The Pressure is on for CMOs to Evolve – Fast
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about big data, social media and other marketing buzzwords. But this post is not about trends and fads. It’s about change.
If you’re a marketing leader it doesn’t matter whether your title is CMO, EVP, SVP or Director. Whatever they call you, you’re in the hot seat and you know it.
A couple of years ago there was lots of discussion about the short tenure of CMOs, with many lasting barely more than 18 months in their positions. That alone signaled a coming change in the top marketing job, highlighting both misunderstanding of the role as well as frustration among top executives that marketing wasn’t delivering the goods.
Fast forward to today and the world is moving at an even faster pace. Technology has changed virtually every aspect of the way we deal with customers and prospects. Many have lost sight of the fundamentals that make good marketers great. The desire for instant results is more pressing than ever.
If you’re the one your company looks to for marketing leadership, you’ve probably felt what I call the “CMO Squeeze.” It’s an uncomfortable vise grip between customers and executives that keeps you working long hours, waking up in a sweat at 2am and on the road much more than you’d like.
Inside – Outside (Upside Down?)
The CMO Squeeze is the product of two major driving forces that will continue to impact marketing in 2013. Simply put, these can be viewed as internal and external factors.
The internal forces relate to the challenges of the CMO, or the top marketing role in your organization. There’s a lot of pressure on the CMO as a result of the evolution in the executive suite.
You’ve probably noticed there is a shifting of power and authority within the executive suite, a phenomenon I’ve dubbed the C-Suite Revolution™. It works like this:
- The CEO is increasingly dependent on the CFO for input into major strategic decisions.
- The CFO needs to make the numbers work on a quarter-to-quarter schedule, which doesn’t always (or often) mesh with marketing plans.
- The CIO is becoming somewhat marginalized, evolving into a less strategic role as more of the onus for technology investment decisions moves to other areas – like marketing.
- The CMO is also under intense pressure to show ROI and prove that they have strategic value to offer.
- CMOs who don’t provide strategic leadership are often relegated to a more limited creative and communications function.
- Traditional marketing responsibilities like product and pricing decisions are parsed among various functions that may or may not be well coordinated.
Outside the organization, one of the key market forces is the empowerment of customers. From online reviews to user-generated content, customers can and do easily access data about your product long before they actually connect with your company.
The tidal wave of content marketing has created an avalanche of information for customers. Unfortunately for marketers, some of that information is less than accurate.The result can be overwhelming for prospects and they seldom know how to make the best decision.
As a result buyers – especially B2B buyers – tend to fall back on what they know, making the least risky choice. They go with the proverbial IBM decision (“no one ever got fired for buying IBM”), choosing what’s known over what’s unknown.
If your business is new or does not have significant market share and brand presence, this creates an increasingly challenging environment. As a result, the power of a brand becomes ever more important.
To succeed in this environment, marketers have to create the top of mind awareness, the trust, and the value that will drive customers to choose your brand over others. You have to break through the noise in the market and show why your business is relevant. You need a compelling story that people buy into and are willing to share.
How to Escape
Internally there is organizational disruption creating pressure on the chief marketing officer. There’s a vacuum to be filled with strategic leadership, and CMOs need to step up. Externally, there is chaos and confusion among customers who feel that they should be empowered and instead find themselves mired in analysis paralysis (the more information they have, the less they understand).
To break out, there are five key marketing imperatives for top marketers. I’ll go into detail on the implications of each of these in my post next week. For now, I’m listing them here as food for thought. Do you agree or have I missed some? Feel free to share your input in the comments below.
Marketing Imperatives for 2013
- Speak Finance
- Be the Brand Champion
- Leverage Technology
- Connect with Customers
- Drive Sales
Image by Keith Williamson