pressure to fulfill the role of Chief Growth Officer and Chief Innovation Officer, a modern CMO sets to work reviving their company’s marketing.

Their marketing is running more smoothly than ever, but the organization as a whole still isn’t seeing growth.

They adopt sweeping new changes to align the department with modern best practices. They make essential technology acquisitions to keep their marketing up-to-date. They hire fresh, innovative minds on the cutting edge of the industry and sweep out anyone holding the team back. They reorganize their marketing structure and resources to improve efficiency and prioritize the right ROI-drivers.

In others words, they seemingly do everything right.

But it doesn’t work. Or to be more precise; it works, but it’s not enough. Their marketing is running more smoothly than ever, but the organization as a whole still isn’t seeing growth. Because while the CMO was tunnel-visioned on bringing their marketing into the modern age, they forgot to bring the rest of the company along.

Driving Your Business’s Growth

The reality is that in today’s business environment, most organizations need a dedicated C-Suite resource for ensuring sustained growth. And that growth isn’t possible with great marketing alone. The whole company needs to be keeping pace on a variety of levels: culture, technology, talent, structure and more. Relying solely on the marketing department to “keep up with the times” will quickly put you in the dust of dynamic competition that’s evolving as a whole.

Someone needs both the lofty perspective of the marketplace and the executive authority to drive change. And no one is better suited for that kind of role than the CMO.

Going Beyond the ‘M’

In a lot of ways, Neil St. Clair was right when he wrote for Forbes that CMO is the “most dangerous job title around.” It’s not that the title is wrong–if anything, it’s more accurate now than ever. But it can also be misleading to individuals and organizations still hanging on to the archaic notion that the CMO’s domain and responsibility begins and ends with the marketing department.

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That’s not enough to be an effective CMO in this day and age. As a CMO executive search firm, we’re finding the definition of success is evolving around new requirements and responsibilities. In order to truly drive growth, today’s CMO must be the agent of change across the organization.

Why the CMO? A few traits make them especially well suited for this responsibility:

  • Their bird’s-eye view of the marketplace.
  • A history of working across departments and collaborating with other executives.
  • An affinity for technology and digital progress.
  • Natural communication and motivational skills.

Why it Matters

No one is going to tell the CMO they are also the “Chief Change Management Officer;” the top people in the position have just figured it out.  Why put your head of marketing in charge of company-wide change? Simple: The importance is easy to see:

Grow the Business

The bottom line is that in order for marketing to effectively draw customers and drive sales, it must be able to innovate effectively and implement quickly. It can do neither if It can do neither if it’s held back by bureaucracy and culture that can’t keep up. If you want your marketing to continue being effective, it has to be able to rely on the rest of the organization being willing to move forward at the same pace.

Strengthen the Customer Experience

Consumers’ experience with your brand has never been more important. Expectations are high that you provide a positive and consistent experience every time they encounter your brand. So when your marketing, website, product, customer service and sales are all telling them different things, your message becomes ineffective. The CMO needs to oversee the customer journey through every possible touchpoint to make it as compelling as possible.

Improve Internal Processes

Change doesn’t just make marketing better; makes the organization as a whole better. Companies can easily fall behind the times in today’s fast-paced market, especially when it comes to internal silos that don’t have a lot of external perspective. A CMO in charge of organization-wide growth has a better perspective to see new opportunities, strategies, technologies and more that improve process all throughout the organization.

Go Digital

In an undeniably digital age companies that fail to make the transition wholesale will fall far behind those that do. From reaching consumers to getting better data to streamlining internal communications to tracking finances, there’s nothing digital doesn’t touch. The CMO is in an ideal situation to champion organization-wide technology decisions and policies to make the transition as smooth and valuable as possible.

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