The 6 Habits of the Modern Chief Marketing Officer

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Each year Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey digs into the scope and spending habits of CMOs. This survey shows that the role of the CMO has shifted significantly over recent years. What’s caused this shift? Simply put, customer experience has been recognized by CEOs as the competitive battlefield for brands. Marketing, as the de facto owner of the customer, has thus grown in prominence. And as CEOs become more customer-centered, a burgeoning kinship is forming between the CEO and the CMO, rivaling other classic C-suite allegiances.

Changing times call for changing behaviors. The shifting expectations of marketing’s purview has transformed what it takes to be a successful CMO. Below we’ll look at the six habits that modern CMOs practice.

Habit No. 1—Think Like a CEO

Traditionally many CMOs and CEOs have differing perspectives and priorities. Where CEOs focus on the economics and mechanics of the organization, many CMOs focus on marketing-specific measures that are of little interest to the CEO. However, the best CMOs think like CEOs, trading the language of marketing for the language of the business.

In recent years, some notable senior marketers have graduated to the chief executive position. For example, the former branding chief of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook, was elevated to the post of CEO in 2015. You may not aspire to be the CEO, but learning to think like a CEO will make you a far more effective CMO. It's not just about shifting your orientation; it’s about irrefutably proving the business contribution of marketing, for better or worse.

Habit No. 2—Master Customer Economics

Traditional marketing logic states that loyal customers are good customers. But not every loyal customer is the right customer. Modern CMOs have mastered customer economics. They’re able to segment out the most profitable customers—the royals —from the loyals, who may actually be a drag on the business.

High-value customers spend more, churn less, are less price-sensitive, are less expensive to acquire and serve, and are more likely to recruit new customers through their advocacy. The key is to model this out from the start and to use this customer value segmentation to focus and prioritize your acquisition and retention efforts.

Getting to customer-level data is a challenge for many companies, particularly those that sell through channels. In this case, marketers need to look at customer economics in segment-level aggregates, prioritizing investments to the segments that drive profitable growth.

Habit No. 3—Think Omnichannel, Act Multichannel

Casting a wide net to engage customers wherever they could lurk is a doomed strategy because it attempts to boil the ocean. By definition, omnichannel—which means always and in all places—invites a lack of focus that's often unsustainable.

It’s crucial to begin with this outside-in view of the customer. Begin with an omnichannel view when considering the behaviors and preferences material to customer journeys, but the actual execution should focus on the right channels, not every channel. Of course, additional channels and experiences will be added as consumer behavior and preferences change, but modern CMOs see this as a graduated evolution over time.

Habit No. 4—Actively Deliver on the Brand Promise

A brand promise should never be a set-it-and-forget-it thing. It’s something that you need to live up to every minute of every day. When there’s a disconnect between what a brand promises and what it delivers, customers notice. And they often share their experiences widely. Think of this as the customer experience gap. But when you actively deliver on the brand promise, you create customers for life who often advocate on your behalf.

Modern CMOs have mechanisms in place to monitor and manage the gap between brand promise and customer experience. They understand that, one way or another, it’s their responsibility to maintain the broader customer experience, even if it’s outside of their direct remit. This often means leading by influence, not necessarily by authority.

Habit No. 5—Think Right Data, Not Big Data

When it comes to data-driven insight and action, some marketing leaders think more is better. But for all the talk about Big Data, most companies still have small data challenges. Modern CMOs start with the right data—which they often already own—before attempting to use Big Data. They also get laser-focused on which questions they’re looking to answer and what problems they’re seeking to solve.

It’s easy to overcomplicate things by using sophisticated methods for making data-driven inferences about customer needs and goals. Instead, marketers should simply ask these questions through progressive profiling techniques paired with a continuous exchange of value. Customers that feel treated well and equitably will often gladly share data.

Habit No. 6—Stop Talking About Digital

Modern CMOs no longer distinguish digital and traditional marketing. Gartner research confirms the convergence of digital and traditional marketing, with 98 percent of marketing leaders saying the lines have blurred. Modern CMOs no longer treat digital as a supporting appendage to traditional marketing, but as an integrated part of the holistic products, programs, and experiences they deliver.

New Habits for New Times

It’s time to change habits. The CMO is no longer just the bullhorn for the brand; they are the lead conductor of the company’s growth engine. Adopt this CMO mind-set and deliver the programs and experiences that deliver profitable growth.

Ewan Mcintyre is a research director covering marketing leadership and management. He is focused on how next-generation marketing organizations and leaders allocate resources and budgets to deliver measurable, optimized performance in a digitally led world. He has a deep understanding of how to build the right team, combining in-house and outsourced resource, having built from the ground up multidiscipline digital teams in both the B2B and B2C space. He was previously head of digital for Philips in the U.K. and Ireland.

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