Marketers are playing in an uncertain field.
We have seen tremendous change in consumers’ behavior in the past 10 to 20 years brought about by rapid technological advancement. The Internet has played a disruptive role in diversifying market segments and transforming the way businesses interact with their audiences.
Consumers now hardly listen to the advice of in-store sales personnel—they have conducted their research online and learned about the differences in features of competing products. They immediately recognize a better deal from a good one after browsing a host of online sites offering the same piece. Many are skilled at prying on special promotions that are offered exclusively online.
There are simply too many new elements that marketers should take into consideration in order to thrive in this period of the digital age.
Good News: The CMO is keeping up
If in the old days the customer funnel was clearly defined and largely predictable, tried-and-tested marketing strategies implemented, and conventional channels exploited, the present-day marketing battle field is anything but a ground of the steady and familiar. But the good news is—our dear old Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is not lagging behind.
CMOs were accustomed to following the known customer funnel, which today largely no longer exists, but now they recognize that the digital platform is wobbly and volatile and that it can change any time. Like a plane of interconnected puzzle boards, the pieces move around real-time and the customer could be thrown off into too many directions, away and towards their business goal, depending on which puzzle piece the customer hops onto next.
What the CMOs do now is ensure that they track where the pieces might go and are ready to pull in the customer closer to conversion. Marketers no longer just create demands; they also see to it that those demands are fulfilled.
There is no time for the slowly-but-surely planning of campaigns. Everything is fast-paced. The strategies decided on last year or even last quarter may well be outdated today. Have you seen what’s been trending lately? The key is online presence—to be always visible and felt where your customers are. Campaigns are executed on the fly. CMOs are constantly on their feet in trying to the deliver their message in consumable chunks to their customers. Of course, always with the goal of taking the customers to the very end of the buying cycle.
Marketers run social media programs and activities where customers can directly send feedback and ask questions. The task of overseeing the conversations that occur in this channel also falls within the turf of our CMOs. Marketers no longer just send messages and calls-to-action; now they also have to act and serve the customers.
The CMO’s responsibility has evolved from merely strategizing for campaigns that would generate the most number of leads to actually getting those leads closed. The CMO has taken on part of the role typically assumed by his counterpart in sales and actively participates in revenue generation. Likewise,
the role of the CMO has crossed over the domain of customer service and customer experience where the CMO has the duty to respond to customers’ needs when they’re asked.
The CMO finds a way around challenges
When confusion arises as to which channel, among the wide array of options of varying qualities and levels of complexity, the marketer should ultimately choose, the rule that the customer is always first still takes primacy. The question really is not about the channel—it’s about what matters to the customer. The CMO asks instead: What content does the customer want? How does the customer want it delivered? Then, the channel comes next.
Understanding the current marketing sphere and its increasingly digital customers, the CMO finds the right partners who can provide the technology that will allow them to collect relevant consumer information and those who can turn this data into actionable intelligence. The CMO understands the importance of leveraging technology and analytics in the digital arena.
When everything is fast-paced and nothing stays the same, how is the CMO ever going to master the game? Right, it is a game. And the CMO seeks to understand the game customers play and learn the rules that govern it. The CMO organizes the marketing team and its processes in such a way that there are players with the right skill sets to match each move the customers makes.
The next challenge is the rules always change—and with no surprise, technology is the driver. The CMO overcomes this hurdle by practicing continuous improvement. The risk presented by constant change is met with a relentless striving to improve. The CMO remains open and prepared for change.
The CMO is a strategist that drives revenue
CEOs delegate strategic planning and execution to an executive typically called the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO). CSOs are organization leaders with a proven track record of achieving results and driving positive change in the business. They are recognized for the capacity to handle multiple demanding projects simultaneously. They are valued for their ability to make quick and effective decisions in critical situations. They make things happen. And the CEOs trust them.
Harvard Business Review has identified “three critical tasks” CSOs are charged with. These tasks define strategy execution itself and summarize the role of the CSO.
CSOs must engender commitment to clear strategic plans. They must evoke real understanding of strategic plans among stakeholders and employees alike and solicit commitment to make things happen. The role of each function and its relationship to the strategic goals are clarified and members of the organization work toward achieving the set goals.
CSOs must drive immediate change. They must move from vision to actual change. This entails educating stakeholders, achieving buy-in, empowering people, and effecting lasting change. Change generally impacts people, processes, and decisions in an organization.
CSOs must drive decision making that sustains organizational change. When things change fast, decisions have to be made as quickly. CSOs must communicate goals properly and ensure that they are observed when planning for concrete actions. As needed, CSOs must re-strategize and change direction when things turn out differently. At every crossroad, a decision has to be
made. And change management and strong decision making skills are vital to this task.
The CMO could be seen as the CSO of marketing and sales, with focus on sales enablement and revenue generation.
CRO is the new CMO
The CMO functions in the capacity of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) when the CMO takes an active role in revenue generation and strategy. The CRO is a sales and marketing leader who can promote lasting growth and sustain scalable revenue generation.
The CRO of a tech company in Silicon Valley describes the role of the CRO.
CROs still have to go and get customers. It’s not all planning and thinking for the CRO. CROs are still expected to “close deals and build lasting and profitable customer relationships.” Spread across different functions in the business as they might be, CROs are primarily responsible for driving the top line growth.
CROs are competently multifunctional. They are in charge of sales strategies, marketing and demand generation, and customer acquisition and retention. But not only that, CROs also get involved in product development, operations, finance, business development, and people operations—because they know the customers and they are responsible for driving revenue performance.
CROs align strategies with revenue performance goals. CROs have a hand over sales. They manage marketing programs. And they oversee customer experience. CROs ensure that strategies adopted in these key areas always support top line growth.
CROs are data savvy. They are keen on analysis and make data-driven decisions. CROs know what to do with intelligence reports they receive and understand what they mean for the company. Ultimately, CROs use insights obtained from available data to drive revenue growth.
Given the evolving role of CMOs and their expanded capacity as CROs, CEOs also have the responsibility to support their initiatives and play an active role in ensuring that larger business goals are achieved. The CEOs can greatly help their CROs attain success by empowering them and getting involved in what they do.
CEOs could develop an interest in understanding customer experience as well as the technology, channels, segmentation approaches, and consumer behavior studies that are relevant to it. CEOs are in the position to back the CROs’ projects and develop the right internal connections for the CROs to see their visions through completion. They could promote impactful relationships between CROs and the other key leaders of their organization. Finally, CEOs are a major driver in effecting revolutionary change in the business. When the goal is as big as transforming the entire organization and modeling it around optimum revenue performance, the CEOs undoubtedly holds the most important lever.
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