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What’s the primary role of the marketing function within an organization? Ask 1,000 CMOs around the world and most will say that delivering business growth is among their top priorities. So found Dentsu Aegis in its recently-released CMO Survey 2018 [download page].

The report examined the perspectives of 1,000 CMOs and marketing leaders evenly split across 10 countries. These respondents, who came from a variety of industries, tend to be from larger companies, with half hailing from organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenues.

Presented with 6 primary roles of the marketing function within the organization and asked to rank their top 3, CMOs most commonly pointed to the delivery of business growth (64%). This result follows separate research from this year that likewise found that CMOs feel that playing a key role in company growth initiatives is one of the traits that makes them most effective. In other words, CMOs are laser-focused on growth, though several studies indicate that they’re still facing lots of difficulties in demonstrating that growth.

Meanwhile, beyond business growth, CMOs cited three other primary roles in quick succession:

  • Ensuring effective brand management (53% ranking in top 3);
  • Developing the overall customer experience (52%); and
  • Understanding consumer/market trends (49%).

The focus on brand stewardship certainly makes sense given that this is a traditional area of CMO leadership, while the prioritization given to CX is newer but well-documented.

By comparison, fewer (35%) CMOs believing that leading disruptive innovation is as important as those other roles. Notably, though, CMOs in some industries tend to value their role in innovation more. For example, 45% of CMOs from the Telecommunications sector ranked leadership in disruptive innovation as among their top 3 roles, as did 44% of those in both the Energy and Technology sectors. (CMOs in the Automotive, Media and Transport industries were the least apt to see this as being among their primary roles.)

Although innovation may not be one of the primary roles for marketing leaders, earlier research data suggests that they do feel they have a critical role to play in innovation.

How Do CMOs Support Business Growth?

CMOs were also asked what they see as the primary role of the marketing function in supporting business growth.

In this case, there were 5 options identified, with CMOs again asked to identify their top 3 ranking roles.

Encouragingly, despite the increasing pressure for marketers to prove their worth, CMOs are taking the long view rather than looking at short-term goals.

Indeed, the top role envisioned for marketing in supporting business growth is securing long-term customer relationships, as 70% ranked this within their top 3. By contrast, just 40% said that meeting short-term budgets is a primary role.

Aside from fostering long-term customer relationships, CMOs also see their roles as driving revenue growth (63%) – this supported by other research – and enhancing margin growth (59%).

It’s Only Going to Get Harder to Secure Those Customer Relationships

CMOs face a number of challenges in building and fostering long-term customer relationships, from increasing levels of competition to information overload and customer intolerance for advertising.

And over the next 2-3 years, converting prospects to customers – and then retaining them – is projected to become only more difficult.

For the time being, top-of-the-funnel phases – engaging and motivating consideration – are seen as easily the most challenging phases of the consumer lifecycle.

But fast-forward 2-3 years and CMOs see these as becoming comparatively less challenging, whereas converting interest into commitment, facilitating transactions, and building loyalty will each become relatively more difficult.

As such, it seems that the competition will shift from a battle for attention and awareness to a fight for the last mile.

This likely reflects that top priority mentioned above: securing long-term customer relationships.

Who Will Help?

Will CMOs go it alone, or enlist more outside help? Interestingly about half (52%) said that they will bring more marketing capabilities in house, and just about as many (48%) said that they will increase the number of specialist marketing contractors they retain.

As for that shift away from traditional agencies to management consultancies, one of the more discussed trends last year? It still exists, but perhaps not at an accelerated rate…

Specifically, one-third of CMOs agreed that they will reduce the number of external of agencies they work with, while about 3 in 10 said they’ll work more with management consultancies in the next 2-3 years. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a large or small shift…!

Other Report Highlights

In other notable findings from the report:

  • Some 54% of CMOs will invest more in digital media platforms in the next 2-3 years;
  • The majority of CMOs expect their budgets to increase in the next year, with marketers in the Tech industry the most bullish on budget hikes;
  • 7 in 10 CMOs feel that generating ideas that connect with people emotionally will make them stand out and maximize the value of consumer engagement over the next 2-3 years;
  • Sales growth is the top way by which CMOs measure the value they get from their investment in media;
  • Almost 7 in 10 CMOs believe that connecting their brands to positive societal impact is an important way to engage consumers; and
  • Securing long-term investment is the biggest internal challenge faced by CMOs in the delivery of their marketing strategies.

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