Support Your Local CMO

Posted by Larry Garfield

When agencies understand the challenges facing today’s CMOs, they become better partners and make a bigger impact.

Why are Chief Marketing Officers an endangered species?  Why are so many of their jobs in jeopardy and why is there so much turnover year over year?  A recent study by Spencer Stuart, reported in Marketing Week, says that CMOs have the shortest average tenure in the C-Suite, lasting just 4.1 years in their roles.  The reason given? The “exceptionally complex” nature of the CMO role.

This complexity is also cited in the July-August 2017 edition of Harvard Business Review, where Kimberly A Whitler and Neil Morgan note: “most CMOs have a few areas of core responsibilities like brand strategy… but beyond that, the range of duties — from pricing to sales management, public relations to e-commerce, product development to distribution — is mind boggling.”

How can marketing and creative agencies do a better job of supporting our CMO brothers and sisters?  Given all of the expectations and responsibilities heaped on their shoulders, how can we become better partners — and most importantly, support their mission of driving business growth?

A CMO is a Many-Splendored Thing

Given the CMO’s broad range of responsibilities, it’s no surprise they’re destined to fall short of expectations — no one person to be expert in all areas.  A CMO who excels at branding may be weak on marketing automation and lead generation.

Let’s look at the most important levers of CMO success in terms of their role as the facilitator of growth for the business:

  • Brand: brand strategy, competitive positioning and creative
  • Data and analytics: using data sources to uncover new insights about customers and their business itself
  • Sales support: lead generation, leading to revenue and sales
  • Product marketing: co-designing specific solutions

To support our CMOs, our job as their agency should be to provide support on multiple fronts.  Not just brand and creative, but data analytics, sales support and product marketing as well. These are all areas where innovative thinking, new insights and new ideas should drive business results.

Here are two areas where agencies can contribute more: Brand Experience, and Data and Analytics.

The Brand Experience

Today, brand experience — the sum of all customer interactions— is more important than ever before.  Whether “touching” the brand through a website, mobile app, online billing statement, customer service rep, or retail experience, consistency and honesty are critical. Developing an easy to understand value proposition, messaging and personality, while treating customers the way they want to be treated, are all critical to carving out a clear position and winning customer loyalty in today’s hyperfast, hypertransparent social media age.

Agencies can help their CMOs by understanding the deep needs, motivations and behaviors of their customers, to root out issues that might cause harm to the brand, and lead changes in all aspects — from the look, feel and voice of the brand to the digital/virtual and in-person/in-store experience.

Data + Analytics Disruption

Today’s marketing and brand programs generate massive amounts of data. Understanding and harnessing that data to run marketing programs that are more effective in moving the needle and more efficient in contributing to revenue are essential, especially as organizations navigate the transition from traditional to digital marketing.

Agencies can help their CMOs sort out the most valuable data and marketing technology and determine the most meaningful insights and information to connect to marketing objectives/metrics and contribution/attribution to sales/revenue.  This is especially true for B2B brands, where the more you can connect marketing to sales, the better you can demonstrate real ROI.

Thriving Together

The bottom line: if you’re an agency, you need to understand the pressures CMOs face and respond with a broader range of capabilities that can help them drive meaningful growth.  The agencies that become exceptional partners — contributing strategy, fresh ideas and creative capital— are the ones who will earn BFF status.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of ad news phillymagazine.