CMOs must live up to the boss’ expectations

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It's time for CMOs to rise to the stature of C-suite players. To date, the CMO has not lived up to the CEO's expectations and needs. Too often, the marketing department's focus has been poorly aligned with the CEO's agenda. Weak information flow, functional ambiguity and leadership second-guessing have crippled the CMO's influence. The result? Failure to optimize the complex array of responsibilities needed to fulfill the CEO's agenda including:
  • Balancing traditional and new media investments.
  • Brand positioning.
  • Marketing accountability.
  • Organization management and development.
  • Business system streamlining.
  • Agency relations.
  • Cross-functional integration

In today's environment, the outstanding marketers know how to grow a business. With unlimited opportunities—but constrained resources—the only marketing metric that really matters is growth. And to drive growth, marketers have learned to stretch their discipline's traditional boundaries to encompass activities many companies don't even think of as marketing. We call these people "growth champions"—people with traits and experiences that generate superior results. And in my opinion, many CMOs have learned through past failures and challenges, and are now fast becoming growth champions.

Booz Allen Hamilton and the Association of National Advertisers surveyed 2,000 executives about the structure and practice of their companies' marketing organizations. We found that growth champions own their companies' key growth-support functions, whether or not those functions fit into conventional definitions of the marketing practice. For example, growth champions are not only responsible for traditional tasks such as introducing new products and expanding the market for mature ones but they also drive the entire product development/innovation function and significantly contribute to decisions about entering new markets and acquiring new businesses.

According to the Booz Allen/ANA study, growth champions share these important characteristics:

  • They possess a broad range of analytic, financial and creative capabilities.
  • They can clearly identify their contributions to revenue growth, giving them added organizational credibility and authority.
  • They use sophisticated tools and processes to promote business efficiency.
  • They are proactive, not reactive, in providing guidance and services that add value to the senior leadership team.
  • They are perceived by other executives, especially in C-suite offices, as contributors to and leaders of the growth agenda.

These are expansive definitions of marketing. They suggest the powerful, influential ways that growth champions impact their respective companies. These marketers are in tune with their CEOs. They are delivering results that really matter: business results. And in so doing, they are elevating the stature of the entire marketing profession.

Bob Liodice is president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. He can be reached at [email protected] (Adapted from a column that first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of Advertising Age, a BtoB sibling publication.)

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