The Importance of Communicating the CMO Role to the C-suite

Remember Mad Men? Well, it’s time to forget it because CMOs no longer rely on “gut feelings” alone. Since data is more accessible and consumers are at the forefront of decision making, the role of CMO is more important than ever before. The CMOs’ understanding of consumer data and interpretation of analytics makes the Chief Marketing Officer one of the most vital members in the Chief Executive Suite.

Read Related - 5Qs for CMOs

CMOs are known for their ability to develop and nourish consumer relationships. Brands are now lead by the consumer’s preferences. A study conducted by IBM of over 2,000 CMOs showed that the CMO role is more customer centric. While data-driven marketing is important, it should be paired with empathetic marketing (fully understanding the needs of the consumer) and brand storytelling to form an authentic connection with the target audience. Marketers must develop trust with the consumer and flip the marketing mindset from selling products to offering solutions.

Liz Miller, the senior VP of marketing at the CMO Council, said that the CMO’s “new role requires a more expansive approach - finding opportunities to generate revenue, knowing their customers better, and delivering data and intelligence throughout the organization to properly reach, gauge, and reward customer loyalty.”

CMOs are powerless without an aligned organization. In several interviews by Egon Zehnder with C-suite leaders at global marketing-lead companies, CMOs expressed that they feel as if they have to “sell” their contribution to the company and, because their importance is not recognized, have trouble making strategic decisions. The combination of juggling multiple roles outside of the organization to keep up with consumer content and struggling to communicate their value to integrate themselves with the C-suite is why CMOs have the shortest tenure and stay in the job for 4.1 years (less than the average Chief Executive Officer).

CMOs are the “authority on customers” and act as the bridge between brands and consumers, so they need to be included in management processes. Studies show that companies perform better over the long-run when CMOs are integrated in high-level management decisions. Unfortunately, in a Deloitte survey of over 200 CMOs, only 37% of CMOs reported being “aligned with the line-of-business leaders” and 34% said they were aligned with the CFO.

According to agency partner, Modo Modo, ensuring visions between all parties are clearly articulated and adopting a "zero-based mentality" will align a brand's overall strategy. 

If the CFO or CEO does not see the value of the CMO, then it is the CMO’s duty to effectively express how their actions affect the brand’s profitability. The CMO has the responsibility to not only drive the marketing strategy and interpret consumer behavior, but their new role must include communicating marketing’s importance to the C-suite.


How is the importance of the CMO role articulated?

The Wall Street Journal advises the CMO to start with communication! Research by Marketo found that 68% of marketers think their company views the marketing department and efforts as a “cost center.” Typically marketing has a history of showing intangible results or “vanity” metrics. Marketers used to make decisions on a whim without tangible metrics to back up their marketing plan, but as technology advances, marketers can track customer journeys and behaviors.

Technology, measurable consumer data, and tools help marketers prove Return on Investment (ROI) to convince the financial skeptics that the CMO role is a revenue driver. CMOs need to clear up the “cost center” misunderstanding by briefly reporting numbers - total campaign conversion rates, generated leads, campaign ROI, and costs per acquisition - as “business metrics” as opposed to marketing metrics.

Alicia Hatch, the CMO of Deloitte, is the perfect example of a communicative CMO. She believes that, “The board [and] the CEO couldn’t care less about marketing metrics. We need to move beyond marketing metrics to business metrics because CMOs are now operating as growth drivers. They are looked to for top-line revenue.”   

Once backed by calculated research and speaking to the board in metrics they understand, there will be less time wasted and more time focusing on the bigger picture within the organization.