Why CMOs Are Facing Extinction

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The role of the CMO as we know it is facing unprecedented threats, and possibly extinction. If you are a senior B2B marketing executive or CMO, pay attention to these trends now. Here is why the time is ripe to reframe your role within your organization:

  1. Budgets are shifting. Gartner Group predicts that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs within the next five years. Lines of responsibility have blurred across these organizations. CMOs can no longer rely on their creative and business generalist abilities. Nick Eades, CMO of mobile technology firm Psion, stresses that “there’s still room for the creative side of marketing, but without a data-centric approach, it would not have a proper context.” Will CMOs choose to hoard their budgets, or create cross-functional teams with IT and sales to build initiatives that drive community-wide mind share and market share?
  2. Social media exacerbates cross-departmental and customer tensions. Changing social norms, fueled by social media, have caused unprecedented departmental tensions, and are driving CMOs to shift from pushing their ideas to listening more proactively to their ever-expanding community. In the world of transparency, how many companies can truly say that they are in control of their brand, message, pricing, and product quality? How can CMOs intelligently process and filter through the nonstop cacophony from Facebook, LinkedIn, customer forums, and countless media outlets?
  3. The democratized web spawns confusion and trust issues. Today, everyone can become a blogger and an expert in their field. I saw this trend take shape in 2002, when masses of displaced executives became coaches. All they needed to do was sell their services and launch a website to qualify. The same pattern has emerged with the “social media expert” movement. Whom can you trust, and who are the real experts in your field?
  4. Pressure to demonstrate a return on investment with marketing has reached a fever pitch. This came to light when I recently met the CMO of a large nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C. He lamented the cost and challenges associated with measuring marketing ROI. “When I seek approval for my key initiatives from the CEO, she wants facts and figures. I cannot always prove the return on our marketing investments in the short term. A lot of what we do is unchartered territory. And our Google Analytics can only tell a partial story. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place because we would love our online efforts to drive more revenue, but we cannot afford the high-end marketing analytics software.” While the web has spawned powerful free tools and apps, SaaS vendors within the marketing analytics field are raking in huge profits. The disparity could mark the demise of pricey marketing analytics solutions and only fuel more angst among today’s marketing leaders. (CRM deja vu, anyone?)
  5. Lines of responsibility across marketing and sales are disintegrating. According to sales guru Neil Rackham, many companies now expect marketing teams to drive transactional sales growth. Sales no longer have that exclusive responsibility. IBM and GE Solutions are starting to do this. In a recent issue of Marketing Week, Rackham explains that “GE Solutions has split its marketing into ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ groups. The upstream group focuses on product development, and the downstream group focuses on working with the sales teams.” Rackham posits that the downstream group “can create a lot of the tools and wisdom which can help the sales team to add value and select the right opportunities in the consultative process.”

I am worried about CMOs. These game-changing trends will threaten the old marketing guard. I want marketing organizations to gain greater influence and impact on today’s organizations. I want them to thrive. We need CMOs to teach stakeholders the power of building a customer-centric culture and community. Who else can do that as adroitly as CMOs? They have direct access to customers, the board, and sales channels. That’s why my upcoming posts will focus on organizations determined and destined to stave off extinction. Please share your thoughts and CMO success stories here, and I will continue to do the same.

[Image: Flickr user Jes]

copyright 2012, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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