Should CMO’s Lead the Corporate Growth Agenda ?


From my December 6th guest post on Mike Ferry’s  blog “Leading Good Brands to Greatness” and December 22 guest post on Branding Strategy Insider:

The CMO’s job is simple—to drive growth, right? As Lou Gerstner ex-IBM and American Express CEO once put it: the role of Marketing is to build the brand and deliver a great customer experience. But is it really that simple?

At the recent CMO Club Summit in San Francisco, I was part of a panel discussion with Joe Ennen, SVP Consumer Brands at Safeway and Scott Thurm, Management Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, titled “CMO’s as Leaders of the Corporate Growth Agenda.”

How CMO's can Lead the Corporate Growth Agenda (image courtesy of CorpGrowth.net)

Scott led off the discussion by reframing the topic, asking, “What are the barriers to CMO’s leading the corporate growth agenda?” Joe, Scott and I spent the session discussing and debating this important question. To see another take on this topic, see Brand Autopsy’s “The New Complete Marketer.”

Barriers to CMO’s Leading the Corporate Growth Agenda

CEO/CMO Alignment – The best CMO is a CEO who believes in Marketing. The CMO’s ability to lead the corporate growth agenda starts with alignment with and support from the CEO. Not all business models and CMO’s are created equal. The role of Marketing in an organization can vary widely. And the CMO role can range from a narrow Marcom role all the way to something like a Chief Growth Officer. The CEO and CMO must be aligned on the role of Marketing in the organization for the CMO to effectively lead the growth agenda (see my blog post “Leading Your Brand Beyond Marketing”).

Growth Means More Than Marketing – The CMO has to think more broadly than Marketing. What are all of the potential growth drivers – Marketing or otherwise ? Companies such as Zappos.com have actually gone so far as to define a non-Marketing function like customer service as Marketing. A critical part of the CMO’s job is to understand the business model and all potential drivers of growth.This is becoming even more important as digital and social media blur the lines between Marketing, Public Affairs and Customer Service.

For example, at UBS, we learned from Corporate Reputation research that being “open and transparent” was a key driver of reputation, and that reputation scores correlated  with “willingness to refer others” and other business growth metrics. This led the Marketing function to explore programs to communicate to stakeholders in more open and transparent ways.

Corporate Growth: More than Marketing.

CMO as Voice of the Customer – Another key barrier to the CMO driving the corporate growth agenda is customer neglect. The CMO needs to continually advocate for keeping the customer front and center. All CMO’s could learn from A.G. Lafley, ex CEO of Procter & Gamble, who continually reminded employees that “the consumer is boss.”

Customer satisfaction surveys not only measure satisfaction. They also measure the important factors contributing to satisfaction and quantify the relationship between those factors and satisfaction. Understanding these drivers enables Marketing to define areas outside Marketing that are central to driving growth.

For example, at UBS we learned that client contact frequency was an important satisfaction driver—more was better. Yet, the majority of client advisers were contacting clients well below the threshold. This led to a concentrated effort to improve contact frequency—and drive growth.

Connecting Customer Needs with Enterprise AssetsI stressed the important role the CMO plays in getting the organization to think about the entirety of the enterprise’s assets and capabilities. Connecting customer needs with assets from outside a business unit is a great way to drive growth—and one that organizational structure often stymies.

Crest: Consumers had an unmet need for whiter teeth, and paste formulations simply didn’t do the job. A smart R&D person connected this need with synthetic bleach technology from laundry and substrate technology from paper making to create—voila–Crest WhiteStrips.

Amex Gift Card consumers wanted to buy the cards in retail. The Amex Gift Card group had no relationships with grocery and drug store chains, but another group within Amex did. So, the organization leveraged the other organizations retailer relationships to facilitate introductions and help gain distribution in over 70k locations in less than two years.

Keys to CMO Success

CMO’s clearly have a tough job, with an average lifespan of just 28 months. Lou Gerstner’s formula for CMO success is a good starting point, but CMO’s need to go further.

Building the  brand and delivering a great customer experience plus driving the corporate growth agenda can help CMO’s and their firms be more successful in the future.

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4 Responses to Should CMO’s Lead the Corporate Growth Agenda ?

  1. Judy Bodner says:

    Thank you, this is an excellent description of how CMOs ideally drive growth: Leading Marketing =holistic business management=meeting customer needs to build long-term relationships, hence building brands and driving growth. You might be interested in the Jan-Feb 2010 HBR “Rethinking Marketing” article (http://bit.ly/4B3t8q), in which the authors propose the role of CMO as CCO – Chief Customer Officer.

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Judy — Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. I took a quick peek at the HBR article and liked what I saw. Clearly, the rise of digital, social media, real time marketing, new measurements and metrics, etc. is blurring the lines between marketing, customer service, PR and other functions, and demands a re-think of the Marketing organization–including the CMO role. Thanks for sharing this.
      Randall

  2. Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

    Robert Shumake

  3. CMOs Use Marketing To Expand Corporate Growth…

    Randall Beard writes an excellent post arguing that CMOs should help lead the corporate growth agenda, and also that CEOs have to be involved in the process. I thought Randall’s piece illustrated the broad scope of marketing. While for many……

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