I have some sad news: the Chief Marketing Officer is dead.
Fortunately, I’m talking about the CMO position rather than a particular person. But the decline in the CMO’s influence is alarming, especially at companies that claim to put the customer first but in reality are product-driven.
True, some companies have marketing in their DNA, especially firms that had a visionary founder with a great understanding of the customer. Examples include Ingvar Kamprad at IKEA or the late Steve Jobs at Apple.
But these are exceptions. The norm these days is that the CEO sets the overall strategy, the R&D and innovation teams design the product, and the CFO determines pricing and departmental budgets. No wonder some CMOs feel unloved and are considering a career change.
The CMO position is dying for four reasons:
1] Most CMOs are not really immersed in marketing activities. By this I mean understanding, creating and delivering value to the customer. Too many CMOs focus on PR and communications rather than products or pricing, so as not to invade the space of the Chief Innovation Officer or the CFO.
2] CFOs have become more powerful because of tough trading conditions and short-term pressure from financial markets. The CFO is also winning the race to the very top—most CEOs now have a finance or engineering background, and few come from sales and marketing.
3] Marketing impact is often hard to measure. Marketing is more art than science. It’s hard to know whether all those millions of dollars spent have led to an increase in real sales. And when a downturn comes, the marketing budget is often the first to be cut.
4] Nobody has a clear idea of what marketing is. Ask 20 senior managers in any company what marketing is, and you’ll get 20 different answers. By contrast, most people would agree on a definition of finance or production.
Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, CMOs can take the following practical steps to reclaim some of their lost power:
1] Get rid of the CMO title, because nobody understands it. Create the new title of CCO – Chief Customer Officer. This person must be the voice of the customer in the organization, taking views and messages from the market and spreading them internally. More and more companies have a CCO or a senior executive with a similar title, from salesforce.com to the Washington Post.
2] Get the CEO to be the CMO. Chief executives can drive the customer-centricity agenda better than anyone else, because they can shape a company’s culture and drive the recruitment of customer-oriented people. Having the CEO as CMO also sends a strong message throughout the organization that the customer is front and center and that marketing is everybody’s job.
3] Get the CFO on board too. Doing this requires taking some of the fuzziness out of marketing. CCOs need to be financially literate and produce hard numbers that show the return on investment from marketing.
4] Use customer knowledge to build influence. With backing from the big two in the C-suite, CCOs can use their customer knowledge to influence discussions of product design and pricing, and make a company’s offerings more sensitive to the market.
Back in the 1950s, the management guru Peter Drucker wrote that a company has only two key functions – marketing and innovation – and that all other functions should support these. Sadly, paying attention to the customer is less and less common these days. The CCO can be the first step toward reversing this trend.
So – goodbye to the CMO, hello to the CCO.
Source: Dominique Turpin