How and Why the Role of CMO Continues to Evolve

A man walking down a set of stairs, depicting the evolving role of CMO.

Analysis, Content Marketing

The definition of Chief Marketing Officer is constantly in flux—and accepting this is the first step toward getting the most value out of the position

Matt Duczeminski

December 16 2019

Forty-three months.

That’s the length of the average tenure among CMOs of major corporations, according to a 2019 study by SpencerStuart. It’s also the shortest average tenure length of any C-level executive across the board.

The role of CMO is ever-evolving. What often causes friction between CMOs and their teams is how they all approach this change. Since a CMO’s duties frequently change, it becomes difficult to anticipate what their roles will entail in the months and years to come. Acting CMOs may find themselves doing work beyond their scope—work they might find themselves unable to handle. Embracing and leveraging these challenges is where many organizations fall short.

In this article, we’ll look at the key roles and responsibilities CMOs often assume in their organizations today, why the modern CMO has assumed these responsibilities, how they’ve gone about doing so, and what it all means for the future of the position.

More from PostFunnel on the role of CMO:

The Modern CMO as Personified by These Famous TV Characters

5 Key Roles of the Modern CMO & and What They Mean for the Position’s Future

Recently, Deloitte published an article discussing the five roles of the CMO in the 21st century.

These roles include:

  • Growth Driver
  • Customer Champion
  • Chief Storyteller
  • Innovation Catalyst
  • Capability Builder

Let’s dig into each responsibility:

CMOs as Growth Drivers

Today, CMOs are tasked with having an “enterprise-wide mindset,” and providing evidence of how their initiatives will benefit the company as a whole.

This means doing more than just developing engaging marketing initiatives. An enterprise-wide mindset involves delivering insights and expertise that will enable the organization to better serve the customer and generate more profit. Because marketers can boil the effectiveness of their initiatives down to numbers, CMOs must also integrate analytics into their creative processes. They need to be able to point to specific, tangible reasons for going in a particular direction with their campaigns.

The problem is, while many CEOs expect their CMOs to undertake this enterprise-wide approach, they aren’t giving these individuals a seat at the table. As Deloitte’s findings show, only 6% of CMOs surveyed feel they genuinely have a say in company matters that don’t concern directly to marketing. If CEOs want their CMOs to take a more enterprise-wide approach to their position, they need to treat them as more than a cog in a much larger wheel. Only then will they reach their true value within their organization.

How to build your customer model

CMOs as Customer Champions

Marketing’s traditional goal was to attract customers and sell product, period.

Though modern CMOs are still tasked with generating engagement and getting their target customers to make a purchase, now, it’s more about providing customers value. Moreover, CMOs are also responsible for communicating the customers’ needs and expectations to their organization—allowing the team to further improve its offerings.

A few reasons this shift occurred:

The modern customer expects authenticity from the brands they do business with. Companies cannot provide pseudo-valuable experiences and still retain customers. CMOs must create opportunities for brands to authentically engage with and provide value to their customers. The modern consumer is also more knowledgeable and resourceful when it comes to researching brands. The modern CMO is then tasked with delivering content and information to the customer as needed—empowering them to make the purchasing decision that will benefit them most.

However, as a recent report from Forrester found, over half of the CMOs surveyed believe their organization fails to understand their customers’ actual needs and expectations. For the CMO’s customer-championing efforts to pay off, the entire company must embrace the idea that providing value to the customer is priority #1 – and this does not happen enough. Without this organization-wide buy-in, the CMO’s evolution within the company will stagnate and does the ability of the company to meet it’s customer’s expectations.

CMOs as Chief Storytellers

As we’ve discussed before on PostFunnel, the ability to weave a cohesive story is essential in marketing. This involves marketing content that lays out the customer’s path to success. In other words, painting your customers as the heroes of their own journey—and feating company as their trusty sidekick. Storytelling also involves telling your brand’s story and answering questions like:

  • What services does your company provide?
  • Who does your company serve?
  • What causes does your organization champion?

Storytelling is about answering the “why’s” that lie beneath the surface. The CMO is in charge of telling these stories. As Deloitte’s survey shows, more than 40% of responding CMOs say “brand-shaping” and “campaign-execution activities” are a crucial part of their assigned duties. Note that this is a far cry from the traditional approach of creating campaigns, firing them off, and rinsing and repeating. By today’s standards, CMOs must create a seamless narrative involving their customers.

The ultimate goal when storytelling is creating a narrative where your brand’s services play a vital role in your audience’s life—leading them to become loyal followers of your organization. At the same time, the CMO has to ensure that their efforts result in growth. The CMO has to tell the right story to the right audience, to attract the most valuable consumers now and throughout their lifecycles.

The onus is on the organization as a whole—specifically C-level execs— to not just empower the CMO to weave an engaging narrative, but to also internalize just how impactful their ability to tell this narrative is to the company’s bottom line.

CMOs as Capability Builders and Innovation Catalysts

The final two roles of the modern CMO go hand-in-hand.

As capability builders, CMOs are tasked with determining which resources, tools, and technologies will help achieve their goals. This involves reverse-engineering the entire process to identify gaps in the organization’s capabilities and addressing these gaps as necessary.

process to identify gaps in the organization’s capabilities and addressing these gaps as necessary.

In this regard, there are a few questions CMOs need to ponder on an ongoing basis, such as:

  • How is marketing and other technology evolving—and how can the organization take advantage of these tools and technologies as they emerge?
  • How is the consumer evolving? Does the organization have the capacity and capabilities to provide for them moving forward?
  • How is the company evolving proactively to ensure it’s able to cater to its future audiences? How is it changing to stay ahead of the competition? How can the organization be sure that the innovations made will pay off?

These are weighty questions that go well beyond the scope of the traditional marketing director. And that’s the point. The CMO of today and tomorrow should be one of the most integral parts of an organization.

Many organizations, however, resist the idea of the CMO playing an integral part of their operations. In such cases, the CMO’s efforts are hindered by this lack of buy-in—meaning they can’t perform the above tasks to the best of their ability.

Marketing will continue to evolve, whether any single organization decides to accept it or not. As new technologies emerge, and consumer behavior and expectations continue to fluctuate, the Chief Marketing Officer’s duties will also expand. Organizations must understand how to allow it the space it needs.

More insights on how the CMO role has evolved from Optimove’s yearly PostFunnel Summit:

Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

This article was originally published by our friends at PostFunnel.

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