Study Identifies Strategies for CMOs to Evolve into Strategic Business Leaders

December 14, 2007

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Two-thirds of chief marketing officers (CMOs) want more involvement in business strategy development and increased profit & loss responsibility, according to a joint study conducted by Forrester Research and Heidrick & Struggles International (via BtoB).

The survey of more than 130 chief and senior marketers from companies with revenues greater than $100 million found that marketing leaders are still fighting to increase their involvement beyond traditional marketing to gain greater influence within their organizations.

The study, “The Evolved CMO,” is a blueprint for marketing executives to do just that, Heidrick & Struggles said.

The findings indicated a disconnect between the career aspirations of marketing leaders and how they actually spend their time:

  • When asked which competencies are the most important to their personal success, 82% of chief marketers identified strategic thinking as a top imperative:


  • Other leadership-driven competencies such as people management/team development, relationship building with the senior executive team, business acumen, and energy and inspiration completed the top five.
  • However, CMOs reported spending less than 10% of their time on career development.

“If CMOs want to become true business leaders, it’s time for them to step up to the plate and proactively evolve their role,” said Cindy Commander, analyst with Forrester Research’s CMO Group, an executive-level peer knowledge and networking community.

One way to do so, according to the report, is by creating brands and offerings that are highly relevant to customers, therefore helping the company acquire new customers, drive stronger customer loyalty, improve retention, and enable bottom-line growth.

And although some 60% of CMOs say acquiring new customers is among their top 3 current marketing objectives (see chart, below), there’s a disconnect here as well, with CMOs on the whole not identifying customer-focused tasks as important for success.


According to the survey:

  • One-quarter of CMOs are not involved in any way with customer service and support, distancing marketing from what customers are saying in the field.
  • Fewer than half of CMOs identified being the voice of the customer a top priority for their personal success.
  • Even fewer identified listening to/interacting with customers, and personal knowledge of customers, as crucial to their jobs.

“CMOs who can acutely tap into customer needs and evangelize them throughout the organization will be able to drive growth and strategy for the business,” said Jane Stevenson, Global Managing Partner of the Heidrick & Struggles CMO Practice. “At the end of the day, an evolved CMO is an enduring business leader, a strategy-driving, influence-wielding executive with a finger on the pulse of the organization and the customer.”

Full analysis of the survey, which includes key recommendations for CMOs working to advance their roles, can be found in the report, “The Evolved CMO.”


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