By Glen Hartman
The past decade has seen rapid transformation in the role and purview of the chief marketing officer. Several dynamics have triggered this shift, including mounting-yet-fluid expectations from the CEO and the digitization of everything, which demands brands now provide a seemingly 24/7 omnipresence. In short: a tough job has gotten tougher.
However, recent Accenture research says a select group of elite CMOs are thriving in this current environment by staying ahead of digital disruption, rebooting tired marketing cultures, and fostering collaboration across their organizations. This research, which surveyed 935 CMOs and 564 CEOs across 12 countries and 17 industries, shows that 17 percent of today's CMOs embody this pioneering trend.
These elite CMOs are leading the way to new approaches that put the customer at the forefront and are achieving business results that demand the C-suite take notice. Here, according to Accenture's research, is how they're doing it.
Marketing Is Ripe for Disruption; the Performance of Leading CMOs Proves It
The importance of innovation in marketing is certainly at a consensus: 90 percent of both CEOs and CMOs foresee the CMO role changing in a fundamental way over the next three years. Relatedly, three-quarters of CMOs believe that traditional techniques cannot successfully compete with those used by pioneering CMOs, whose techniques are capable of providing customers far more relevant brand experiences across multiple touchpoints.
Critically, the 17 percent of CMOs leading this disruption have been successful in proving that what they're doing directly impacts their brand's bottom line. The Accenture analysis finds that an investment portfolio of companies led by these CMOs would outperform a comparable portfolio led by traditional CMOs by 11 percent per year, on average.
If there was any question about the value a highly effective, forward-looking CMO can bring to a brand, the prospect of adding 11 percent to shareholder value yearly ought to provide a definitive answer.
Three Habits of Highly Effective CMOs
To be clear, the secret to CMO success is not simply spending more: pioneering CMOs spend 27 percent of their marketing budgets on innovation and 29 percent on customer experience, while other CMOs spend a comparable 24 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Instead, the most effective CMOs distinguish themselves by placing the customer at the center of all strategic planning and execution, and by continually adapting to improve customer experiences that fuel growth.
Here are three practices of pioneering CMOs:
1. Consistently reinvent the customer experience in pursuit of new growth.
Pioneering CMOs are quick to replace legacy processes and introduce entirely new customer experiences wherever they recognize opportunity. They depend on data to do so with confidence, knowing how to leverage robust analytics to identify insights within granular data, which in turn informs growth strategies not limited by more traditional marketing conventions.
The upper-echelon CMO is also quick to embrace new technologies and is closely focused on alternative growth sources. Compared to their peers, these top CMOs are 27 percent more likely to prioritize innovation and to explore new technologies as growth drivers. They also spend more of their time actively managing the disruptive growth driven by those decisions.
The importance of CMOs' focus on emerging technologies that can deliver compelling new customer experiences cannot be overstated: 31 percent of brands have already invested in disruptive new marketing technologies (like AI) to outpace their competition, and 76 percent of leading CMOs are currently expanding their emerging technology investment.
This willingness to go deep into data, pursue new ventures, and deliver unprecedented customer experiences demonstrates the pioneering CMOs' self-image as not just capable contemporary marketing leaders, but also as business innovators shaping a brand's future — a viewpoint that their peers would do well to adopt or risk falling too far behind.
2. Reshape marketing culture with the customer as the focal point.
Pioneering CMOs have no fear tailoring their organizations around the new practices and technologies that will bring superior experiences to their customers. As marketing leaders, they persistently ensure customers are met with hyper-relevant experiences at every touchpoint, and that their brands have the agility necessary to adapt to customer needs as they change. In practice, this means continually harnessing the right talent and capabilities, while nurturing a culture acutely committed to customer-centric goals.
These CMOs are 29 percent more likely than their peers to in-source new capabilities, 21 percent more likely to actively experiment with the newest and most innovative marketing technology solutions, and 26 percent more likely to believe the marketing department should own the end-to-end customer record.
3. Lead new operating models based on meaningful connection and collaboration.
Pioneering CMOs recognize that, in order for an entire organization to act as a singular force purposed with winning the customer, dysfunctional practices and silos have to go.
Eliminating barriers between marketing and other departments and earning greater buy-in from members across the C-suite establishes a more connected operating model that, in turn, enables organizations to more effectively achieve customer experiences that drive business success.
Departmental decisions made across an organization, from finance to sales to technology and beyond, will ultimately have a significant impact on the end customer experience. For this reason, leading CMOs are positioning themselves as experience leaders within their organizations, coordinating efforts beyond traditional marketing practices and championing a holistic commitment to the customer. In an environment where a hefty 87 percent of brands believe traditional experiences no longer satisfy customers, 95 percent of leading CMOs understand they need to align their entire companies around shared customer experience objectives.
These CMOs are fostering collaboration not only with internal groups, but also with external partners to acquire a full repertoire of skills and establish the mindset and behaviors supportive of sustained growth. Given this need, it should be no surprise that 17 percent of pioneering CMOs are more likely than their peers to expand beyond traditional agency partners to build a bench of talent and technology capable of thriving in today's frenetic marketplace.
Become a Pioneering CMO
CEOs and CMOs agree that the CMO should be an organization's central internal voice advocating for customers.
Claiming that role means instilling an obsessive dedication to the customer experience throughout the organization and across every brand touchpoint. It also means leading collaboration, so that strategies pursued within and across departments are designed and aligned with positive customer outcomes as their ultimate focus. By uniting organizations in this way — and by making their brands synonymous with innovative customer experiences — CMOs can join and expand upon the elite 17 percent who already deliver this unique marketing success.
Glen Hartman is the head of Accenture Interactive, North America, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.