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The Death of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is Overstated…


ThThere have been a number of articles about the downfall of the Chief Marketing Officer and how the role is one of the most unstable in business today.

It has become almost a fate accompli that the CMO is going to be someone that is not going to last long, won’t have any influence, and will be subservient to other members of the executive staff.

To that I call, “BS!”

About a year or so ago, I went to a keynote in DC given by a technology company CMO and I left aghast because the person stated that the biggest challenge he was facing was, “managing all the new tools” coming into the market.

I think you could audibly hear my jaw hit the floor because I was thinking that how could someone that is so driven by every shinning bauble be elevated to an executive position…but I think in looking at the current situation many CMOs and organizations are facing, chasing the new, shiny thing is what is leading many CMOs to fail in their roles and creating an environment where organizations aren’t getting the results they need from their marketing operations.

The answer to the challenge of the declining impact of the CMO, if it is a real story, is not to reduce the ability of the CMO to create change, but to rethink the role in a way that it can create revenue and opportunity for an organization.

Because at the end of the day, the role of the CMO is to deliver sales and impact for the organization.

Here’s a few ideas on how this can happen:

Focus on Outcomes:

The ill-fated keynote that I mentioned above is exhibit A in my case against CMOs because it highlights the challenge that most marketers are dealing with today: which is there is too much noise and the ability to cut through this noise is more difficult than ever before.

When you feel like your message isn’t getting through to your target market, the simplest solution might seem to be that you should just reach out to more people, in more places, with more messages.

But research and feedback from our customers tells us that this is the entirely wrong way to approach things.

In fact, if you try to inundate people with more…they tune you out.

That’s just reality.

The truth is that most organizations aren’t sure what they need their marketing to achieve without a proper frame. When this happens, the default often becomes to just do more and to chase the newest idea or newest technology solution.

Even if that doesn’t make sense.

The way to overcome this type of thinking is to focus on outcomes.

I’ve been using a pretty simple formula to ID marketing targets for the past few years:

  1. What value do I want to create?
  2. Who will buy it?
  3. How do I reach them?

Marketing should be all about answering those questions.

This makes finding outcomes to point towards pretty easy.

You can measure your marketing with a number of outcomes leading the way:

  • Revenue
  • Meetings held
  • Opportunities created
  • Average sale
  • Sales from current clients
  • Referrals

Knowing what you are trying to achieve is going to help you calibrate your marketing a lot more effectively.

So, first, lead with outcomes.

Don’t Start Something You Aren’t Willing To Finish:

Marketing is about consistency in most cases.

How many half baked marketing campaigns have you seen?

Something where the organization starts an initiative, maybe is unclear about what they hope to achieve, don’t see the results that they might have thought they would get or are unclear about what results they are getting, and stop doing something.

If you focus on the outcomes you are trying to achieve, you should lessen the likelihood of abandoning a lot of good ideas.

But if you don’t, you are going to often start and stop marketing activities willy nilly.

Stopping ineffective marketing activities is a total plus.

Where I worry about your marketing activities is because if you don’t know where you are going, your constant sputtering can lead to a message to the market that you don’t know who you are or what you are trying to do.

It can also lead to a failing marketing department because you don’t have anyway of measuring progress.

My best suggestion here is to not try to do too much, but once you put something in place…you do give it the effort and resources to succeed or fail.

Embrace Creativity:

I read a nice little book yesterday called Difference by Bernadette Jiwa.

In Bernadette’s book, she talked about some of the ways that marketing has failed us over the last few years.

The root cause of it is that the failure of our marketing can be linked directly to the concept of measuring everything. Bernadette believes that for far too long our marketers have been led to believe that marketing is more science than art and it has sucked the humanity out of much of what we do.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m on the record railing against the $12 Bud Light and I saw a $17 Bud Light at the Super Bowl.

To me, the $17 Bud Light is a stand-in for the commoditization of the marketing industry. If the numbers say we can do something, we should.

This leads to marketing and advertising that has a whiff of the same to it.

This leads to marketing and advertising that doesn’t feel magical like the first time you might have seen Max Headroom in the 1980s:

Or, how about the Mentos commercial if you are a child of the 90s?Thi

The list can go on, but instead we get a funhouse full of advertisements that are much the same, only different.

That won’t cut it in an oversaturated ad market and it won’t cut it when there is so much selection in the world.

To counteract this trend, we have to get back to being creative.

We need to embrace the unique and the way that we connect with the world.

Why is your product important?

What should you be remembered for?

If you are just trying to do more of the same for your organization, then it is no wonder the CMO role is failing because if you are just like everyone else…the only competitive advantage you have is cost.

And, that’s what’s creating the race to the bottom.

Which you don’t want to win.

While I don’t think the role of the CMO is dead. I do think that a successful CMO needs to do a number of things:

  • Be creative.
  • Be focused on the outcomes and results to be produced by the marketing.
  • Be unafraid of ignoring the new and shiny for the important.
  • Clear in stating ideas and opinions.
  • Stand as a peer to the other members of the executive office, even when pundits are claiming that you can’t be.