Why CMOs Never Last – and What We Can Do As Marketers

I couldn’t help but pick up the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review regarding the revolving door of the Chief Marketing Officer within the C-suite. Its premise is simple: 80 percent of CEOs are unhappy with their CMOs because their job descriptions/roles have been poorly designed.

I get it. I’ve seen so many marketing organizations operate as functional units within the business. They want to deliver financial value — and many executives wish they would, too. But they haven’t been given the tools and resources to succeed.

A new CMO comes in with an expensive ad campaign that misses the mark with the customer, the sales team can’t support it and operations doesn’t deliver. So Marketing never had a chance, and the turnover game continues. Marketing becomes campaigns in silos and eventually loses the respect and attention of the organization. The first downturn in the business and Marketing gets cuts.

From my perspective, it’s bigger than the job description. It’s about the survival of Marketing. There is hope.

We can educate our internal teams and executives on the value we can deliver:

  • Marketing must have P&L responsibility to truly connect all the functions of the organization.
  • We must commit to ongoing customer dialogue. Customer insights must be the winning voice for our go-to-market strategy. The customer should be driving our initiatives, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative (I’ve seen how this can be the secret sauce of many organizations, compared to companies making decisions without customer input).
  • Marketing can bring value even if the business has no differentiated value. There are hundreds of case studies (B2B and B2C) where marketing alone helps the company win. (A great read with these examples is Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin).

Marketing will continue to be commoditized by some type of automation program and not earn a seat at the executive table. It takes a commitment — talent, financial investment and discipline to pay dividends. Maybe someday the CMOs can be driving the C-suite!

Link: https://hbr.org/2017/07/the-trouble-with-cmos

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