CMO turnover continues to be too high. In the lastest Spencer-Stuart survey, the average CMO tenure rose slightly to 28 months–a positive trend, but still a very short lifecycle by any measure. Given that most CMO’s report to CEO’s, it’s a fair question to ask: “What do CEO’s really want from Marketing?” Lou Gerstner, ex CEO of IBM and American Express has an answer. I attended the M50 CMO Summit last week, and Gerstner talked about what he expects from the Marketing organization.
Ensure Excellent Customer Service
His first CMO mandate is customer service. Marketing’s job is to ensure the organization is delivering great customer service, particularly during tough times. Taking care of the customer, always the right thing to do, is even more important during challenging economic times, because competitors often cut back. And customers notice. Customers have long memories and remember how they were treated–in good times and bad.
A good question to ask yourself is the following: are my CEO and I aligned on the customer experience and what is expected of Marketing ? Defining and measuring customer satisfaction is only the first step. How and what kind of role Marketing plays in influencing other important functions in the company — Customer Service, R&D, etc., in delivering an excellent customer experience is equally important. Marketing plays a lead role in defining and quantifying the most important factors driving customer satisfaction and how these can be improved, as well as the relationship between customer satisfaction metrics and improved top and bottom line business results.
Build The Brand
His second expectation is that the CMO is building the brand. Gerstner acknowledged that during downturns, you may not be able to spend as much money driving the brand as you’d like. But the CMO’s job is to be the brand steward and to ensure that the company is always investing something in brand building activities and that every part of the organization is living the brand values day in and day out.
Brand building means defining your brands key equities, and continuously working to better communicate and deliver those equities to your customer. This requires that everyone in the organization is crystal clear on what the brand should stand for, and that there is consistent focus and application over time across all functions–and not brand “drift” which tends to occur in many organizations.
Time and again, Gerstner came back to the point that everything starts with the customer. To reinforce this point, he focused his IBM team on just two metrics: customer satisfaction and market share–two outcomes which are directly linked to delivering great customer service and building the brand.
That’s it. Two simple expectations. Deliver great customer service. Build the brand. If Marketing did these two things extraordinarily well, chances are that the 28 month CMO tenure would increase and begin to approach that of CEO’s at 54 months. Because they would be focusing on what every CEO and CMO should care most about: the customer.