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CMOs Struggle to Drive Revenue, CMO Council Report Finds

Only 6 percent of CMOs are driving routes to revenue across all facets of the business globally, report found. PHOTO: Andreas Rønningen

Many CMOs do little outside of branding and campaign management and fail to drive revenue growth, a new survey suggests.

According to a new CMO Council and Deloitte study of more than 200 CMOs and marketing VPs, CMOs struggle to step into the role of growth and business-drivers.

When asked about the role of marketing is specific to growth, only 6 percent of respondents said they are driving routes to revenue across all facets of the business globally, only 4 percent are providing sales intelligence and key account insight support, and only 13 percent are working to retain and grow customer relationships through improved customer experiences.

Too Many Meetings

So what are CMOs doing? 

Liz Miller
Liz Miller

“They’re still spending a good part of their day reviewing budgets, sitting in on branding and narrative meetings,” said Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing for the CMO Council. “They’re still in this comfort zone of branding rather than moving ahead and rather than trying to find the crystallized message through the eyes of the customer that moves us forward.”

In fact, just 8 percent of marketing leaders admit to auditing, assessing and continually improving the customer experience. And only 7 percent of survey takers say they look for strategic partnerships, alliances and acquisitions that drive growth.

‘Shocking’ Results

It’s not that CMOs don’t want to step into the role of business-driver. In fact, 27 percent of those surveyed believe they are their organizations’ primary growth drivers. Only 22 percent believe this responsibility falls to the CEO.

However, CMOs often get sidetracked by a “legacy of brand-centric strategies and campaign-focused actions,” the study concluded.

“It shocked me how few marketers seem to really be able to jump into substantial dollar-driving business development tasks,” Miller told CMSWire. 

Some CMOs still think branding and campaigns are the growth sweet spots. About 44 percent of them said growth in marketing means redefining and reshaping the brand while another 42 percent said executing campaigns to attract customers and predispose prospects.

“That was a little disappointing to see,” Miller said. “You’re redefining the brand message, but why are you not working on up-sell and cross-sell strategy? Why aren’t you looking at the business model, globalization strategies and new channel partner opportunities? We need to have strategic leaders at helm of that.” 

MarTech Fixation

To become better business drivers, CMOs should shift attention away from a MarTech stack view of technology and campaign automation and advance their sights onto a revenue technology stack: revenue-producing, tracking and optimizing solutions that are tied to both the business and the customer experience, according to report authors.

“We get lost in that,” Miller said of MarTech tools and campaign automation. “We as executive leaders in the coming year need to be far better at empowering really great teams to do some of those things on our behalf so we are able to collaborate with the C-Suite on new growth and understanding cross functional teams and lines of business.”

Little CX Efforts?

Lisa Arthur
Lisa Arthur

Practicing CMOs also expressed surprise when CMSWire reached out for reaction to the CMO Council/Deloitte study. 

Lisa Arthur, CMO of kCura, an e-discovery software company based in Chicago, said she was surprised only 8 percent of CMOs continually assess and improve the customer experience. 

“Customer experience,” she said, “should be the heartbeat of marketing. It’s critical to customer retention and, in turn, revenue growth.”

KCura uses “voice of the customer” surveys to drive business decisions from marketing to product development. “We also heavily invest in our community, both online with a resource-filled community website for our users and offline at events,” Arthur said.

Departmental Challenges

Victoria Godfrey, CMO at Avention, a Concord, Mass.-based provider of an account-based marketing (ABM) solution, attributes CMOs’ lack of long-term focus to a potential lack of inter-departmental alignment. 

Victoria Godfrey
Victoria Godfrey

“To make strategic decisions, sales and marketing teams must organize around data,” Godfrey said. “If marketers can align with their sales colleagues and other departments around data-driven initiatives, they will be able to thrive in 2017.”

Data, she said, not only allows marketers to measure revenue, but makes it imperative for them to measure how their activities are performing throughout the entire funnel and to contribute to their company’s bottom line. 

“Data has transformed,” she said, “from an opportunity to a requirement — and the technology available today ensures that every CMO is data-driven.”

Time to Restructure

Michelle Huff, CMO of Act-On, a Portland, Ore.-based marketing automation provider, told CMSWire organizations must often restructure, potentially bringing in new talent or changing/growing roles within the current team, to spur growth.

Michelle Huff
Michelle Huff

“This also involves how the CMO needs to track and measure success,” Huff told CMSWire. “This is why marketing operations and analysts roles are often one of the first hires within the team.” 

CMOs need to establish what they need to be, align teams around them, build those teams and then start showing improvement — all in a short time frame.

“Some of the impact is more easily measured — for example, quarter-to-quarter contributions and improvement to pipeline — but, in other areas like developing new markets, influencing product direction and customer experience, marketing needs to play the long game,” Huff added. “Marketing’s role in these areas are important, but improvements are seen over time and there aren’t as many well-established benchmarks and common ratios used to measure results.”

The CMO Council and Deloitte surveyed more than 200 CMOs across all industry sectors and geographies. In total, 53 percent of respondents hold a title of CMO or senior vice president of marketing within their organization, and 33 percent of respondents hold positions at companies with $1 billion or more in revenue.


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