5 Healthy organisational habits for CMOs

Kathleen Schaub

Kathleen Schaub is the vice-president of IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice in the US.

IDC finds that buyers are evolving their purchase practices faster than vendors are changing their marketing practices. To keep up, the CMO role is quickly moving beyond its traditional boundaries.

As digital customer experience bursts long-established organisational silos and mashes up business processes, marketing executives must also adopt new leadership habits.

  1. Put business first and marketing second.

    CMOs sometimes think of themselves as the ‘the most senior marketer’ when they should identify as ‘the senior executive responsible for marketing’. It’s a subtle but telling distinction. Organisationally healthy CMOs speak the language of business to their peers rather than use marketing jargon. When it comes to budget, the CMO's job is not to defend marketing's turf, but rather to steward the resources under their domain to get the best results for the overall business. Companies need a strong marketing function more than ever before. However, it will take a CMO with a business focus combined with a solid marketing capability to best help their companies weather the digital transformation.

  2. Seek out innovative relationships.

    A CMO of a large software company recently told me, “Our CEO believes that because of customer data, soon it will be the CMO, not the CFO, who will have the pulse of the business”. This new-found insight and the more powerful seat at the table require new relationships. The CIO- CMO liaison, in particular, must be rethought. Some variations we've seen include the CIO reporting to the CMO or both the IT and marketing functions reporting to a chief customer officer or a chief innovation officer. Other CMOs have moved their office to sit beside the CIO in order to talk daily. Whatever organisational function that marketing finds itself bumping up against (such as sales, customer service, or manufacturing) is a place where an organisationally healthy CMO must lean in to a new type of relationship.

  3. Let things get out of control (a little).

    We're only, at best, 20 per cent into the transformation of marketing function. CMOs must retain a certain amount of humility about what we still don't know. Becoming buyer-centric, discovering new social norms for digital interaction, adapting to new business models driven by cloud, social, mobile and big data - these are big leaps, not incremental nudges. Many more people must be empowered to affect this level of change. Masses must alter their behaviour. Companies need to let things get a little out of control for a while so that innovation can happen. While it is important for marketers to become increasingly accountable and transparent, the CMO should design success metrics to accommodate some experimentation.

  4. Don't give away power away to sales.

    The CMO's vision horizon must not to stop at the marketing qualified Lead. A full revenue view is required. However, bowing to the demands of a traditionally-oriented sales executive will be lethal to the future of business. A tug of war between traditional marketing and traditional sales is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Traditional marketing and traditional sales will both be replaced by a radical new buyer-centric, data-driven, enterprise approach. For most companies this new way will be primarily digital and even human-to-human interactions will be optimised by digital tools. Every demand management consulting company I've talked to tells stories about clients who go through a challenging reinvention of the lead management process, only to slide backwards due to the fussing and outdated sales executive. A visionary sales executive will support the marketing transformation – even though it means less emphasis on traditional sales.

  5. Proactively bust silos.

    IDC predicts that by 2020, the predominant marketing organisational structure will concentrate around the three main hubs of digital marketing: Content, channels, and data. Today's CMOs find their organisations trapped in silos matching categories of media (advertising, events, Web, social, etc.), each with its own data/audience source and purpose-built content. These silos must be energetically disassembled and new ‘systems-oriented’ groups designed. Key concepts for tomorrow's marketing teams include diversity, collaboration, integration and multi-everything. To be successful, CMOs will need vision. They will also have to be pushy – a combination of enabling and persistent prodding.

    To keep pace with heightened customer expectations and new behaviors, CMOs must play a new game. CMOs will thrive if they develop new leadership habits geared for this era of tectonic organisational shifts.

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