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The CMO Role is Changing


Those 3 letters combined in this way create an image in your mind. What is that image?

There are mixed opinions on the CMO role – whether this position should continue to exist or if it should evolve.

This company executive has changed over the years in experience, focus and responsibilities.

Today's 'CMO' is no longer just a 'marketing' leader but the leader of the customer journey. Marketing is a piece of the overall responsibilities of today's CMO.

And, let's face it: it's just a title. If you want to keep the CMO title, you can make it what you want it to be. If you want to change the title to be more trendy and/or reflect the changing role, change it to CCO or CRO or something that you create that works for your organization. Make your own rules.

CMO is an internal title represented on an org chart. Do your customers care what your title is?

No, no they don't. They care how you treat them, how easy you make it to buy from you, how well you serve them - even if you help them sleep better at night.

Bottom line: are you solving their problem and without friction?

Here are 3 things today's CMO needs to focus on that goes beyond just 'marketing' in order to better attract, engage, convert and retain ideal customers:

  1. Customer: understand where they spend time, what keeps them up at night, what challenges they have and ultimately how you can best serve them where they are when they need you.

  2. Engagement: Creating content in the format that works best for your target audience that prompts them to take action or gives them direction on what you want them to do next.

  3. Revenue: Generating revenue doesn't belong only to sales. They are the ones who finalize the purchase BUT marketing is involved with the stages leading up to that point of signing on the dotted line. The CMO owns part of the revenue goal and influences the customer journey towards helping them serve a need while also achieving the company objective.

What you'll see in my content, on my website and in my videos is that my focus is on the customer.

And that’s an outside the company mentality. To quote Mark Schaefer from his book Marketing Rebellion, 'The customer is the marketer'.

If you’re a marketing executive your strategies are customer focused and your team includes various data, design, brand, revenue generating people. Should your title change?

You could – you could change it to CCO – Chief Customer Officer or CRO – Chief Revenue Officer.

The important thing about this debate that continues to spill over from year to year, causing some CMOs and the leadership team ongoing headaches is the inability to differentiate between internal and external focus.

Look at your customer’s, the experiences they have with your brand, the feedback you’re getting on their interaction with your brand and most importantly look at the data – are they loyal, are they spending more with you, is your revenue increasing, are they raving fans and sharing their experiences with their community?

This goes beyond the marketing executive. This is a company initiative from the leader to the team members. All positions in a company need to approach their responsibilities from a customer serving perspective. Make it all inclusive as it should be. Involve all teams in this process.

I’ve been saying this for years – and even focused on ‘sales’ roles in a blog post in 2018 regarding the title interpretation and bad vibes you get from a 'sales' title.

Similarly, the ‘marketing’ or CMO role today goes far beyond just the old mentality of marketing so don't get hung up on the title - how is this person in this position serving the customer while meeting company objectives - directly and indirectly?

It’s all encompassing of digital and traditional, customer first, collaborative while still having responsibilities for P&L, revenue and retention.

The change is not in the 3 letters that make up a title, the change is in the perspective of the company from inward focus on teams, processes and reports to outward focus on customer, engagement and experiences. Focusing on the customer will naturally generate revenue for the company.

When you change your focus to be on the customer, their experience and their journey with your brand from awareness to purchase and beyond, that’s when you’ll have the “CMO” role defined.

Call it what you will, CMO, CCO, CRO – the customer doesn’t care. They just want a frictionless buying experience that connects the dots between their problem and any solution.

If you want them to choose your solution, you have to deliver what they want. And the way to do that is to ask them, research their behaviors and modify internally with all affected teams together – marketing, sales, product development, R&D, operations, accounting, HR…there are more people involved in the customer journey than you may realize.

Now, marketing should own that responsibility but the teams involved along the customer journey path should be included in the internal process of creating and delivering what the customer needs at different touch points along the way.

2020 is the year of change. What’s yours going to be, CMO? Let me know by leaving me a voice mail here

Vicki O'Neill is a fractional CMO in Ohio. The problem she solves for small business owners is visibility resulting from lack of engagement with the target customer causing the business to plateau. She founded KenKay Marketing in 2011 and started her marketing and sales educational podcast, Connect the Dots, in 2018. She launched a second podcast, The Power of 3X, in 2019 with her Gen Z daughters. Vicki is on most social media (see footer icons) but you'll find her most active on LinkedIn. Connect wherever you spend the most time!

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