Today’s CMO must expand their role.

The complex world of a CMO means you need to wear a different hat than in the 70’s & 80’s.   Today very few CMO’s can manage all the day to day responsibilities of an effective CMO role, and it demands the CMO’s ability to adapt to this changing marketplace.   One of the most critical area’s includes the hiring of staff and consultants that give you the best information, resources, tools, and production for the role that they play within the organization because it is imperative that today’s CMO shift responsibilities away from self managed department and to a team driven and empowered environment.   Check out this great article by Madhur Aggarval regarding this very topic and four of the ways that CMO’s could improve their role. 


CMO’s Must Learn To Be Bad

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By Madhur Aggarwal, Vice President Marketing, SAP

Much has been written about the transformation in marketing and the role of a CMO.  Some have claimed that the marketing function has gone through more change in the last five than previous 50 years.  Regardless of whether you agree with this or not, one thing is hard to debate – a marketing executive’s responsibilities seem to be growing continuously.  With the increase in customer’s expectations, proliferation of channels and social networks and rise of digital commerce, CMOs are no longer only responsible for “traditional” functions such as advertising and brand management; they also need to lead the end-to-end experience strategy, master, on behalf of the company, new avenues to engage with customers – social, mobile and increasingly incubate digital commerce/e-commerce efforts, among others.

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In this world of “and”, can CMOs afford to be good at all of these functions?According to Frances Frei, professor at Harvard Business Schoolin order to be great at service you have to be bad at something” Succeeding in something requires time, effort, investment.  Marketing executives and organizations are not the exception. They can’t address everything at the same time, with exceptional results. In that case, the more important question becomes where should they excel? And, how can they decide where to be good at?

study conducted by SAP in partnership with The CMO Club and Human 1.0 on Growth CMOs provides a glimpse into the right dimensions– the outcomes that leading growth marketers should focus on, the set of capabilities to develop and the organization culture attributes that act as catalysts and foundation for results.  An evaluation of the marketing organization across these dimensions should create a valuable heat map and starting point for marketing executives.  The study also uncovered that less than 10% of CMOs are really, really good at a few things and are able to achieve the outcomes they themselves emphasized as important for the future of marketing.

Why is this happening?

Going back to the world of AND and not OR, marketing executives are pulled in many directions and, it is culturally very hard for them to be bad at something. As professor Frei mentions, “some people find it immoral not to try to be great at everything”.  Marketing executives are not necessarily the exception, they most likely try to compromise on the multiple requirements of their roles or at least achieve average results on them; a recipe for mediocrity.  Instead, they need to overcome this “emotional barrier” and consciously select where to prioritize efforts and, in that case, there are 4 elements or attributes that CMOs need to be good, very good at if their expectation is to drive growth for the company:

Market Centricity

An outside in perspective has to permeate across the marketing organization starting from the top and cascade to the daily job of all marketing employees.  In addition, this outside in perspective should go beyond actual customers and include prospects, competitors, and influencers.  Marketing leaders need to develop their organizations to become the ears and voice of the market and act on the insight the market gives them.  While the direction is clear, there is definitely a gap between intent and execution as the study found that while 80% of CMOs see their primary role as customer and market advocates, only 50% of them monitor customers and 20% monitor competitors and prospects.

Data Driven culture

Data abounds in organizations. In fact 6 out of 10 CMOs indicated in the study that their teams have access to the data they need. We can think of data by sources – internal, external, by organization silos – web, social media, CRM, by type – structured, unstructured etc. The important point is that insights from data gets marketers closer to better decisions, especially if data is viewed or analyzed from an end-to-end customer engagement perspective. However, all the data available won’t matter if marketers are not naturally inclined to look for it and leverage it on their job.


An engaged marketing workforce is needed more than ever to impact the business. While retention, career development opportunities and rewards are aspects of talent management needed to keep employees engaged, the transformation in marketing has brought up new dimensions CMOs can’t overlook.  As channels multiply and marketing pursues stronger connections with customers through different points of engagement, more CMOs (up to38%) indicate effectiveness in addressing the new faces of talent such as recruitment of millennials, developing storytellers and nurturing brand ambassadors.


Building omnichannel capabilities implies understanding the customer decision journey: in time, throughout touch points, at an individual level. This means understanding how interactions with prospects and customers flow in a continuous loop from content, to commerce, to customer service, loyalty, influencing, etc.  As many departments may be involved on this journey, companies need to simplify their processes so that the e experience across touch points and teams is seamless to the customer. This was one of the elements CMOs highlighted as a driver for growth as it takes businesses closer to revenue but it is also a pain point for them – only 9% indicated they can deliver consistent experiences across online and offline channels.

The need to cultivate the 4 elements (market centricity, data-driven culture, talent and omnichannel capabilities) is only possible when marketing executives consider their purview as going beyond brand police to include strategy, data, end-to-end experience, organizational effectiveness and champion of growth. For Growth CMOs the elements above become must- haves and not nice-to-have.  It is essential for marketing executives to choose where to move the needle, consciously drive efforts where it matters and make success a reality for the customer, the business and the marketing organization they have.

For more information on the DNA of a Growth CMO study and the growth marketer initiative visit

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1 Comments to “Today’s CMO must expand their role.”

  1. Wilcutt says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this website needs much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!

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