CMO Role Evolves to More Strategic Business Leadership

July 18, 2016

ForresterHeidrickStruggles-Evolving-Role-CMO-Jul2016CMOs are taking on a more strategic role within their organizations, gaining responsibility for a wider array of profit and operations targets and capturing a greater influence in the brand experience, per a new report [download page] from Forrester Research. Based on a survey of 275 CMOs fielded by Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles, the study indicates that CMOs’ goals are moving beyond just revenue goals.

Indeed, while 82% report that their business drivers are most directly aligned with revenue targets, 41% also say that they’re now responsible for profit targets, and a similar percentage (37%) count brand health as a main role. Close to 1 in 3 CMOs have a responsibility for their business unit’s P&L, which is up 13% points from a year earlier.

As such, the Forrester analysts note that “CMOs are shedding the outdated cost-center stigma.” That tracks with other research from Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit, in which CMOs saw the marketing role evolving in the next 3-5 years to be seen less as a cost center and to be more involved in shaping a company’s business strategy.

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Part of taking on more accountability for overall financial results involves a deeper relationship with the CFO. Indeed, 37% of CMOs surveyed feel that the relationship with the CFO is critical, with B2C senior marketers more apt to feel this way than their B2B counterparts (45% and 31%, respectively).

With research showing that marketing is taking an increasing role in innovation, many CMOs likewise feel that a relationship with the head of product/R&D is critical. That’s the view of more than 4 in 10 CMOs surveyed, including almost half (49%) of B2B CMOs. Of note, among marketing leaders responsible for both marketing and the customer experience, a slight majority (52%) say that they actively use customers in co-creating products and services, advertising, and content, among others.

As relates to customer experience, one of the more buzz-worthy trends of the year, the study reveals that almost two-thirds of CMOs already lead CX as well as marketing. Recent research – again from Marketo and the Economist Intelligence Unit – indicates that almost 9 in 10 CMOs and senior marketing executives from around the world believe that they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. In fact, 72% of B2C CMOs surveyed by Forrester Research report that CX is a higher priority than it was 2 years ago, and 63% of B2B CMOs agree. For some, CX is now one of the top-3 priorities to which they’re aligned.

Having CX as a remit is broadening the strategic and customer lifecycle focus for these CMOs. CMOs responsible for both marketing and CX are 50% more likely than purely marketing CMOs to say that customer retention is one of their top objectives. And almost one-third (31%) of CMOs responsible for both marketing and CX say that they also own business strategy development, compared to 22% of CMOs purely responsible for marketing.

Fast Facts

Some other highlights from the report follow.

  • 35% of CMOs aspire to general management as a CEO or COO.
  • More than 1 in 5 CMOs see innovation as the most important area in which to increase their influence.
  • Almost 1 in 5 CMOs (18%) seek to increase their involvement and influence with business strategy.
  • One-third of CMOs understand the need to take their leadership potential to new heights.
  • Four in 10 CMOs feel that data insight and analytics skills, as well as digital understanding, are key areas that need improvement. That aligns with results from a Spencer Stuart survey that found marketing leaders most confident in their strategic thinking but needing most help with digital marketing.
  • Culture is the biggest barrier to CMOs’ success, while about half see organization structure presenting an obstacle to results.

About the Data: Forrester Research describes its methodology in part as follows:

“Forrester’s Q4 2015 Forrester/Heidrick & Struggles Global Evolved CMO/CCO Online Survey was fielded to 275 CMOs. For quality assurance, we screened respondents to ensure they met minimum standards in terms of marketing expertise and title of senior-most marketing leader. Forrester fielded the survey from October 2015 to February 2016.”

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