Report: What will 2021 bring for CMOs?

2020 has been a wild ride and it’s not over yet. Next year uncertainty meets economic contraction, with unique challenges for marketing leaders, according to Forrester ’s 2021 predictions

Chief marketing officers will need to drive customer obsession within their firms, rather than simply guiding ad procurement and promotions, according to Forrester’s new 2021 predictions. This means marketing teams will need to put the customer at the center of everything they do, including leadership, strategy and operations. 

At the same time, the analyst firm noted traditional business models may be potentially subject to massive overhauls as new methods to create replacement revenue streams has become necessary in many cases. Forrester’s analysis has found the unprecedented events caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic this year have exposed the quagmire  developing for marketing leaders over the last five years. 

And next year promises to be another challenging  year with harsh economic conditions that threaten to overwhelm foundering marketing technology, systems and processes that have survived (way) too long behind a strong economy.

“Reinventing themselves, their teams and the marketing function will be the theme for successful CMOs in 2021,” Forrester stated. 

To thrive, CMOs will need to create new commercial and delivery models to keep their companies solvent. And as the Black Lives Matter protests have put diversity and inclusion in the spotlight, CMOs will need to embrace diversity to fuel creative ways to continually reacquire customers at every interaction. “And they will suit up with their teams, doing the hard work, not just overseeing it,” Forrester predicted.

According to Forrester, 2021 will be another year of reduced media expenditures, scanty teams, lean tech and agency partner networks, and continued vacancy of business in the travel and hospitality. It said difficult times will bring on the reckoning it predicted last year - that CMOs would step up to be the driver of customer obsession at their firms, or they will cede that role to a chief customer or experience officer.

"Outdated CMOs - those content to run promotions, sales support or media buying teams - won’t be able to hide their lightweight contributions behind the strong returns of a good economy,” Forrester said.

The analyst firm also had a number of other key pieces of advice for marketing leaders:

Hack the business model

It’s time to hack the business model, according to Forrester. The group noted pending established market systems to deliver customer value at higher margins became a thing in recent years.

“Consider the birth of Uber and Airbnb. Today businesses won’t last without supplementing delivery and revenue models to accommodate customers’ changed priorities,”Forrester stated. In responses, CMOs will need to innovate products, placement and pricing and prioritise these over promotions next year.

Foster diversity

Employees are the best demonstrations of brand, and since the world has no room for white-bread brands, good CMOs will nurture diverse teams that represent their values, according to Forrester.

“CMOs must craft belonging into their team culture. You don’t want good intentions stoking existing marketing stereotypes. Unfortunately, as marketing expert, Samuel Scott, describes ‘the small stuff’ is increasingly how marketing is viewed. Smart people build products and create financial models, dumb people make ads.”

Incorporate marketing and customer experience

Forrester also noted segregating acquisition from everything that happens after a prospect buys - product utilisation, customer service, retention, advocacy - was always a bad idea. “Now pandemic conditions make this disconnect perilous. Disjointed experiences cost millions and lose customers. Growth comes from continued use of your product,” it said.

To avoid this problem, CMOs need to acquire only customers they can keep. "Right now, we see media money is shifting into retention methods like email, customer service and creating products that help drive growth," Forrester continued. “And some companies, like Sprinklr, have created a chief experience and marketing officer (CXMO) to consistently delight customers wherever they are in their lifecycle with the brand.”

Do the dirty work

Gone is the good economy that disguised lazy marketing leadership behind growing sales or a strong agency. In 2021, superintending CMOs are out  - it's the ones who get things done that will stick around.

“Next year’s problems - developing contactless sales channels, reliable supply chains or facilities that accommodate health protocols and are on brand - are too high stakes to delegate,” Forrester added.

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