CMOs must look beyond marketing to influence strategy

CMOs must go beyond marketing and put more focus on strategy and management to be “business leaders” and drive business direction, according to Forrester’s “The Evolved CMO” report.

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More than 80% of current CMOs want to grow their influence on strategic development and are recognising that they must act as “company leaders” not just marketers to help their companies grow.

Having a strategic vision and understanding the customer voice are both cited in the top three personal skills that CMOs believe are important.

The report states that as businesses look towards customer intimacy as a point of differentiation, CEOs will lean more on CMOs than they have in the past because marketers naturally understand the customer voice and are well placed to lead the development of customer-centric strategies for growth. In this way, customer insight, which has traditionally been restricted marketing disciplines, can be applied at every stage in business such as developing new services.

Luca Paderni, vice president and principle analyst at Forrester says: “The only way to have an organisation aligned with what customers want is to have a strong CMO. It’s an important touch point with the customer voice. There is recognition that there had been too much over reliance on the CFO after the economic crisis, but now more CEOs realise that if you want to grow the function that is going to bring growth is the CMO, not finance.”

He adds that “being a good CMO isn’t about increasing spend on one campaign, it’s about understanding the new opportunities – it’s a different level of marketing. Being good at functional marketing is one thing, but a good CMO unites the organisation around the customer view.”

The study warned, however, that other senior executives who maintain a traditional view of marketing’s boundaries may be obstacles to CMOs taking a strategic role in business. While most CMOs already have a strong relationship with the sales director or customer service teams to counter this, the report recommends building stronger relationships with peers from different functions.

The report suggests it would be prudent to develop relationships with the chief information or technology officers, currently regarded as low importance. The growing prominence of technology and digital in all aspects of marketing and business means that the CMO/CIO relationship will be crucial for building and maintaining competitive advantage.

The study, conducted in partnership with leadership firm Heidrick & Struggles surveyed 200 global marketing chiefs for its follow up to the 2008 report.

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