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January 26, 2016

Wanted by the CEO: A Superhero CMO

Summary:

The CMO must anticipate the expectations of the connected consumer, master an accelerating digital learning curve -- and much, much more.

Photo Courtesy of JD Hancock

The IDC “2016 Global Chief Marketing Officer FutureScape” predicts CMO turnover continuing at 25% per year or higher through 2018.

This is not surprising, as marketing continues to be disrupted and reinvented.

The CMO must anticipate the expectations of the connected consumer, master an accelerating digital learning curve and negotiate a new role and relationship to the CEO – who himself must come to terms with marketing playing a new position in the organization.

While this is true across companies in all sectors, it is a special consideration in insurance, where marketing is emerging from a historical “back seat” role in sales support and becoming the leader of customer-centricity and digital transformation efforts.

The CMO is now often expected to be a superhero – one who speedily turns customer-centricity into P&L results … uses technology and data analytics to drive performance … delivers marketing ROI … drives leads to sales channels … and advances capabilities to keep up with marketplace opportunities. She is a leader who gets beyond intellectualizing the need for change and quickly makes change happen. She gets Millennial consumers to flock to the brand.

Being data-driven is core to the wiring of the CMO who can accomplish all of this. Being a member of the Millennial generation may be useful, too. But I’m hearing a hunger for even more, from start-ups to Fortune 500 leaders.

These leaders are looking for a CMO who demonstrates:

  • Strategic, visionary and transformational wiring, with the ability to execute
  • Skill at seeding and scaling innovation
  • Analytical, technical and creative abilities
  • A collaborative style – someone who is a motivator and a networker
  • Digital native instincts and intuition
  • Links to P&L performance
  • A sense of urgency

This profile is a tall order. To find your marketing superhero:

Define what marketing means in your business. Marketing can be the high-impact discipline that connects your company’s brand with customers to create growth. If you have defined marketing as the advertising, promotions and research function, my definition proposes a much-expanded view with implications for the broader team, goals and metrics and alignment. Being clear on the function’s role is the basis for picking the must-have CMO qualities.

Maximize the CMO’s potential by envisioning a function that can:

  • Be immersed in customers’ lives and be the internal advocate for their needs
  • Surface, synthesize and apply market insight and data – pushing beyond demographics to a segment-based understanding of attitudinal, behavioral and cross-cultural attributes
  • Create experiences that attract customers and strengthen relationships
  • Test and learn – acquiring and applying data to get better
  • Have a P&L focus – connecting customer behavior to financial outcomes
  • Be a collaborator with colleagues, especially technologists and data scientists

Look to the CMO to adapt the mature methodologies that matter, and meld these with what technology and data now make possible. Segmentation, A/B testing and positioning methodologies work and are essential in an environment of channel proliferation and media fragmentation. Apply these alongside customer journey mapping, machine learning capabilities and the best social, mobile, community and other connection tactics to motivate customer engagement.

Hold the CMO accountable for metrics that make sense. The best metrics focus on the drivers of prospect and customer behavior that marketing can affect. While awareness, intent to buy and volume of qualified leads are on the list, more rigorous metrics linked to P&L outcomes also belong on the marketing scorecard – accounts opened, sales closed, evidence of loyalty such as repeat purchase and recommendation to others. Be aware of the dependencies beyond marketing, across a multi-functional business, to move these levers.

Provide sponsorship. Marketing will continue to transform irrespective of the size or stage of maturity of the business. The function’s success increases in a culture of customer commitment and insight, where leaders keep the customer at the center of decisions.

Chances are your CMO will be mortal. So, how will she succeed? Whether digital migrant, native or newbie, data-driven or intuitive, CMOs will rise to superhero status when they: 

  • Operate with a relentless customer focus.
  • Achieve differentiation that matters to your target.
  • Build and motivate a diverse team – creating, in effect, the composite superhero marketer.
  • Lead with openness, trust and collaboration, self-awareness and humility, clarity of vision and connection to execution.

This post also appears in Amy’s regular column on Huffington Post, Medium.com and LinkedIn.

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About the Author

Amy Radin is the author of The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation in Any Company. Amy has been at the forefront of rewiring businesses for the future, moving ideas to performance and insights to impact at companies including American Express, Citi, E*TRADE, and AXA.

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