There was a time, not too long ago, when CMOs were considered to be unshakeable. The chief marketing officer was not only part of the C-suite, but he or she was also a key force within the entire organization, largely responsible for driving the company’s growth and success. We would envy this position greatly, and “ooh” and “ahh” over the person filling the role.
Well, dare I say, the landscape has changed. The marketing and business climate has become increasingly challenging, and the CMO role as we knew it is being tested. There seems to be a constant threat of extinction hovering around this very important position, and it’s creating a good deal of uncertainty within many companies.
Here’s the thing… As technology has taken hold of the marketing field, CMOs have been facing an identity crisis and we can’t blame them. We expect them to be experts in marketing (duh), but that’s not enough anymore. We also need them to be technology pros (akin to our CIOs) and adept with running business operations (similar to our COOs). So the real answer is not only empowering the CMO, we also need to properly educate their teams to have the know-how to help support the positions. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
All of these expectations might seem unreasonable, but a recent study found that CMOs are turning over every 42 months, which means there’s clearly a widespread problem. This job must be far more all-encompassing than it has been in the past. So here’s the fun part, in which I share with you what CMOs must do in order to redefine their role, educate their team, and improve the overall impact of marketing altogether. Ready or not, here we go.
Admit you have a data problem, and so do most organizations.
In this era of technology (and therefore accessibility to data), it’s unwise, maybe even unforgivable, to steer your company without one eye on your metrics at all times. And yet so many companies fail to put proper systems in place to capture, organize and analyze their data. This is rarely due to laziness or incompetence; it’s usually because CMOs are trying to save their organization money, but are uncertain about whether software will really yield the ROI it often promises.
The reality is that, as long as you’re captaining the ship without solid data, your business is likely to sink. But on the bright side, you can do better. Unless you already have, the first step should be implementing first-class software that will help you run your marketing efforts more efficiently, as well as capitalize on your data.
Realize technology is easy for no one.
As a CMO, it might seem unfair that you’re expected to also be a tech whiz. But that’s the way it is for you, other CMOs, business leaders and even employees alike. It still isn’t easy, but there should be some comfort in knowing you’re not alone and don’t have to pretend you know everything. Your goal should be to begin to master the technology systems you’ve implemented, and to provide your team with proper training. If you’re using sophisticated software systems, the initial set-up, training and learning curve is going to be far from a cakewalk. But cobbling together different solutions and unleashing them on your team without proper training guarantees that you will experience the f-word: failure.
Instead, get the best programs available and then invest immediately – and heavily – in proper training and support for the people who will be using the products. If you can’t provide the training yourself, engage with someone who can. Within the first month or two, it’s imperative that your team has been immersed in your new systems and that you’ve established important KPIs and baseline metrics to measure against once data collection begins. This is the type of foundation you need to thrive with modern technology and fuel your marketing efforts with real information. If you train your team adequately, this will upgrade the entire marketing machine and will also positively impact your own staying power. It’s a real win for everyone.
Hire and delegate with the end in mind.
So you know you need to understand marketing and technology inside and out. But where do operations fit in? Turns out, it fits in everywhere. This infographic does an excellent job of summarizing some of the nuances of how mastery of operations can be a secret weapon for companies. CMOs do not need to be as savvy about operations as COOs; after all, it’s not their primary job function. And they surely will not become competent in operations overnight. But in order to be successful and lead a successful company, every CMO needs to have a grasp on strategic hiring and delegation. You should be able to distill high-level goals into tactical efforts and then assign them to the right people to make it all work. You’re basically like a really sophisticated switchboard operator from the old days, who has to plug in the right connection to the right opening at the right time. Easy breezy, right? Of course not, but it is absolutely doable for a sharp CMO like you.
I want you to beat the odds and last in your job longer than 42 months while shaping and guiding your company to astonishing sales volumes… and my hunch is that you want the same thing. So it’s imperative you embrace how your job as a CMO has changed. To survive – and edge out the competition – you have to build a solid foundation on technology and data that informs your marketing and operational choices. So maybe you’re not in Kansas anymore… but who wants to be in Kansas anyway? You’re heading somewhere better, where your important role won’t face the threat of extinction.