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8 essential roles of the growth agent CMO

The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has greatly evolved in the last decade. Now more than ever, the CMO is viewed as a growth agent for business. According to Gartner’s Chris Ross, “the center of the bull’s-eye for the vast majority of CMOs is growth, which CEOs look to CMOs and their teams to drive. … They should never take their eyes off that ball.”

To thrive in today’s environment, businesses need to be experts on consumer behavior and emerging trends, relying heavily on insights into the consumer psyche to spur disruptive growth within the company. The executive most often charged with leading consumer-centric, disruptive growth is the CMO. 

As such, CMOs are held accountable for performance across a wide spectrum of consumer interactions. Consider the following statistics from financial marketing expert Mark Arnold:

  • 53% of CEOs want more strategic thinking from marketing
  • 85% of CEOs want marketing to be more agile, to respond more quickly to changing market conditions
  • 51% of CEOs turn to marketing for the customer insights they need to compete
  • 61% of CEOs are looking for innovative solutions from their CMOs

No other C-suite executive is asked to wear as many hats as the chief marketing officer. Every touchpoint within the customer journey now falls — directly or indirectly — under the CMO’s purview. 

Modern CMOs are expected to know more about the business, the marketplace, and the customer than anyone else. They are required to be drivers of business strategy and heavy influencers of the overall direction of the business. To succeed, chief marketing officers must be proficient across multiple business functions, not just marketing. They must simultaneously be business strategists, revenue generators, data scientists, technology experts, voices of the consumer, customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) owners, and brand stewards. 

We examine the eight essential roles the modern CMO — aka the growth agent CMO — must adopt in order to lead.

No. 1: Business strategist

A recent study by Deloitte and the CMO Council found that more than half of the C-suite executives surveyed believe that an enterprisewide mindset — defined as having a voice in company growth initiatives and owning a significant role in budgeting and strategic planning — is one of the most important factors in the CMO’s success. The CMO is expected to understand and embrace real business goals and create breakthrough customer offerings and business strategies that can move the enterprise toward those goals. 

In many enterprises, primary responsibility for the growth agenda now lies with marketing. In fact, 50% of CEOs see marketing as the primary driver of business growth. Research supports this conclusion: A study reported in the Journal of Business & Economics Research revealed that the stocks of companies in which the CMO is part of the top management team netted shareholders significantly higher long-term returns.

In short, the CMO’s role as a business strategist has never been more crucial to the company’s success. 

No. 2: Revenue generator

Growth agent CMOs place revenue generation high on their priority list. That’s smart, because eight out of 10 CEOs believe the primary goal of marketing is to generate revenue. 

They’re not alone. Ninety-five percent of CMOs understand that revenue is the top measure of growth within the company. And three-quarters of them believe that they have a great deal of control over the corporate levers of disruptive growth. Yet only 6% of CMOs actively work to grow revenue. 

For better or worse, CEOs measure marketing success by the return on investment (ROI) it generates for the company. To succeed, CMOs must participate in — and lead —  ROI-driving strategic initiatives. 

No. 3: Data scientist

Today’s CMO is expected to help define corporate strategy through data. In a survey of CMOs conducted by Deloitte, the foremost factor that determines CMO success is knowing how to use customer data and analytics. The most successful CMOs bring three or more types of data to strategic conversations, including market insights, market opportunities, competitive insights, brand health, and customer needs.

The growth agent CMO must be a master of marketing intelligence. But the sheer volume of available data can be overwhelming. The ability to turn raw data into actionable insights is a bedrock skill for the growth agent CMO — and it may be the most difficult to master.

No. 4: Technology expert

Prior to the start of the pandemic, 76% of new technology spending involved the chief marketing officer. That’s not surprising. In many ways, marketing technology is playing catch-up with other areas of business tech. The explosive growth of digital media has opened the door to tech tools ranging from marketing automation to artificial intelligence. 

The CMO is expected to be fluent in all manner of marketing technology — an impossible task, as technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate. CMOs must be tech-savvy enough to choose from an array of robust, innovative new platforms. Yet only 30% of CMOs believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators. 

It gets worse. Today, only three in 10 CMOs use marketing technology to manage campaigns. That’s a recipe for failure. 

No. 5: Voice of the consumer

The most crucial role of the growth agent CMO may be that of customer champion. Marketing has been tapped to provide the high-level consumer insights, needs assessments, and personalized experiences necessary to build brand preference and drive business growth. CMOs must be experts on consumer behavior, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. 

Today’s CMO is an advocate for the consumer: knowing who they are, understanding what they value, and discerning what motivates them. CMOs are responsible for the humanization of customer engagement across every stage of the buying cycle.

