The role of Chief Marketing Officer has changed tremendously in the last decade. Rather than just focusing on branding and marketing, many CMOs now manage the whole customer journey – touching sales, product, and customer success. CMOs are having to redefine their roles, adapt, and defend their value more than ever. 

In our latest round table with Jonathan Holman from Spencer Stuart and Virtualware’s David Moreno, we discussed the evolving role of the CMO. How can CMOs add value and make sure their teams understand the value they bring to their organizations?

“Our job may now be called Chief Growth Officer or Chief Collection Officer; it’s as if we are not simply CMOs anymore. We need to deliver more, and a lot is being demanded of us.” – David Moreno

How the CMO role is changing, and why?

There’s no question the CMO role has changed over the last few years. But why? There are several reasons, including the pandemic, the progression of technology, and changing customer behaviors and needs.

Overall the biggest change is that CMOs have more data than ever about their customers. Customers are interacting with websites and digital products and even conversing with brands via chatbots and their social media accounts.

“It’s not just  being responsible for branding, or just being responsible for trying to drive performance, it’s taking ownership of that entire customer journey.” – Jonathan Holman

How B2B and B2C CMOs roles differ

The evolution of the CMO has taken different paths in B2B and B2C companies. Being metrics-driven and showing clear value from marketing spending is important for both B2B and B2C CMOs, but expectations may be higher for B2B CMOs.

“The best B2B CMOs can say, ‘If you give me $1 that I can put into my marketing team, and this is what I know it is going to drive in terms of revenue … ‘ They can be very, very specific, and very metrics-driven on that, it’s harder on the B2C side.” – Jonathan Holman

In B2B, it’s increasingly common that the CMO role is being replaced by other roles, like Chief Revenue Officer or Chief Growth Officer. “B2C, I think, still values that CMO title and the breadth of it in a different way than B2B,” added Jonathan.

A few other observations from our panel include:

  • In B2C, the CMOs emphasis is on the entire customer experience, which may give them more influence on the product.
  • In B2B, the CMOs emphasis is usually on driving demand to products that are managed by an independent product team.
  • In both B2C and B2B companies, CMOs can add value by deeply understanding the customer. 

Good CMOs look outside the organization and help decode the changing world and customers and bring those insights into shaping the brand and guiding the leadership team.

Quantifying the value of marketing

Unfortunately, CMOs and marketers don’t always add clear value to an organization, and in some cases, CMOs that are let go are never replaced. It’s often hard to evaluate if it’s simply bad marketing or if the value of what the marketing team is doing is just hard to quantify.

“CEOs and board members need to think carefully about  how they evaluate their CMOs. And CMOs need to realize that they need to rely on metrics that are not 100% under their control. That’s hard, that’s uncomfortable.” – Jonathan Holman

Jonathan continues: “You have to depend on some of your other functional colleagues. It comes back to this, ‘how do you tell the story? This is what we’re trying to do,’ and then working out what the appropriate metrics are.”

What are the unique strengths that CMOs bring to the leadership team?

Several themes emerged in the discussion about how CMO’s unique strengths can be utilized to add value to the organization.

Customer-centricity is key

It’s important to get customer-centricity connected throughout the organization. The CMO can help leaders throughout the organization understand what the customer has prioritized and therefore assist them in developing things that are really adding value to the organization.

Jonathan stated, “For me, the best CMOs are the ones who are intricately linked as partners, to sales to customer success, to those peers on the leadership team. They are the ones who bring the voice of the customer into the room. ” That’s where the CMO’s particular skills come in.

CMOs can help brands better understand the customer

David explained that in his experience, many companies think “in the castle” in areas like product development. Sometimes, except for initial quality product testing, there isn’t much contact with the customer. 

CMOs are in a unique position to help fight this tendency because of their knowledge of the customer and can add tremendous value by bringing the voice of the customer into the heart of the conversation.

The CMO is looking at the customer, looking at the trends, looking at the direction that the organization is trying to look for, and saying, ‘What does this mean for us?’ The CMO needs to be able to help the organization answer that question.” – Jonathan Holman

The CMO as Chief Storyteller

Yes, things are changing, but there’s a lot of opportunity for CMOs who are ready to take on the role of Chief Storyteller and Chief Customer Advocate within their organizations. Here are a few final tips on how CMOs can thrive in their evolving roles:

  • Think about how you can help your CEO and your leadership team decode the world, trends, and the customer. 
  • Add value by collaborating cross-functionally with peers where possible. Spend time with individuals on other teams, understanding their agendas and getting them on board with your goals as a leader.
  • Recognize and accept that success comes when a team is working well together and communicating as a whole.
  • Be curious and agile, keep learning, and recognize you will never have all the answers.

Has your role as a CMO changed in the last few years? We’d love to hear your take. Keep an eye out on The CMO Club calendar, and join The CMO Club to bring your questions to our upcoming events!

➡️  CMO Club members can watch the virtual roundtable replay here.
➡️  Join your peers for an upcoming CMO Club virtual roundtable. Check out the calendar of events.