The rhetorical question for many CMOs these days could be, “What doesn’t my CEO want from me?” The expectations for an organization’s chief marketer have increased exponentially in the past few years. “CEOs understandably have always held their CMOs to high standards,” said Bruce Goldberg, who served as CMO for the International Securities Exchange for the past decade, in an interview with CMO.com. “However, in this day and age, due to our recent global economic challenges, they demand even greater accountability.”
Marketing today is a delicate mix of art and science, but from the point of view of the corner office, the ultimate focus must always be the business. Unfortunately, some CMOs “focus too much on the creative itself, as opposed to what’s driving the business,” said Boston Consulting Group (BCG) partner Kate Sayre, in an interview with CMO.com.
“CEOs want a lot out of their CMOs—but the things they want may be different than what most CMOs think,” said email certification and security company Return Path CEO Matt Blumberg in an interview with CMO.com. “CEOs expect their CMOs to run a P&L [not just a cost budget], set priorities and make trade-offs, orchestrate marketing subdisciplines, and be great business partners to the rest of the organization. CEOs want CMOs who can move seamlessly between being proactive and setting strategy and being appropriately reactive.”
It’s a tall order—sometimes too tall. CEOs want it all—and they want it all yesterday. So pleasing the boss can be a matter of skillful expectation-setting. “It’s the job of the CMO to provide the CEO with a reasonable balance between what’s aspirational and what’s doable,” said Jonathan Copulsky, principal and senior adviser to sales and marketing executives at Deloitte Consulting, in an interview with CMO.com.
Marketing today is “the land of a thousand niches,” Blumberg said. And while CEOs don’t expect their marketing number-ones to master them all, there are 10 parts their ideal CMO will play in the organization.
1. A Focused Financial Steward
“CEOs don’t want to hear about how big a budget or staff a CMO ‘needs’ in order to get the job done,” said Blumberg, a former marketing executive at Moviefone. All the big boss wants to hear are three magic words: return on investment.
Soft benefits are no longer sufficient; financial discipline is a must. “Marketing fights an endless battle for investment with lines of business that question the actual value of the marketing spend,” said Steve Muran, director of management consultancy ARRYVE, in an interview with CMO.com, pointing to a plethora of new budget line items in data analytics, social media, and mobile marketing. “CMOs that can justify the expense by demonstrating how technology delivers on success metrics like acquisition, retention, and cross-selling can increase their chances for success.”
CMOs will never show a positive return for every marketing dollar. “But ROI can be derived, with help from a good CFO or analyst, for probably three-quarters of most marketing spend,” Blumberg said. “Presenting ROI clearly as a well-trained analyst would is critical.” Long term, successful marketing executive will develop financial analysis and reporting acumen in-house, said ARRYVE director Brian Peter, in an interview with CMO.com.
2. A Consistent Innovator
CEOs want ideas—with a capital ‘I”—from marketing. Not the tinkering-around-in-an-ivory-tower type of innovation, but the kind that pumps up the top line. “There a whole trend around driving innovation to fuel growth—expanding the brand to adjacent categories, strategic partnerships, and new marketing strategies and tools,” said Andrew Hayes, a CEO and CMO recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates, in an interview with CMO.com.
The good news is that out-of-the-box experimentation is easier than in the past. “The beauty of marketing is that ideas can be tested, improved upon, and discarded or expanded if warranted,” said International Securities Exchange’s Goldberg, who previously held marketing positions at Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, and Pizza Hut. “With the advent of Web 2.0 a half-dozen years ago, the tools exist for constant testing and measurement.”
Next: Knowing what the customers want—before they do.
3. A Customer Whisperer
Customer centricity is now a top corporate agenda item. CEOs want to know what customers want—even before customers know what they want. And guess who they expect to have that answer.
That is the case for Erasmo Schutzer, CMO and vice president of global marketing Owens-Illinois (O-I), a $6.6 billion-dollar glass container manufacturer. The food and beverage industry represents a $380 billion opportunity for the company, and Schutzer took the lead in shaping customer demand for glass. “My CEO has challenged me to create a more aggressive, highly strategic, integrated marketing road map to show companies around the world how glass packaging can help shape and build their brands,” Schutzer told CMO.com. “Being deliberate and strategic about your customer is more important than ever. You have to be in a position to bring your customers exactly what they need before they even know they need it.” Schutzer conducted research into consumers’ container choices and launched the company’s first-ever global campaign to capitalize on the preferences that end customers of O-I customers, like Coca-Cola and Pelegrino, have for glass for health and environmental reasons.
4. A Dedicated Brand Steward
The chief executive expects his chief marketing officer to be the keeper of the corporate reputation. “[CMOs] are the prime movers of their brands’ perception,” Goldberg said. “They are the custodians of their brand in all areas and among how all constituencies—customers, employees, the media, regulators—view their company.”
