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Yaagneshwaran Ganesh

He is a marketing enthusiast, speaker, columnist and the author of "Is your marketing in sync or sinking?” His mission "One globe, one experience" is to explore marketing practices at organizations of different sizes, industry and cultures across the globe and help align marketing operations to organizational strategy. He has an MBA from Jansons School of Business and a certificate in strategy management from Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode.

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Ensuring The Relevance Of A CMO

Trends change every day, minute and hour. CMOs must keep pace.


The role of CMOs is changing drastically and is becoming more demanding than ever. Though it has retained the high-tuned commercial instinct, creativity and analytical acumen, the need for collaboration with other functions and the level of expected expertise is increasing exponentially.

CMOs know that they aren’t hired to maintain or preserve the status quo. CEOs are not going to be pleased with it – they are looking for a change, which is nothing short of a surge. The expectations are high and with great expectations, come great responsibilities and newer roles.

The expectations of the role are much beyond marketing communication and advertising. They are expected to be strategic drivers of growth, collaborating closely with the CEOs and chief financial officers (CFOs) by bringing to the table the ability to connect consumer insights with strategy and create plans that translate to business growth.

On one end, you will have to cater to the ever-changing marketplace, dominated by the customer more than ever and on the other, introduce growth hacks to develop newer sources of growth. Marketing as an independent department cannot exist anymore and the emergence of new C-level titles both in and outside of marketing are proving that.

One of the key challenges faced by CMOs even today is the quantification of expected outcome. Quantifying and qualifying marketing has been as hard as clearly defining its scope. RoI is marketing's best metric. It is especially important in the age of business intelligence when every business is examining every dollar spent more closely.

Trends change every day, minute and hour. CMOs must keep pace. They must also be aware of rapid changes in technology and the way people consume information. Those trends can be exploited to find new ways to market a product or service. If a new app is wildly popular and has created a subculture of users, how can a CMO exploit this to reach those potential buyers? They have to pull back the branches and see new routes.

Global thoughts are no more an expectation; they are mandates. We no longer do business in our backyards; foreign entities impact every organization. Awareness of economies and political situations abroad has become more critical. This data impacts the market, and the way products and services are received by it. The Xiaomi and OnePlus sales ban in India is a most recent example.

The new role of the CMO can be attributed to three major factors:
i. Increased expectation from the CEO
ii. Shared accountability across the C-suite
iii. Generating both top and bottom-line growth

Let us explore each of the three factors in this chapter.
i. Increased expectation from the CEO
During one of my conversations with Christian Fictoor, the CIOof L’Amp, an innovative marketing agency based out of Netherlands, he said, "In a few years, expect the CMO title to fade away. Today, a typical CEO expects the CMO to step up to a leadership of integrated cross-functional customer experience."

The CMO has to be able to offer inputs to the CFO, take strategic inputs from the CEO and share designing responsibilities with the product development team to ensure the design and delivery of consistent and positive cross-functional customer experiences across various channels.
He has to know the pulse of his buyers. He has to “speak their language.” He has to relate. If he lacks this fundamental understanding and ability, he has already failed. All the metrics in the world are useless without the ability to interpret them. Metrics only tell what has happened after the product launches. They only tell what people bought or how many people migrated. What they never tell is why those people made those decisions. A CMO must investigate and relate. The marketing operations are only part of the picture. The greater goal is building and supporting a brand.

In the age of metrics, we have to consider the entire body of the business and the relationships between every element – the context. It is also the job of a good CMO to understand every aspect of how his organization works. He cannot be effective in his role if he is ignorant about the overall goals of the company and how it functions. How can he market something that he really does not know anything about? How can he set RoI expectations if he does not know the financial condition of the organization? How can he serve the brand when he does not understand what is needed to build it, or what its objective is?

A CMO does not just build and support the brand – he is prepared to fight anything, which may destroy it. Disaster plans and offensive strategies are the key to brand management. All the analyses in the world will not prevent disasters. What if your carefully built customer base receives thousands of defective units? What if a single development issue can destroy 50% of your product sales?

Today's CMOs need to aggregate all things that are customer-related. They must have an intimate understanding of the customer's entire buying journey. They must bring customer awareness into focus for the entire organization. At all levels, there must be consciousness of the customer's experience.

ii. Shared accountability across the C-suite
Achieving your company's top priorities requires you to both lead and collaborate with C-suite peers in areas that are exponentially increasing. Christian Fictoor rightly pointed out during our conversation that the boundaries among the C-suite are fading fast. To develop a culture of change and innovation, one needs an effective working relationship with theCIO. Similarly, the CMO has to be an integral part of the planning and budgeting exercise and so on.

In short, the accountability of today’s CMO crosses the following functions:
1. Analytics (collection, management and application of internal and external data)
2. Digital business
3. Digital commerce/customer experience/channels
4. Sales effectiveness
5. Marketing technology

iii. Generating both top- and bottom-line growth
Revenue numbers do matter and they are among the most critical key performance indicators that establish the credibility of a CMO. Credibility comes from delivering top- and bottom-line growth but in no means can they choose to ignore the softer measurements.

Tracking, measuring and communicating results are key. We are competing globally and businesses are becoming much more sophisticated with the advent of big data.

The CMO needs to understand that the marketplace was once full of brands that flourished as a result of exclusivity and that technology is quickly destroying that business model. How? Production, communication and metrics have allowed the source and the buyer to share the same mind space. They have also allowed producers to easily create exactly what people want.

Years ago, a certain part of the market could not be accessed by smaller organizations because they lacked the financial and creative resources necessary to achieve that. Technology has completely ended that. Form and function are moving closer together. The buyer does not have to choose. The product space is becoming more crowded because more people are able to deliver newer products in every category. The lines that distinguish one product from another are blurring. There are still differences in quality, but as technology advances, that will also change. The only thing that will remain is price and customer experience.

Trends are also becoming fluid because industry can now respond more quickly to them. We monitor trends on a minute-to-minute basis. We also have the technology and infrastructure to act on those trends as they happen. This further dilutes the power of simple delivery.

Metrics are important to today's CMO not just because they give direction, but also because they provide the most current information available. The significance of real-time data will vary with each industry, but there is no dismissing the importance of current information, especially if it reveals a dramatic change. We’ve long moved from predictive analytics – we’re in the age of situational awareness and everything is real-time.

A CMO must not just consider, apply and maintain the metrics; he must focus on those that offer the most substance. Metrics are nothing without good interpretation. A pile of data is meaningless unless the CMO has an intimate understanding of the market to know which metrics matter most. For instance, how many units are sold may not be important because the business may be selling services for those units.

It may only matter how popular the product is with a specific demographic rather than all. As the lines are blurring among the C-suite, a key factor for a CMO to consider is his growing role in technology procurement. Are you as a CMO becoming more and more of a martech person every day? If not, start now!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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