Why Your Business Doesn't Need A CMO
The Trouble With C-Suite Titles
With no offense to my CMO friends out there, the corporate world has a problem with defining your role and understanding how to generate the most benefit from creating it. While valid discussions are going on in regards to the value of many of the new C-Suite titles out there over the last twenty years, I often find myself perplexed by the lack of discussion on the role of "Chief Marketing Officer" common in businesses big and small (and without a doubt, if you run across a company with a "Chief Ninja" or "Chief Customer Magic Officer", turn and head for the hills without hesitating to even receive a business card).
While I personally don't really believe that you don't need a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), I'll bet that your company doesn't define or use the role properly. Why?
"We're All About Execution"
Let's start with what you think your CMO is supposed to be solving for you. The obvious place to start is "M" for "Marketing", correct? Does this describe your expectations?
- Manages a process for delivering on execution.
- Implements measurement tools to determine viability of effort and ROI.
- Maintains productive agency relationships that generates more output and lowers costs.
- Keeps Sales and other internal stakeholders appraised and prepared for the rollout of new messaging, product launches, etc.
- Oversees enforcement of Brand and related creative guidelines.
What's the problem with this picture? The problem is if this is the bulk of what you expect to get from your CMO, then you are overpaying an executive position to deliver on tactical, commodity work that can be managed on a much more junior level or outsourced altogether (remember your ad agency?). In other words, you don't respect the role enough to justify paying for the title. Time to rethink things.
The Problem With Modern CMOs
A recent contribution in Forbes by Christine Crandell (full article) shared some extensive research that found in most companies, Marketing does not have the ear of the Board:
"CMO's have almost no exposure to company Boards, so they are usually left out of strategic discussions. Board members shrugged when asked about evaluating marketing’s contribution. That helps explain the zero-sum marketing/sales budgeting situation in so many companies."
And while her research exposed the size of the alignment problem between Marketing and Sales, the real issue is that Marketing does not OWN the big piece of the corporate culture that they are charged with communicating. In other words, if your CMO is having to react to the direction of the company being set by others, your CMO will always be just a commodity-managing tactician. Do you really need that?
Designing Roles That Matter
Here are few things that you should consider packaging into a broader job description:
1. Defining the customer audience(s) for the Brand
2. Contributing to (if not owning) the direction of development of future product lines and SKUs
3. Creating and executing the roadmap for how the company engages its customers and owning the policies that effect them (i.e. your "guarantee", service levels, etc.)
4. Taking on the role as customer champion and setting the tone for how the whole company drives towards that behavior - for internal and external customers.
Someone who is doing this work IS very valuable, would likely sit within your inner-circle and for all intents and purposes, is a co-pilot for the CEO. Do you have someone like this already on your team? Add "give good direction" and "people management skills" and now they can handle all the other tactical items in the first bullet list. NOW you have a CMO.
Do you need one? That is a different question...but if you do, make sure you define the role correctly. Otherwise you can simply bring in a Marketing Director and a good agency to continually refine execution on all your favored tactics.
How Important is Marketing To You?
In the end, it comes down to how you value the contribution of Marketing. Important? Then hire for it at the right level. Or if your business is still too small or budget-restrained to do so, consider one of the many interim management options you have by bringing in an Interim CMO. Marketing should be constantly transforming your business for you on a high level, not just refining your next e-mail campaign.
Comments and ideas are always welcome - and always replied to. If you care to discuss your own needs for a CMO or other ways to transform your business, feel free to connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org