CMOs: Align Yourself to the C-suite

Is Marketing considered a a Corporate Performance Contributor? From conversations I’m having around the Valley, I’ve come to realize that marketing and its relevancy to the C-Suite is (in cleaned up language) not-so-good.
Marketing is no longer considered contributing to the corporate performance of a company; not in any strategic kind of way. It hurts to think of this profession that I value, I respect and I know can be a key driver of growth as well as bottom line profits has come to this. It can be turned around, and it should but to get there from here, is going to take a revolution of sorts.
Instead of Marketing (the big M kind) being a strategic thrust with a clear charter, marketing within a company has become much like the children’s game of telephone. In this case, knowledge regarding customer needs is diluted on its way from idea to product or service. Organizations are not tapping the power of their customers—and what knowledge they do have keeps leaking during the process. Decisions that drive fundamental profitability and competitiveness are distorted by this game. The inefficiencies in the traditional marketing process show up in many ways. One of the most insidious is that downstream groups don’t trust the information and insights gathered by upstream groups. In severe cases, they may not even understand or receive such data. As a result, research is repeated and insights are lost. Companies incur higher costs from duplicated effort, yet operate on fewer real insights. Ugggh, it’s a mess.
If Marketing continues on its current vein, then it’s quite possible it’s not appropriate to have it belong to the C-Suite. It could be that Marketing will become a function of Sales, just creating a services organizational aligned to drive revenue activities. Or it could be that marketing will move towards a business unit operations to make sure the business unit goals are arrived which include brand positioning as well as sales activities and perhaps some product PR thrown in.
But if the CMO role is going to become a contributor to the bottom line, a fundamental shift of things must be done. What are those things?
I am going to assume for a minute there is significant untapped value in this c-level role, and look at what can be done. With a focus on what must CEOs and CMOs do to make the role relevant, and a contributor to the bottom-line.
3 things that could cause the necessary turnaround of this role, and my thoughts for what “the answers” are.
1. Framework. We collectively need to redefine the architecture for the role and specifically define what is its role in the company.
2. Connecting the Pieces. What are the interdisciplinary pieces that form the value chain and what can be done to connect it.
3. Create ownership of something. If CIOs own the infrastructure support, CFOs own the overall bottom line, Sales owns the topline, CEOs own the vision thing, what does the CMO own? I have a proposition for it.
FRAMEWORK: The role.
First, we need to establish a framework for what the role is. Is it as some companies define the role of marcom service, or in other places the lead PR role, or is it the customer voice into the company. In other words, marketing can be a combination of product management, product marketing, field marketing and brand and it’ the only place in a company where a functional thing is cut up into pieces and then spread throughout the organization. It’s almost as if we’re afraid of what would happen if all the pieces were to stay together. With out a common defined job description and clarity of what is in or out of that bucket, the success criteria can never be developed nor can we achieve new levels of achievement.
I’m going to suggest that the CMOs role is much like the role of a quarterback of the football team. They should have the process skills to know what the company needs and how it works enough to navigate the natural market evolutions the company needs to go through. 2nd they need to know the product; what it is, what it could be so they can figure out how to provide the full range of marketing onto that story whether it be personality marketing, market and competitive positioning, value proposition communication, etc. 3rd they need to know the market and the latent customer desires so they can help “guess” what is going to be next and what the company needs to be considering for the next phases of evolution. And what a mix that would be: market, process and product savvy. Marketers, at least the best ones, tend to actually have that mix but have been somehow focused ot be incredibly process centered. That’s why I see this big “ROI” focus in every CMO council group that exists. ROI is what you focus on when the CEO has no confidence that you’re contributing enough to the bottom line. It’s a decoy that is distracting the marketing leadership from playing the role they need to play which is to bring together the interdisciplinary aspects of the business views much like a quarterback does to a football team – and thus creates a winning formula that leverages all parts of the organization.
Value Connection: the need to connect the pieces.
The interdependent groups of product marketing, product management, field marketing and brand are part and parcel of the different ways a product is both created and sent into the market. Using the football analogy again, these interdependent groups play with each other and for the company; they are one team even though the skirmishes on the field may not look like that. These roles comprise the key set of knowledge-based activities that connect customer needs and knowledge back into the company. They are the biggest source of un-optimized activity in most firms.
Therefore, we need to create a marketing value chain much like supply chain management. Unite tactical parts of the company that are disconnected, we need to unite the pieces into a strategic and cost-saving initiative. Related to this, we need to address the knowledge efficiency of marketing: product management, product marketing, field marketing and brand management.
Finally, use marketing value chain management to control the entire marketing chain, from product requirements to product marketing right through to sales and customer care. Just as supply chain management addressed specific, measurable goals, marketing value chain management has three primary goals:
1. Increase competitiveness by increasing the relevancy of the solution (this can be both near-term and far-reaching).
2. Increase sales by being better positioned and understood
3. Increase gross margins by lowering the amount spent on messaging, research and headcount
Ownership: own something.
The revolution is waiting for CMOs with vision and leadership ability – but in order for them to have a relevant seat at the table, they’ve got to own something. Something tough. Just like sales owns a number, and the CEO owns the vision, the CMO has to own a piece of the major pie on something as important and perhaps as intangible.
And if I search under the many things that are published and discussed in the starbucks remote offices, I can see that CMOs today own very little or at best, own pieces of a total solution. They might own a qualified leads # in support of enterprise sales, or a particular rate of return on marketing spend. But is that owning enough to qualify for a seat at the table.

By owning something, there’s got to be more at play. More intuition and less process. More skill and less detail. And it’s gotta matter.

And so here I go with a crazy idea. I’m going to propose that the Chief Marketing Officer (in the role I’ve defined above) is going to fundamentally become a contributor when they own the customer. They need to own everything that makes that customer experience. Everything. They need to have services repot to them because they need to be accountable when the promise isn’t kept. They need to own the product management requirements in case what is built isn’t right. And then they need to own what is used to communicate to and with the customer so that total picture of “what they need” to “what we say” and including “our interactions with them” is about the CMO. The CMO needs to become that crucial to the business. Because without it, there’s someone not represented at the C-Suite and that’s the customer. Currently they are owned by everybody and thus nobody. How about we make someone really good at owning the customer and then make them create the inside game to run the field and score a touchdown on behalf of a customer.
That’s a role worthy of the C-Suite. But it’ll take a revolution to get from here to there. I look forward to being a part of it.

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