State of the CMO 2022: Customer acquisition and growth dominate marketing leadership priority list

CMO's sixth annual State of the CMO research shows CMOs are in a stronger executive position than ever. But shrinking tenure, martech integration and data skills shortage present key challenges

Customer acquisition and growth are the name of the game for Australian marketing leaders this year. And CMOs are looking to utilise their stronger strategic executive standing, bigger marketing budgets, ever-expanding in-house capabilities and brand work to achieve such ambitions.

These are just a few top-line insights to come out of this year’s State of the CMO, our annual industry research initiative aimed at gauging how Australian marketing leadership is evolving both in terms of functional role as well as contribution to business.

To do this, CMO’s sixth annual report looked into key aspects of the CMO position and marketing function, encompassing the professional standing of the modern marketing leader, their technology procurement and influence, responsibilities and remit, extent of influence as digital and customer custodians within their organisations, skills, priorities and more.

One key question CMO sought to answer through this year’s State of the CMO research was whether marketing leaders are coming out of the pandemic in a better executive position than they entered it. Results indicate a firm yes on this front.

According to this year’s findings, the ratio of respondents who perceive marketing to be a business leader has increased 9 per cent year-on-year and is up 4 per cent on 2020 results inputted as the pandemic had just begun. Not one marketing leader to this year’s survey believed their function is seen a cost centre.

Several other findings support the hypothesis marketers are in a better position than they have been in for years. Since the onset of Covid, for example, respondents report their role as the voice of the customer at the leadership table has risen, climbing from 20 per cent in 2021 to 27 per cent year-on-year. Customer experience ownership is also firmly in the hands of marketers, with 72 per cent of respondents citing either joint or sole ownership of CX in their organisations today.

What’s more, marketing budgets are up. Three in four cited bigger budgets year-on-year, and two-thirds of respondents told us they have bigger marketing budgets than pre-Covid.

Recalibration to growth

The reset to a growth mindset across Australian organisations shone through this year’s State of the CMO results. For one, respondents demonstrated higher use of growth metrics. More than four in 10 (41 per cent) also said leading growth initiatives was a key priority for them, as set by the CEO, in 2022.

And the levers for growth? Customer acquisition. Just over four in 10 CMOs cited enabling a new plan for customer acquisition as a CEO-level priority this year (41 per cent), and 76 per cent said acquiring new customers versus retaining customers is their dominant growth strategy in 2022. This was up from 48 per cent in 2021.

Yet challenges around data utilisation and skillsets, as well as marketing technology orchestration – both key capabilities in executing effectively – present hefty stumbling blocks. On the one hand, maturity in technology across the marketing function, as well as the impact of digital acceleration over the past couple of years, was evident in this year’s State of the CMO.

CMOs can certainly buy the tools they need, and the majority of Australian CMOs have sole or shared purchasing power to do it. So when asked about top challenges in adopting and using new tech tools, budgets and financial constraints are much less of an issue for CMOs. It’s also worth noting more than half of State of the CMO respondents have digital strategy, operations and commerce as part of their functional remit.

The challenge now is integrating and implementing such tools well: Those CMOs citing this as a challenge increased 15 per cent year-on-year. In addition, 27 per cent of marketing chiefs said the biggest challenger functionally to their success is the IT/tech function. That’s up 2 per cent year-on-year.

Then there’s the data skills gap. Over half of State of the CMO respondents cite a skills shortage around data, analytics and science right now, even as 42 per cent told us they’ve invested in these skillsets in-house over the past year.

Another potential inhibitor is CMO tenure. This year’s figures show a sizeable decline in average tenure across respondents, from 3 years 2 months in 2021 to 2 years 5 months in 2022. But with cross-functional collaboration and influence such a critical part of the CMO role, and the ability to bring together organisation-wide data and capability vital to orchestrating impactful and meaningful marketing and CX programs, having time to build trust and standing in an organisation is crucial to success.

The full State of the CMO 2022 report is now available to download from the CMO website here.

First launched in 2017, State of the CMO provides a valuable benchmark on what it means to be a CMO in today’s market and how the role continues to transform and expand.

The 2022 report is based on an online survey, undertaken between May – May 2022. This year, 36 per cent of respondents stated their job title specifically as either ‘chief marketing officer’ or ‘chief marketing and customer officer’. A further 30 per cent identified as ‘VP/general manager / executive manager / head of marketing’ or ‘GM/head of marketing and customer’, and 21 per cent as ‘director of marketing’. Other job titles include chief or executive of customer, brand, commercial, digital and growth leadership, marketing and communications management.

Resondents are an equal split of primarily B2C, B2B and joint B2B and B2C businesses across multiple industry sectors.

You can also find a recording of our recent State of the CMO 2022 webinar, presenting highlight findings from the research + a panel discussion of key areas of focus with local and global marketing chiefs, here.

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