No. 6: CX owner

Customer experience is a logical outgrowth of the CMO’s role as voice of the consumer. It’s only natural that CX initiatives are owned by the person who knows the customer best. 

Businesses are rapidly realizing that fact: Customer experience has become the top priority for 49% of global marketers. Twenty-eight percent of global enterprises have already merged brand, marketing, and CX into a single team. 

The challenge for the CMO is that marketing and CX methodologies and tool sets lack alignment. CX demands a long-term commitment, while marketing must demonstrate agility to pivot quickly in response to consumer needs. 

No. 7: EX owner

Front-line employees have a massive effect on the consumer’s perception of a company. It’s up to the CMO to ensure that employees are invested in the company’s mission and are prepared to communicate that mission to valuable audiences, from consumers to investors.

An example: A large wireless carrier believed that network coverage and monthly cost were the key drivers of brand experience. When they dug into the data, they found that the biggest impact on brand perception came from the consumer’s first experience with in-store employees. 

Employee experience drives the consumer experience, which in turn drives customer conversion. Growth agent CMOs have to make sure employees live the brand experience every day. 

No. 8: Brand steward 

Despite all of the additional responsibilities thrust upon the chief marketing officer, brand-shaping and campaign execution — the traditional role of the CMO — remains the most tangible measure of success. 

The CMO continues to be the primary architect of brand messaging and storytelling, overseeing delivery of that messaging across every marketing channel. Yet only 40% of CMOs are actively working on brand building. 

This isn’t surprising, given the overwhelming number of roles required of the modern CMO. As a result, the CMO must lean heavily on internal marketing teams and tactical agencies. 

CMOs lack the resources to be successful. 

Growth agent CMOs have been asked to elevate their activities from brand managers to enterprise wide revenue generators, limiting their ability to focus on more traditional marketing activities. As the CMO role expanded, the burden placed on internal marketing resources grows.  

But the resources are simply not there. HubSpot recently identified no fewer than 36 specialties needed to create an effective multichannel branding campaign. How can the CMO possibly build a team capable of meeting all these demands?

Bringing on the talent is getting more difficult as well. 2021 was the hardest year on marketing budgets since the Great Recession. The percentage of company revenue devoted to marketing dropped from 11% in 2020 to just 6.4% this past year. And it’s not expected to get better anytime soon: Only 46% of CEOs plan to increase marketing spend in the near future.

So where does the CMO turn?

Internal marketing teams can provide some support, but very few can arm the CMO with all the manpower, skill sets, and talent needed to meet the high expectations placed upon the chief marketing officer today. 

CMOs could turn to tactical agencies to fill the gaps, but they offer limited solutions to tough marketing challenges. As the old adage goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

Tactical agencies offer valuable services to the CMO, but without strategic oversight, the results will be duplication of effort, lack of synergy, and missed opportunities.

The growth agent CMO needs a full-service marketing agency.

To succeed, the CMO must be a cross-functional team builder, amassing talent from a variety of disciplines and instilling them with a singular sense of purpose. 

This is precisely what a full-service marketing agency does.

Full-service agencies comprise integrated teams with distinct skill sets who work together to provide holistic marketing strategies and solutions.  

Contrast that with tactical agencies that specialize in only one or two disciplines, limiting their ability to provide strategic solutions to marketing problems. 

Full-service agencies employ specialists across tactics who collaborate to provide the cross-functional strategic thinking the CMO needs to meet the expectations of the CEO. 

Why growth agent CMOs turn to full-service agencies.

  • Talent. Full-service agencies provide the CMO with access to specialized talent that would otherwise be too expensive and difficult to find.
  • Expertise. Teams are led by subject matter experts (SMEs), working together with other SMEs to provide holistic solutions.
  • Agility. Integrated solutions enable the agency to shift gears at a moment’s notice when new opportunities or changes in priority occur.
  • Innovation. Full-service agencies have access to data platforms and technology usually out of reach for in-house marketing teams.
  • Perspective. Full-service agencies provide strategic thinking that tactical agencies often lack, while bringing an outside perspective that internal marketing teams may easily miss.
  • Creativity. Full-service agencies are exposed to an array of creative solutions across many industries and marketing channels, fueling creativity.
  • Consistency. Full-service agencies can deliver a consistent message across all marketing channels, coordinating and enhancing brand communications.
  • Affordability. Full-service agencies can reduce the number of tactical agencies needed to develop an effective campaign, allowing marketing departments to reduce hard costs.

More and more growth agent CMOs are turning to full-service agencies to get the strategic thinking that tactical agencies lack, put more resources and talent to work for their brands without adding full-time employees, scale marketing success across all channels, and improve the overall return on investment (ROI) of their marketing programs. 

Is it time for you to consider the advantages of working with a full-service agency? 

