The CMO of the future

Scott Brinker
November 21, 2022

This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute. podcast here.

The expanding role of the CMO

Before we talk about new responsibilities for the CMO, let’s acknowledge that all of the traditional CMO responsibilities will not go away. With ‘traditional’ responsibilities, we mean tasks such as demand generation, communications, PR, and driving brand awareness. All those responsibilities are still alive and well and will remain so in the years to come. 

There will be additional responsibilities and capabilities that marketing leaders have to master. It is important to note that the expanding CMO role is unlike any other C-level leadership role. Let’s take a look at those new tasks and and discuss ho a CMO can accomplish all in the same amount of available time?

The customer experience is our brand

There is a difference between what CMOs regard as important responsibilities and the view of the rest of the management team. The board looks to the CMO for growth and steadily-increasing revenue. However, CMOs know that building the brand is a priority. 

Comparing priority lists certainly shows an important difference between CMO and CEO goals. However, if we take a step back, there might be less of a stark contrast between the two lists. The driver behind growth and revenue is ultimately the customer experience. The capabilities that are needed to drive the customer experience are the same capabilities CMOs need to create a great brand.

No matter if a customer reaching out to a call center, or walking into a retail store, the CMO is responsible for creating and delivering the experience. However, the channels that  CMOs have to drive the customer experience have changed fundamentally. Delivering that great customer experience across the entire customer journey now includes both digital and non-digital channels. That requires an entirely new skill: CMOs have to become increasingly tech and data-savvy. This is how old responsibilities continue to exist but require new responsibilities and capabilities.

The tech and data-savvy CMO builds bridges internally 

Recent research showed that CMOs are falling behind when it concerns data and technology capabilities. Only the CRO attaches less value to technology than CMOs. That is quite surprising outcome considering that the marketing function has become increasingly digital over the last ten years. Think of the emergence of all the online channels, as well as the explosion of martech solutions. 

In order for CMOs to drive the customer experience they must group and align departments around the customer. CMOs must grow their technology and data skills. Those skills are required to make sure the org chart supports and does not hinder the development and delivery of a seamless customer experience. 

“Are you trying to drive customer experience or is that your org chart showing?” Dharmesh Shah, co-founder, and CTO of HubSpot.

Many brands do things that make customers jump through hoops or create discontinuity when crossing from one team to another. It is the CMOs responsibility to create a coherent whole out of all the different internal departments. CMOs absolutely need to connect all the departments that together shape the customer experience. The customer doesn’t want to think about different departments, because in their minds they have a relationship with that specific brand.

Building bridges with the boardroom

First of all, marketing does not have the sole responsibilities for driving revenue  – multiple departments must work in concert. CMOs often collaborate with CROs who are heading up RevOps (revenue operations). In RevOps Marketing Ops is sitting alongside SalesOps (sales operations) and CustomerSuccessOps (customer success operations). Apart from driving revenue as part of RevOps, CMOs have a seat at the boardroom tabl, too. In all scenarios it is important that the CMO brings the customer(experience) to life.

“Marketing is about the customer story well told at the boardroom table” Scott Vaughn.

What is unique responsibility to the CMO y is the responsibility to drive the customer experience. Besides breaking down silos and connecting teams, there is the technology and data component. Filtering down the customer experience into the organization is to filter down into systems and data integrations.  

Building bridges with IT

There is another place where the customer story needs to be well-told and that is at the IT scrum board. It is a skill of being able to translate individual customer interactions on a bits-and-bytes micro-level all the way up to the macro level of brand strategy and the customer experience.

Marketing ops teams are well equipped for this job. They have the empathy skills to understand the customer, the business skills to understand the market, and ultimately the tech skills to formulate software requirements. This is a balancing act as marketing and IT live in different dimensions.

Both business functions are operating in different, almost opposing, dynamics. Marketing is often forced to change strategies based on what customers need or competitors do on a daily basis. The fact is that customer needs simply keep evolving. Take emerging customer channels, nobody had heard of Snapchat, TikTok, or Clubhouse three years ago. IT in its turn aims to harness IT infrastructures that will work for the next five to ten years. To build something scalable, stable, and reliable they need clarity, preferably expressed in zeros and ones. 

Marketing ops staff are well equipped to separate rules from exceptions and still achieve the set targets. Rules should be automated, while exceptions should not. 

And then there is the IT backlog. Marketing hardly ever tops the priority list of the IT department. As a result, marketing creates and adopts a lot of shadow IT, i.e. unofficially purchased cloud solutions harboring bits and pieces of customer data. Both CMOs and CTOs need to sit together so that marketing does not have to break IT policies to meet the CEO’s targets.

Please join us

BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing). 

For every podcast in the series we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.

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