4 chief growth officers on what makes them tick

Hot on the heels of CMO's investigation into the rise of the chief growth officer and its potential to replace the marketing chief, we speak to 4 CGOs about what their roles entail and what it takes to embrace the job


It’s arguably the hottest new c-level job title many CMOs always wanted to have and are actually perfect for: Chief growth officer.

Last week, CMO took a deep dive into the rise of the chief growth officer and what it means for marketing leadership. The impetus was a series of hires globally by FMCG brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Mars Wrigley and Coca-Cola, all replacing the traditional CMO moniker with a freshly repackaged ‘growth’ remit.

As we reached out to gauge insight into the appetite for such a job change locally, who better to ask than people already holding the job title.

So here, chief growth leaders from LGIAsuper, WiseTech, Wavemaker and Soldier.ly all share the very different professional journeys leading to their current roles, and what they think it says about marketing leadership.

Bridging the responsibility/accountability disconnect

LGIAsuper’s Andrea Peters has held her role for 10 months and is the first chief growth officer appointed by the superannuation firm. Her background is in data analytics, marketing and product, most recently as head of banking products for Credit Union Australia.  

For Peters, the rise of chief growth officers is reflective of the disconnect existing between expectations of the CMO function, and the reality.

“It depends on maturity, company size and industry, but there is a consistent challenge in organisations between what areas are responsible for, versus what they are accountable for,” she says.  “I’ve seen that as a struggle in other companies I’ve worked for. My role now combines the two and brings responsibility with accountability.”  

Rather than a new buzzword, Peters believes a chief growth officer allows leaders to have both accountability and responsibility in one.

“My experience in other companies is when you’re running product functions siloed from marketing, you are held accountable for P&L but you don’t have the ability pull all the levers. It’s equally frustrating for marketers, who are responsible for driving awareness and volumes but are not held accountable for the end result. Then there’s a mismatch on who has the budget.

“We need to grow this company. The discussion we had when I came on-board was that this role is about enabling the person leading growth to have the full ability to manage the accountability and responsibility.”  

Peters’ overarching remit at LGIAsuper is to ensure the company achieves its growth KPIs. “Most companies need to grow, and there are always the two channels of acquisition and retention. These are prevalent and consistent in product, marketing, digital, and data and analytics,” she says.

In Peters’ case, she’s responsible for marketing, sales and customer service functions. She notes product is less a lever in growing a superannuation firm as it would be in sectors like banking or telecommunications, where inclusion of product could be more vital to a growth office’s impact.  

A typical day includes working with heads of marketing and sales, using member experience as a unifier.

“It’s about ensuring we have consistency across the three divisions internally and KPI alignment. It’s the tactics and operational stuff delivering to it,” Peters says. “Then it’s also the cross-functional piece, working with the investments and digital teams. Those cross-functional relationships are about driving towards the same outcome.”  

There are also external partnerships to manage, and Peters cites significant ongoing work across the sector and marketplace externally. In coming into the role, Peter’s big priority was “figuring out how LGIAsuper could grow”.

“It was identifying where we are spending time and money on versus where we needed to. It was realigning strategy, and looking at marketing specifically, thinking more innovatively,” she says.

For LGIAsuper, this means moving away from more ‘pure’ marketing channels, and less above-the-line activity, and investing more into member experiences, personalisation and segmentation. To help, LGIAsuper is ramping up CRM across sales and marketing modules. There’s an overarching focus on providing frictionless experiences to members.

What’s more, the team is working to harness different types of segmentation, such as attitudinal and behavioural, to understand what types best drive growth.

“As a smaller player, we have to pick and choose where to spend our time, effort and money. We needed to determine our key areas of focus, then align that with the sales division,” Peters says. “Sometimes companies confuse segmentation with KPIs and awareness. The three become interrelated and aren’t driving that growth benefit. So we’re focused on key segments and areas we can deliver growth from, not just driving awareness or understanding behaviours.”

In addition to the retention and acquisition dichotomy, Peters says new member growth is very relevant in the superannuation market right now thanks Australia’s recent regulatory changes.

“So we’re also focused on acquisitions but with a segmented approach as we don’t have budget to go mass market. Every dollar we do spend needs to wind itself back to members so we’re able to grow sustainably,” she says.  

And while retaining separate marketing and sales functions, Peters has restructured in order to better align the two, as well as to shift focus to growing KPIs.

So can any CMO become a chief growth officer? For Peters, it depends on experience.

“Those coming from an agency background would struggle to go into an area like this. But those who’ve done more client-side marketing, and in particular, below-the-line and more targeted and digital marketing, plus who understand metrics and how those deliver to the bottom line, would do very well in these functions,” she says.

At LGIAsuper, this is because metrics have changed from emphasis on brand awareness or top of the funnel to more bottom of the funnel.

“This is where product and marketing in other industries can overlap as they’re both looking to the same metrics. And it’s great if you can get that alignment organically,” Peters comments. “But sometimes it needs to be brought into one division.

“My experience in other industries and companies is these are not aligned, and it’s a disservice to both marketing and product.”

Peters believes we will see more chief growth officers coming into being.

“The way companies are evaluating how they will hit their KPIs is changing. Companies are shifting in the direction of aligning responsibility with accountability,” she adds.  

Up next: 3 more chief growth officers share what it takes to hold the job

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