Guest Column | November 5, 2018

The Growth Driver's Playbook: A Guidebook For CMOs To Ignite Strategic Growth

By Sally Ann Lopez, CMO Council

An MSP Marketing Primer: Create A Clear Path To Your Door

The CMO of today has an entirely different mandate than the CMO of yesteryear. Over the last decade, the role has evolved from brand storyteller to strategic value creator. With that, an entire new set of skills are required to succeed.

CMOs are increasingly expected to drive growth, and according to previous research conducted in 2016 by the CMO Council, 68 percent of the marketing leaders surveyed saw themselves as growth leaders. They also revealed senior management and the board held them accountable for growth, believing it was their chief or primary mandate. Yet that investigation also revealed far too many marketers seemed trapped in a functional rut, focused on campaigns and moments in time.

This year, the CMO Council sought to understand whether CMO actions were better aligning to organizational expectations, and, as such, fulfilling their mandate as growth-driver. In a survey of close to 200 senior marketing executives, the research found CMOs are increasingly activating on growth-driving activities, slowly evolving their traditional role as brand storytellers to embrace the benefits of strategy leadership. Still, they have hurdles to overcome to drive strategic long-term growth and are far less comfortable with key aspects of driving growth such as architecting the customer experience and acting as revenue science practitioners.

The study revealed some marketers have adopted a “short-term gains” focus, fueled by traditional marketing activities such as demand generation and campaign-driven marketing. Others have embraced a more creative and engaging strategy fueled by storytelling and branding, positive progress in the journey beyond a short-term gains focus, but these activities can only go so far.

While 35 percent of respondents identify their role as being the chief storyteller, only 20 percent view themselves as the market explorer that identifies and maps new routes to revenue. Just 7 percent say they are the data guru that understands the voice and expectations of the customer. These latter activities are fundamental to long-term, strategic growth, yet they are still undertaken by far too few marketers.

When it comes to their primary activities, fully 82 percent of the marketers surveyed believe they are the primary driver of brand development and storytelling, while only half believe they own customer experience strategy development. A measly one in four are driving customer retention strategies to recover, reactivate, and re-engage with existing customers.

The research also identified a budding cohort of marketers with a long-term growth mindset, who are taking marketing’s traditional role further to help drive profitability. Indeed, 18 percent of the study’s respondents indicated they were “extremely poised to succeed” as the growth leader their organizations expect them to be.

A closer look at the data reveals these leaders do, in fact, prioritize, focus, and collaborate differently than their cohorts. They think longer-term, more closely align with the business definition of growth, and leverage data analytics and market research to drive strategic activities.

To empower all CMOs to achieve the growth-driving mandate bestowed upon them, and expected from them, by senior leadership, the CMO Council released The CMO’s Growth-Driving Playbook which serves as a compilation of insights drawn from this group of growth-driving CMOs. Their plays — common goals, mandates, and approaches — provide a glimpse of how today’s marketing vanguard is helping advance the growth agenda and reshape the role of the modern CMO.

Those plays include:

  1. Define the difference between gains and growth: Gains are short-term bursts of engagement, whereas growth is long-term, sustainable expansion.
  2. Speak the language of the business: The way the business defines growth should be consistent with how marketing defines and measures their own activities.
  3. Connect across functional silos: To achieve successful customer initiatives, it is vital to build bridges across functions to ensure a cohesive customer viewpoint and engagement strategy.
  4. Mobilize support for the growth agenda: Collaboration across functions and partners ensures more successful customer initiatives and deeper engagement.
  5. Think like a CEO — and prepare for the role: No other role is equipped with the direct understanding of the customer the CMO has; combine that with deep data analytics and market knowledge, and the CMO of today may be the CEO of tomorrow.

The CMO should always be the champion of the brand. Yet strategic CMOs today know that their role can, and should, encompass so much more than brand advocacy. Their direct connection with customers in today’s customer-driven market should embolden CMOs to take more direct action in their organizations, and the data insights at their fingertips can further ensure their success. This Playbook serves to guide CMOs to achieve the mandate set before them, with real-world examples from some of today’s leading growth-driving CMOs.

About The AuthorSally Ann Lopez, CMO Council

Sally Ann Lopez is the Senior Program Manager for thought leadership initiatives with the CMO Council, where she has spent the last four years conducting executive-level interviews for research initiatives across many fundamental areas for CMO success. Topics she has covered include CMOs as growth-drivers, data-driven customer engagement, eCommerce strategy, aftermarket experience, omni-channel engagement, localization strategy and customer trust. Sally holds an MBA in International Marketing from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, along with a Masters in International Policy, focused on trade, development and investment. As a multi-lingual marketer, she holds a global perspective of marketing in today’s international business environment.