Introducing today’s CMO, starring Rodney Dangerfield

Marketing.  Now there’s one of the most misunderstood business functions out there.  Are you one of those folk who, like Rodney, feel at times like “I don’t get no respect around here?”.  The CMO today lives in very sharkey waters, as the Aussies say.

Nice to carry that “C” on your resume or business card, but when things go wrong, marketing is most often the first to blame. When things go right…well…some of you marketers may confront a harsh perception that needs correcting.  After all, sales people sell things.  Product and engineering people build things.  Financial people keep score.  Marketing people?  Ask people in other functions to define what you do, and you’ll get a host of answers.  Make sure you have the right answer yourself, build your career around it, and perhaps you’ll avoid the fate of the average CMO whose job tenure at under two years!  Rodney never got any respect.  CMO’s should, but they need to earn it and deserve it.  Let’s start with a role definition.

For some, marketing is about brand, with a lower case “b”.  It’s about fluffier stuff under the umbrella of marketing communications…advertising, PR, website development, social media, collateral, lead generation, and maybe field marketing under the rubric of sales enablement.  This is part of the equation to be sure…the executional part…and works well when marketing is asked to provide a service function.  However, this isn’t seen as a serious content role, and it doesn’t buy you a seat at the executive table.  Rightly so.

For others, marketing encompasses brand and marketing communications plus…business strategy and planning catalyst, partner and channel marketing, competitive intelligence, database marketing, product marketing, product roadmap direction setting, pricing, industry and financial analyst relations, executive sponsorship roles for key clients, internal communications, and culture catalyst.  This is a serious role…a capital M Marketing role…a role equal to if not greater in importance to the success of the business than other peer functions around the executive table.  If marketing is about Brand, that B is a promise of value that is infused in everything your company (and ecosystem) does that touches a customer….which is just about everything.

After all, what is a business about.  Customers.  How do you get them?  Through an outside-in, market-centric perspective rooted in knowing who buys, what they buy, why they buy, when they buy, where they buy, what their alternatives are, what the buy is really worth to them, what will keep them coming back for more, what would they like to see in future products, what drives them to recommend and advocate…you get the idea.  All the various marketing roles described above come together through the connective tissue of customers.  That’s the business of the business, and it should direct everything your company does.  Marketing is rational and emotional. It is measurable.  It is accountable.  It is tangible, and yes, it is creative, artistic, insightful and innovative.  It is indeed art and science to the very best practitioners, and not everyone possesses that combination of left and right brain skills to be the best.

The CMO today faces more pressures than most in not only having to master all these skills, but the skill sets in demand are in a state of constant evolution.  Remember marketing ROI and accountability?  OK, now that is (hopefully) table stakes.  How about digital marketing?  Got that down? Social media? Know what it is, what it isn’t, and more importantly, where it is going?  Up on the latest tools and techniques for customer engagement?  Understand how to not only drive innovation but how to execute to business materiality?  Truly collaborating in your flattened organization and expanding ecosystem?  Getting to customer advocacy?  Achieving authenticity at a time when marketing = shill and proxy?

Whether you run marketing for a team of two or 2,000, this is what the role is all about.  Do it well, inspire, educate, maintain a sense of humor and perspective, and you will earn that respect.



3 thoughts on “Introducing today’s CMO, starring Rodney Dangerfield

  1. Great post, Andrew…a good, concise definition of the myriad roles expected of a CMO. Definitely some of the best insights on this topic I’ve come across–and a oft-needed reminder to get the execution right, but never lose touch with the bigger picture.

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