8 essential roles of the growth agent CMO

The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) has greatly evolved in the last decade. Now more than ever, the CMO is viewed as a growth agent for business. According to Gartner’s Chris Ross, “the center of the bull’s-eye for the vast majority of CMOs is growth, which CEOs look to CMOs and their teams to drive. … They should never take their eyes off that ball.”

To thrive in today’s environment, businesses need to be experts on consumer behavior and emerging trends, relying heavily on insights into the consumer psyche to spur disruptive growth within the company. The executive most often charged with leading consumer-centric, disruptive growth is the CMO. 

As such, CMOs are held accountable for performance across a wide spectrum of consumer interactions. Consider the following statistics from financial marketing expert Mark Arnold:

  • 53% of CEOs want more strategic thinking from marketing
  • 85% of CEOs want marketing to be more agile, to respond more quickly to changing market conditions
  • 51% of CEOs turn to marketing for the customer insights they need to compete
  • 61% of CEOs are looking for innovative solutions from their CMOs

No other C-suite executive is asked to wear as many hats as the chief marketing officer. Every touchpoint within the customer journey now falls — directly or indirectly — under the CMO’s purview. 

Modern CMOs are expected to know more about the business, the marketplace, and the customer than anyone else. They are required to be drivers of business strategy and heavy influencers of the overall direction of the business. To succeed, chief marketing officers must be proficient across multiple business functions, not just marketing. They must simultaneously be business strategists, revenue generators, data scientists, technology experts, voices of the consumer, customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) owners, and brand stewards. 

We examine the eight essential roles the modern CMO — aka the growth agent CMO — must adopt in order to lead.

No. 1: Business strategist

A recent study by Deloitte and the CMO Council found that more than half of the C-suite executives surveyed believe that an enterprisewide mindset — defined as having a voice in company growth initiatives and owning a significant role in budgeting and strategic planning — is one of the most important factors in the CMO’s success. The CMO is expected to understand and embrace real business goals and create breakthrough customer offerings and business strategies that can move the enterprise toward those goals. 

In many enterprises, primary responsibility for the growth agenda now lies with marketing. In fact, 50% of CEOs see marketing as the primary driver of business growth. Research supports this conclusion: A study reported in the Journal of Business & Economics Research revealed that the stocks of companies in which the CMO is part of the top management team netted shareholders significantly higher long-term returns.

In short, the CMO’s role as a business strategist has never been more crucial to the company’s success. 

No. 2: Revenue generator

Growth agent CMOs place revenue generation high on their priority list. That’s smart, because eight out of 10 CEOs believe the primary goal of marketing is to generate revenue. 

They’re not alone. Ninety-five percent of CMOs understand that revenue is the top measure of growth within the company. And three-quarters of them believe that they have a great deal of control over the corporate levers of disruptive growth. Yet only 6% of CMOs actively work to grow revenue. 

For better or worse, CEOs measure marketing success by the return on investment (ROI) it generates for the company. To succeed, CMOs must participate in — and lead —  ROI-driving strategic initiatives. 

No. 3: Data scientist

Today’s CMO is expected to help define corporate strategy through data. In a survey of CMOs conducted by Deloitte, the foremost factor that determines CMO success is knowing how to use customer data and analytics. The most successful CMOs bring three or more types of data to strategic conversations, including market insights, market opportunities, competitive insights, brand health, and customer needs.

The growth agent CMO must be a master of marketing intelligence. But the sheer volume of available data can be overwhelming. The ability to turn raw data into actionable insights is a bedrock skill for the growth agent CMO — and it may be the most difficult to master.

No. 4: Technology expert

Prior to the start of the pandemic, 76% of new technology spending involved the chief marketing officer. That’s not surprising. In many ways, marketing technology is playing catch-up with other areas of business tech. The explosive growth of digital media has opened the door to tech tools ranging from marketing automation to artificial intelligence. 

The CMO is expected to be fluent in all manner of marketing technology — an impossible task, as technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate. CMOs must be tech-savvy enough to choose from an array of robust, innovative new platforms. Yet only 30% of CMOs believe they are cutting-edge marketing innovators. 

It gets worse. Today, only three in 10 CMOs use marketing technology to manage campaigns. That’s a recipe for failure. 

No. 5: Voice of the consumer

The most crucial role of the growth agent CMO may be that of customer champion. Marketing has been tapped to provide the high-level consumer insights, needs assessments, and personalized experiences necessary to build brand preference and drive business growth. CMOs must be experts on consumer behavior, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. 

Today’s CMO is an advocate for the consumer: knowing who they are, understanding what they value, and discerning what motivates them. CMOs are responsible for the humanization of customer engagement across every stage of the buying cycle.

