Customer-Obsessed CMOs Rise To the Top of the Enterprise

No one is closer to a customer’s path to purchase than the data-driven CMO. And that, in turn, has set the chief marketer on the path to the CEO’s office.

It would be hard to find an industry that has not felt the disruption of digital. Consumers and business customers alike expect more immediate, relevant and personalized experiences. As gatekeepers to the consumer data that fuels strategic insights, CMOs, in essence, serve as their voice.

Evolving With the Marketplace

In a recent poll, 35% of CMOs have set their sights on the top general management role, a dream that’s increasingly becoming a reality. Last year’s appointment of CMO Paul J. Hennessey to CEO of and McDonald’s promotion of Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook to the top spot are two recent examples of marketers-turned-CEOs, following similar moves at Mercedes-Benz, Citigroup and Campbell Soup.

The responsibilities of today’s marketers have grown from building brand awareness to creating transformative brand engagements — and that goes way beyond delivering marketing messages. Successful CMOs are breaking down organizational barriers, fostering collaboration and building an integrated customer data asset that can be used across the enterprise to deliver on a brand’s promise — and drive profitable business growth.

CMOs are partnering with CFOs to account for marketing investments. They are collaborating with CIOs to inform the technology, systems and processes needed to win, serve and retain customers. They are working with the heads of sales to increase the quality and speed of information. And they are reaching out to R&D leaders to innovate new offerings to meet ever-evolving customer needs and desires.

Leading Customer Centricity Across the Company

The versatility and influence of this next generation of CMOs brings a diversified skillset to the C-suite table: strategic vision, advanced analytical capabilities, operational skills and technology savvy, in addition to the superior communication skills that are the mainstay of marketing. By building stronger ties across the entire organization, CMOs have positioned themselves to be at the center of business transformation — and this is their stepping stone to the CEO chair.

For CMOs looking to rise to the top, here are three key considerations for doing so.

1. Own the customer experience.

CMOs must take ownership of the customer experience, including marketing technology decisions. They should build customer empathy across the organization.

2. Improve technology and data skills.

To lead a transformation of the customer experience, CMOs need to become proficient in big data analytics, CX tools and techniques, and marketing technology.

3. Make identity an enterprise-wide asset.

CMOs should promulgate the use of customer identity data throughout their companies, showing how it can benefit functions from product development to customer service.

Originally published January 12, 2017

Kathy Menis

Kathy is an expert in technology marketing, with 20 years of experience creating and leading strategic, results-driven marketing programs. She was formerly the CMO at Signal.

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