Chief marketers have long kept customers in their direct line of sight—arguably more than any other position in the C-suite. As this customer-centric mindset spreads across their companies, so, too, have their roles.
In other words, today’s CMOs have a very different agenda than they did even five years ago.
“The CMO is as accountable for company growth and customer loyalty as any other function and must work cross-functionally like never before—across product groups, sales, IT, and finance—to drive the business,” said Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes. (CMO.com is owned by Adobe).
The Customer-Centricity Advocate
Today’s CMOs are thinking more horizontally, according to Robert Schwartz, CMO of Carat. And it shows: Ninety-percent of organizations said they view their CMOs as the connective tissue between different lines of the organization, according to recent Accenture research.
It stands to reason, then, that chief marketers are in the pole position to champion the importance of a holistic, end-to-end customer experience companywide.
“Companies today need to put the customer at the center of not just storytelling, but also in the products that the organization builds and each of the touch points with the customer,” said Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela. “This includes everything from the marketing touch points to sales, support, product, and more. I think marketing has become a louder voice in that customer obsession and is working to ensure that organizations are thinking about those touch points holistically.”
CMOs can bring their customer knowledge to the table, help map the entire end-to-end journey, and bring in their counterparts across the business to help turn that journey into a seamless, frictionless, customer experience, said Christopher Ross, VP, analyst, at Gartner.
“Companies need to know who their customers are, how they move through their experience, what the emotional dynamics are, and what information is required to help them be successful,” he told CMO.com.
CMOs also have a real role to play in transforming the business, Microsoft’s Capossela said, given the work they’re already doing to transform marketing in response to ever-changing customer expectations for better experiences. Not only are they best-positioned to spearhead a customer-centric business transformation within their organizations, they also are at the forefront to drive the next phase of digital transformation: customer experience management (CXM).
CXM is the orchestration and personalization of the entire end-to-end customer experience, moment to moment, at scale, on any channel, in real time. It’s about harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, immersive media, and new screens to deliver connected, engaging, and hyper-personalized experiences at scale, Lewnes explained.
“This is digital transformation 2.0—it’s the new frontier for customer engagement, and brands that can deliver will win the hearts and minds of customers for years to come,” Lewnes told CMO.com
Of note, successful CXM requires all hands on deck, Carat’s Schwartz said. He emphasized the importance of CMOs plugging into product development, sales, and services, adding that “CMOs are managing the customer experience, but they can’t do it alone. They’ve got to collaborate with the other functions. I can’t think of one example where a CMO is the total experience owner in a large organization. It’s not realistic.”
CMOs today are championing this type of cross-functional collaboration. Some marketing heads are formally building CX teams or councils that include representatives from across the business, while others are ensuring key stakeholders meet regularly to improve collaboration and ensure a complete, real-time view of the customer–which is critical to CXM success.
“One thing about customer engagement that people sometimes leave out is how there’s real power in not just thinking about the customer engagement, but also thinking about how you need to change your products, how you need to change your pricing, your packaging,” Capossela said. “CMOs of the future will be influencing the products that a company builds, the policies it has in place, the way a company operates, and will essentially be a change agent inside the company.”
Modern-Day Skill Set
Given how much more the CMO role now encompasses, what specific skills should CMOs possess in order to, as Capossela put it, “do a fantastic job in their role?”
“They have to have a real sense of product DNA and ethos, which is typically a skill found in the more technical roles inside of a company,” he said. “Marketers need both the marketing acumen and product savvy to have a real taste for what makes a great product and what makes a mediocre product.”
Of course, Capossela added, they must be far more digitally oriented than ever before. CMOs also tend to understand the importance and benefits of having incredibly diverse skills on their marketing teams, as well as throughout the entire business.
“Knowing how to pull the best out of everybody is probably more important than it was two or three years ago,” Capossela said.
In addition, successful CMOs share a deep understanding of the entire business, Gartner’s Ross said. What moves the business? How does the business operate? What are the financial drivers? Answers to these questions require a much deeper level of insight into how sales teams work, what are critical operational considerations, what the supply chain looks like—and more.
“It’s not that CMOs are responsible for managing those things, but you have to understand how those things work because it really is very tightly interconnected,” Ross said.
Champion Of Creativity
By now, it’s well understood that every CMO has to be data-driven—obsessed with everything from understanding customer behavior to marketing return on investment, according to Adobe’s Lewnes. But that’s only part of the equation.
“While data plays a key role, the CMO must continue to be the champion of creativity as creativity will remain central to great marketing,” she told CMO.com. “Today’s CMOs must have a growth mindset, be agile, and push the boundaries of innovation. This means celebrating risk-taking—whether it’s with new channels, partnerships, or experiences—and instituting a culture of testing where you can constantly iterate on and improve the customer experience.”
Modern marketing leaders also understand the meaning of true partnerships with their fellow C-suite execs, “where you’re understanding the needs that other functions have and how you can support those needs,” Ross said. “CMOs also need to be good at articulating what they require from their counterparts and must be a master at prioritizing those things.”
CMOs Of The Future
As the role of marketing transcends to encompass broader customer experiences that drive real business results, CMOs must wear multiple hats, Adobe’s Lewnes said. She sees the role further expanding to the purviews of chief experience officers, chief growth officers, and even chief digital officers.
“CMOs will play a bigger role across the customer journey to drive growth, digital innovation, and superior customer experiences,” Lewnes said.
According to Microsoft’s Capossela, CMOs of the future will be “customer engagement czars.” They will be on the hook formally for the architecture of their organizations’ customer experience management.
“The best CMOs will move from being more reactive to being more proactive … about the product agenda, about the customer engagement agenda, the business model, as well as what the growth path is,” Capossela said.
For his part, Gartner’s Ross predicted that CMOs of the future will be even more committed to cultivating talent, given how their needs as leaders will continue to change, as well as the needs of the organization.
“You can’t just constantly have a revolving door of staff,” Ross said. “That’s just not effective, and it doesn’t make for a great culture. CMOs will need to be even more committed to developing and cultivating talent from within their team.”
Overall, experts all agreed that it is an exciting time to be a CMO. Those truly successful in their roles will bring marketing transformation’s lessons to the entire organization, guide its understanding of its customers and their needs, and find creative ways to work hand-in-hand with other customer-facing lines of the business to build loyalty and thereby grow the organization.