No. 6: CX owner

Customer experience is a logical outgrowth of the CMO’s role as voice of the consumer. It’s only natural that CX initiatives are owned by the person who knows the customer best. 

Businesses are rapidly realizing that fact: Customer experience has become the top priority for 49% of global marketers. Twenty-eight percent of global enterprises have already merged brand, marketing, and CX into a single team. 

The challenge for the CMO is that marketing and CX methodologies and tool sets lack alignment. CX demands a long-term commitment, while marketing must demonstrate agility to pivot quickly in response to consumer needs. 

No. 7: EX owner

Front-line employees have a massive effect on the consumer’s perception of a company. It’s up to the CMO to ensure that employees are invested in the company’s mission and are prepared to communicate that mission to valuable audiences, from consumers to investors.

An example: A large wireless carrier believed that network coverage and monthly cost were the key drivers of brand experience. When they dug into the data, they found that the biggest impact on brand perception came from the consumer’s first experience with in-store employees. 

Employee experience drives the consumer experience, which in turn drives customer conversion. Growth agent CMOs have to make sure employees live the brand experience every day. 

No. 8: Brand steward 

Despite all of the additional responsibilities thrust upon the chief marketing officer, brand-shaping and campaign execution — the traditional role of the CMO — remains the most tangible measure of success. 

The CMO continues to be the primary architect of brand messaging and storytelling, overseeing delivery of that messaging across every marketing channel. Yet only 40% of CMOs are actively working on brand building. 

This isn’t surprising, given the overwhelming number of roles required of the modern CMO. As a result, the CMO must lean heavily on internal marketing teams and tactical agencies. 

CMOs lack the resources to be successful. 

Growth agent CMOs have been asked to elevate their activities from brand managers to enterprise wide revenue generators, limiting their ability to focus on more traditional marketing activities. As the CMO role expanded, the burden placed on internal marketing resources grows.  

But the resources are simply not there. HubSpot recently identified no fewer than 36 specialties needed to create an effective multichannel branding campaign. How can the CMO possibly build a team capable of meeting all these demands?

Bringing on the talent is getting more difficult as well. 2021 was the hardest year on marketing budgets since the Great Recession. The percentage of company revenue devoted to marketing dropped from 11% in 2020 to just 6.4% this past year. And it’s not expected to get better anytime soon: Only 46% of CEOs plan to increase marketing spend in the near future.

So where does the CMO turn?

Internal marketing teams can provide some support, but very few can arm the CMO with all the manpower, skill sets, and talent needed to meet the high expectations placed upon the chief marketing officer today. 

CMOs could turn to tactical agencies to fill the gaps, but they offer limited solutions to tough marketing challenges. As the old adage goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

Tactical agencies offer valuable services to the CMO, but without strategic oversight, the results will be duplication of effort, lack of synergy, and missed opportunities.

The growth agent CMO needs a full-service marketing agency.

To succeed, the CMO must be a cross-functional team builder, amassing talent from a variety of disciplines and instilling them with a singular sense of purpose. 

This is precisely what a full-service marketing agency does.

Full-service agencies comprise integrated teams with distinct skill sets who work together to provide holistic marketing strategies and solutions.  

Contrast that with tactical agencies that specialize in only one or two disciplines, limiting their ability to provide strategic solutions to marketing problems. 

Full-service agencies employ specialists across tactics who collaborate to provide the cross-functional strategic thinking the CMO needs to meet the expectations of the CEO. 

Why growth agent CMOs turn to full-service agencies.

  • Talent. Full-service agencies provide the CMO with access to specialized talent that would otherwise be too expensive and difficult to find.
  • Expertise. Teams are led by subject matter experts (SMEs), working together with other SMEs to provide holistic solutions.
  • Agility. Integrated solutions enable the agency to shift gears at a moment’s notice when new opportunities or changes in priority occur.
  • Innovation. Full-service agencies have access to data platforms and technology usually out of reach for in-house marketing teams.
  • Perspective. Full-service agencies provide strategic thinking that tactical agencies often lack, while bringing an outside perspective that internal marketing teams may easily miss.
  • Creativity. Full-service agencies are exposed to an array of creative solutions across many industries and marketing channels, fueling creativity.
  • Consistency. Full-service agencies can deliver a consistent message across all marketing channels, coordinating and enhancing brand communications.
  • Affordability. Full-service agencies can reduce the number of tactical agencies needed to develop an effective campaign, allowing marketing departments to reduce hard costs.

More and more growth agent CMOs are turning to full-service agencies to get the strategic thinking that tactical agencies lack, put more resources and talent to work for their brands without adding full-time employees, scale marketing success across all channels, and improve the overall return on investment (ROI) of their marketing programs. 

Is it time for you to consider the advantages of working with a full-service agency? 

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