Today, we chief marketing officers have the choice to grow ourselves, our teams, and our businesses. There’s a window of opportunity for CMOs to step up and out beyond our so-called limitations and our own comfort zones. It’s time for CMOs to become CGOs—chief growth officers. Will you act? I, for one, am going for it.
Are You Leading A Service Organization Or A Growth Organization?
It used to be fairly common that executive leadership—perhaps more so in B2B—thought of marketers as “those creative types” who “did their magic” in some sort of “black box.” Products were thrown over the wall and campaigns appeared out the other end. Marketing was a reactive service organization that evolved into a more strategic, brand-driven group.
It’s time to up our game. Market dynamics present an unprecedented opportunity for CMOs to take the lead and influence all areas of the business that touch the customer. To do so, marketing must become a proactive, serious, and multidisciplined organization focused on business growth.
Window Of Opportunity
The customer is at the helm as in no other time. Change is a constant. The Internet and social media have broken down barriers between company decision makers and customers. We have better tools than ever before to learn directly from our markets, and corporate ivory towers have effectively been dismantled. We’re all in the arena now. But who’ll take the lead?
Marketers, that’s who. Great marketers have been customer advocates for years, calling for change to meet market needs. So who better to lead through change? That’s right—you, me, your team, we’re all perfectly positioned to grow our companies in ways we’ve never done before.
Becoming A Proactive, Multicisciplined Organization
Marketing can become a broad discipline that influences every aspect of the business. Technology and big data have a lot to do with this opportunity. But if we aren’t proactive we could miss the boat. Gartner has predicted that by 2017 CMOs will have larger IT budgets than IT. How will we spend it? Will we use it to capture relevant data, develop understanding, and act on insights that propel our companies forward? Or will we squander our resources and languish in information overload?
To succeed, CMOs have their work cut out for them. We and our teams must not only be able to think quantitatively, we must also know how to ask the right kinds of questions, how to recognize relevant data, and how to act on that data within a myriad of business disciplines. Today, understanding customer analytics and acting on insights is much more than lead scoring or deciding which email subject line works best. Insights and predictive modeling can and should be applied in all areas that touch the customer, such as new business development, sales, product management, and customer service.
The CGO Role: Create Headroom
So how do we become chief growth officers? To grow our companies, we need to grow our team members and ourselves. We need to stretch beyond our comfort zones. We need to create what I call “headroom.” Here’s how it works: The more I reach into new and unchartered territory, the more headroom I create for those on my team. Conversely, the more my team expands into advanced roles, the more headroom I have to move into new roles myself. An, this impacts my executive colleagues as well. It’s a domino effect.
Creating headroom involves taking calculated risks and investing in employee development. First, CMOs must be willing to take on difficult assignments—to use our problem-solving skills to fix what is broken and do what perhaps no one else wants to do. Simultaneously, we must be willing to invest in and trust others. This starts with identifying people gaps, then providing the resources and training so that individuals can develop new skills. Then we must we willing to lead our teams into new territory by giving challenging assignments. Finally, we must set priorities and align our organizations without controlling. We must give others the freedom to achieve and grow.
Time To Act
Velocity matters. Speed isn’t just about meeting growth and profitability goals, or even customer needs. It’s about momentum, being one step ahead. It’s about surprising and delighting customers with products and services before they ask. Don’t you just love it when a company anticipates and meets your needs? The more quickly we take up the charge to expand marketing’s role and grow ourselves, our teams, and our companies, the better for everyone involved—especially our customers.
I wrote of a “wake-up call” for CMOs in my last article, urging CMOs to become involved with their contact centers to enhance long-term profitability. Here, my call to action is further reaching. Now is the time for CMOs to lead ourselves, our teams, and our companies to growth.
See related slide show: "9 New Chiefs Head To The C-Suite."