News/ General Management

2013 Will Be 'The Year Of The Marketer': The CMO Council

by David Gardner
Contributing Writer

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It has been a wild ride for chief marketing officers since the recession depths of 2008, when many CMOs thought their jobs were in jeopardy. That’s ancient history now, according to the CMO Council’s latest annual "State of Marketing" audit, released Dec. 3.

CMO job security has risen so quickly since then that the CMO Council is now referring to 2013 “as the year of the marketer.”

“We see confidence among marketers growing,” said Liz Miller, the CMO Council’s vice president of operations and programs, in an interview. “We’re not just order takers anymore. The CMO [position] is the most complex role in business today.” For 50 percent of CMOs, digital marketing makeovers (including clicks, page views, site traffic, and search activity) have become a transformational agenda.

CMOs, said Miller, are gradually becoming strategic business planners and, as such, many are acquiring “a seat at the board” of their companies. Moreover, corporations generally understand and accept the changing and more important role of CMOs.”Marketers are now a seasoned group,” she said. “They are battle-tested.”

At the same time, the strategic responsibilities of marketers are shifting from a bottom-line focus to a more intensive focus on customers. A whopping 82 percent of polled CMOs said they “own” strategic planning and forecasting. Almost as many said they have primary responsibility for branding in their organizations.

The audit, which surveyed more than 550 heads of marketing, communications, and customer engagement throughout the world, found that 50 percent of marketers saw an increase in budgets in 2011, while 22 percent saw a reduction. A total of 24 percent experienced no change.

Not surprisingly, the CMO Council found that top management mandates for marketing are top-line revenue growth and market share gains; more than 80 percent of the surveyed marketers said they think those mandates are achievable. Top management remains the biggest influence in determining marketing strategies and spend allocation. Also important, according to the audit, are potential payback, ROI, and maturity of market or product line.

Where are marketing resources best-allocated, The CMO Council asked in its survey?

New product launches garnered the most resources, followed by corporate branding and identity building. Also high on the list of marketing resources was lead generation and qualification.

In spite of the generally rosy findings of the audit, CMOs still had complaints, the biggest being the eternal gripe of “insufficient budgets.” The survey also found that many CMOs are frustrated by their organizational cultures, which can undermine marketing success.

Miller said a new balance is beginning to emerge among CMOs, a balance “between being able to translate their brands and driving business decisions through analytics and data.” There is a new level of understanding growing in organizations of just how important customer centralization of marketing is. “They are putting customer data at the center of business decision-making,” she said.

CMOs are executing these new gains by improving their digital efforts, including in search, Web analytics, database management, and customer analytics. With just 18 percent of CMOs rating their digital marketing performance as excellent or good, there is a new drive by marketers to select digital marketing as their big new “transformational agenda.” Many are planning to hire new talent to address digital marketing needs--in particular, experts in social media, marketing analytics, strategic planning, search marketing, Web analytics, data management, and customer insight.

There was a discordant note in the audit, however: Most CMOs weren’t favorably disposed toward their agencies, with only 12 percent saying they believe their agency partners are “extremely valuable.” A total of 47 percent said their agencies are underperforming, not producing, or just average. With deficits in innovation and value-added thinking, the biggest concerns regarding agencies, nearly 60 percent of CMOs are expecting to make agency changes.

As expected, e-mail still remains the top solution CMOs look to–41 percent said so in the audit–but mobile applications are rapidly gaining in emphasis, with 33 percent listing mobile as a top solution to be addressed in the next year. Also singled out for priority was Web site performance optimization.

All in all, the lot of the CMO as 2013 approaches is a happy one. They are coming off of a year in which nearly 70 percent received a salary or bonus. They are expecting more of the same at the end of 2012. Globally, 77 percent of CMOs are earning a base salary of $100,000 to $349,000, and 42 percent are also looking forward to a bonus. And due to their enhanced role in organizations, many enjoy additional perks, like equity, stock options, and expense accounts.

“Looking back to 2008 when Lehman Brothers had collapsed and there was a grim economic picture, the confidence level among CMOs was very low,” Miller recalled. “Marketing was the first head on the chopping block in those days. Now marketing is the first line of defense.”