Corporate leaders struggle to balance investments that will build brand strength over time and investments that will produce immediate results. The CEO has a bias toward the latter, while great marketers know the best brands are built “one brick at a time, over and over again,” Deloitte Deloitte’s Copulsky said. “Sometimes there’s a pressure to immediately change things that don’t bring instant results, but constant change is the enemy of brand-building.” CMOs should apply their marketing chops internally to sell their CEOs on the measurable value of reputation consistency, while delivering some short-term results to keep the C-suite satiated.
5. A Social Media Maven
“We need a Facebook strategy!” or “Where are we on Twitter?” could, indeed, be the extent of some CEOs’ understanding of social media marketing opportunities. “They don’t know what they want,” Russell Reynolds’ Hayes said. “But they do know it’s something absolutely integral to the future of business. And they know their CMO better have figured out what to do and how to do it.”
It’s an education process, BCG’s Sayre said. “There has been a rush to adopt a lot of new channels and a fair amount of ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ [thinking],” she said. But smart CMOs will take a step back to look at the social media big picture to figure out what roles such new media opportunities and challenges will play in the overall marketing strategy. “There’s value in being thoughtful,” said Sayre, because although investments in social media aren’t “dollar-intensive, they are resource-intensive.”
The goal is to minimize the cost of failure. “You want to do things that fail cheaply and fail quickly. Start out with small experiments and do lots of them to figure out what really works,” Sayre said. “The bias should be toward trial and experimentation, which can be a big cultural change for a lot of companies.”
6. A Business Strategist
When a CEO hires a CMO, he’s not just looking for someone to manage the marketing department. He wants a real “seat-at-the-table” business partner. “If the CMO has grown up in the marketing department alone, they may not be ready to handle the strategic business issues that they are being asked to consider,” said David Cooperstein, Forrester Research vice president and leader of its CMO practice, in an interview with CMO.com. “CMOs need to invest their time in understanding the other departments they interact with [and] act like a companywide leader. People who are too focused on the effort to market and point their energy on new logos and campaigns are not the long-term CMOs that CEOs need today.”
Savvy CMOs delegate critical operational tasks to direct reports to free themselves up to contribute at the C-level. “More and more, we’re seeing clients look to CMOs to be thought leaders for the corporation, providing a broad-based commercial perspective on the business as opposed to narrow brand-building mind-set,” Hayes said.
Next: An applicable military analogy.
7. A Capable Crisis Manager
In the military, they call it “signal detection”—differentiating between noise and intelligence to determine when the you-know-what is about to hit the fan. It’s a skill the modern CMO must master, said Copulsky, author of Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High Speed World.
“Every CMO I talk to is hypersensitive to these issues and feels under the gun to do things about them,” Copulsky said. The challenge is the speed at which such information accumulates and the nascent nature of the technology available to interpret it. But CMOs can’t wait on the sidelines for the market to mature.
As important as embracing new tools to detect the tremors that precede brand earthquakes are tested emergency response plans. CMOs need to develop clear policies about what to do and what not do when an issue arises. Copulsky, who has worked with consumer packaged goods companies handling food recalls, advises CMOs to conduct fire drills to test marketing disaster recovery plans.
8. A Data Analyst
“Gone are the [CMO] days of, ‘Trust me, this is going to work,’” Hayes said. CEOs want concrete, understandable marketing metrics and fact-based decision-making. In the area of analytics, “CEOs are always looking for more than CMOs are able to provide,” he said. “A lot of activities are difficult to measure, and CMOs always running to catch up and satisfy that demand for data and analytics.”
To keep up, marketing leaders must recruit and retain forward-thinking analytics experts and partner with the information technology group on customer data strategies.
9. A Customer Advocate
Most CEOs are sold on the importance of being customer-centric. But in the heat of business, the customer point-of-view can be quickly brushed aside in lieu of cost-cutting, shareholder value, or regulatory compliance. The CEO needs the CMO to be the voice of the customer in the executive suite, Forrester’s Cooperstein said, “providing a filter for the rest of the executive team on not only how the brand is performing, but also what innovations, cultural discussions, and new technologies or strategies are on the horizon and how they could impact the business.”
10. A Motivator-in-Chief
In today’s hyperconnected world, a company is not just made up of thousands of employees—it’s comprised of scores of potential marketers. Problem is, they’re not all that good at it. CEOs want CMOs “who can set a vision, but also inspire, align, and motivate troops,” Hayes said. “And not just in the marketing organization, but the larger organization.” Hayes points to companies like Coca-Cola that are looking for ways to anoint all employees brand ambassadors, whether they work in a bottling plant or finance.
Most companies provide little effective brand training for employees, Copulsky said. The goal should be to enable employees to behave in a “brand-consistent” way at all times, as if the CEO were peeking over their shoulders. The worst way to accomplish that is to drag everyone to an auditorium and deliver a marketing lecture. Rather, CMOs should create programs that are interactive and situational so employees learn how to apply brand awareness to their roles, Copulsky said.