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Chief Marketing Officer

CMO Leadership And Corporate Growth


CMO Leadership And Corporate Growth

The CMO’s job is simple — to strategically drive growth, right? As Lou Gerstner ex-IBM and American Express CEO once put it: the role of Marketing is to build the brand and deliver a great customer experience. But is it really that simple?

At the recent CMO Club Summit in San Francisco, I was part of a panel discussion with Joe Ennen, SVP Consumer Brands at Safeway and Scott Thurm, Management Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, titled “CMO’s as Leaders of the Corporate Growth Agenda.” Scott led off the discussion by reframing the topic, asking, “What are the barriers to CMO’s leading the corporate growth agenda?”

Barriers to CMO’s Leading the Corporate Growth Agenda

CEO/CMO Alignment – The best CMO is a CEO who believes in Marketing. The CMO’s ability to lead the corporate growth agenda starts with alignment with and support from the CEO. Not all business models and CMO’s are created equal. The role of Marketing in an organization can vary widely. And the CMO role can range from a narrow Marcom role all the way to something like a Chief Growth Officer. The CEO and CMO must be aligned on the role of Marketing in the organization for the CMO to effectively lead the growth agenda.

Growth Means More Than Marketing – The CMO has to think more broadly than Marketing. What are all of the potential growth drivers – Marketing or otherwise ? Companies such as Zappos.com have actually gone so far as to define a non-Marketing function like customer service as Marketing. A critical part of the CMO’s job is to understand the business model and all potential drivers-whether inside Marketing or not. This is becoming even more important as digital and social media blur the lines between Marketing, Public Affairs and Customer Service.

For example, a large, global financial services firm learned from Corporate Reputation research that being “open and transparent” was a key driver of reputation, and that reputation scores correlated  with “willingness to refer others” and other business growth metrics. This led the Marketing function to explore programs to communicate to stakeholders in more open and transparent ways.

Voice of the Customer – Another key barrier to the CMO driving the corporate growth agenda is customer neglect. The CMO needs to continually advocate for keeping the customer front and center. All CMO’s could learn from A.G. Lafley, ex CEO of Procter & Gamble, who continually reminded employees that “the consumer is boss.”

Customer satisfaction surveys not only measure satisfaction. They also measure the important factors contributing to satisfaction and quantify the relationship between those factors and satisfaction. Understanding these drivers enables Marketing to define areas outside Marketing that are central to driving growth.

For example, a large financial services firm learned that client contact frequency was an important satisfaction driver—more was better up to a threshold where satisfaction leveled off. Yet, the majority of client advisers were contacting clients well below the threshold. This led to a concentrated effort to improve contact frequency—and drive growth.

Connecting Customer Needs with Enterprise Assets – The CMO plays an important role in getting the organization to think about the entirety of the enterprise’s assets and capabilities. Connecting customer needs with assets from outside a business unit is a great way to drive growth—and one that organizational structure often stymies.

Example: Crest WhiteStrips. Consumers had an unmet need for whiter teeth, and paste formulations simply didn’t do the job. A smart R&D person connected this need with synthetic bleach technology from laundry and substrate technology from paper making to create—voila–Crest WhiteStrips.

Keys to CMO Success

CMO’s clearly have a tough job, with an average lifespan of just 28 months. Lou Gerstner’s formula for CMO success is a good starting point, but CMO’s need to go further. Building the  brand and delivering a great customer experience plus driving the corporate growth agenda can help CMO’s and their firms be more successful in the future.

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1 Comment

Elli Strauss on December 22nd, 2009 said

This is spot on! The role of CMO really is such a diverse, malleable one. Done properly, marketing is holistic, should touch on and does affect every area of a business, its brand and the relationship to its customers. I particularly like the example of integrating customer service as a marketing and branding function. Precisely what I did in my recent role as “virtual CMO” in a niche financial services firm. Differentiated the company from its competitors by building customer service, training the reps and motivating them to give their best in enhancing the company’s brand perception and thus building customer loyalty. Voila CRM.

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