DMN News: Are CMOs Ready for a Seat in the C-Suite?

January 10, 2017 Mike Colombo

View article on DMN News by Mike Colombo, CMO at Cloudwords.

I often hear that today's CMO, who is bringing extensive technology and data to the business, has earned a seat at the C-suite “table.” I don't think so. The CMO is not quite ready to own that seat, particularly not alongside the CFO and CRO. 

This opinion may not sit well with my fellow CMOs, but the truth is, many CMOs do not exhibit the mindset required to drive the revenue growth now expected of the position. It's not a lack of skill or experience that leads me to believe this, rather, I continue to see CMOs approach their business the same way they have for decades.

Metrics that still don't matter

First, traditional marketers rarely come with a business mindset. Our function continues to broadcast an array of suspect marketing metrics -- open rates, attendees, downloads, and followers -- all of which are inconsequential to the rest of the C-suite. Vanity marketing metrics may be interesting to some, but have no intrinsic value for a business. When was the last time you heard a CEO report on its campaign open rates? Never. When marketing leaders reach the point where the metrics and conversations are tied to new customer acquisitions, expansion rates, and renewal percentages, then CMOs will be ready for the table. 

Where is the sense of urgency?

Second, marketers have not grown up with the same laser focus on non-negotiable dates that haunt the rest of the C-suite. The CEO's table is steered by the CFO and CRO who work on 90-day cycles. Every day is one closer to the end of the quarter. Too few CMOs are held to a revenue commitment in the same way as Sales, and consequently don't operate with the same level of urgency as others in the C-Suite. When marketing gets to the point that it owns a significant piece of the revenue forecast, a new sense of time will be indelibly ingrained into our function and CMOs will be ready for the table.

Divided is not united

Lastly, too many CMOs continue to accept a siloed organization -- either split along traditional marketing job-function lines, or divided into selling regions. This hinders our ability to create a clear view of all customer interactions and holds our organization back from building an aligned and significant footprint of support enjoyed by other C-suite leaders. When marketing pushes to unify our function and organize around our customers, CMOs will be ready for the table.

When a strong business mindset, keen sense of urgency, and unified global structure are all hallmarks of marketing, at that point, we'll be fully ready for a seat at the C-suite table.

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