The Economist Intelligence Unit has recently published a report titled ‘Outside looking in: The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite’, sponsored by SAS. This report has showed up as rather interesting for me and I want to share with you that which has caught my interest.
CMO's face a number of big problems.
The fundamental problem is that CMOs don’t get much respect from the rest of the C-suite. CMOs say that they are doing a difficult job well: making a contribution/delivering significant value to product development, sales and customer service. The problem is that the rest of the C-suite don’t agree – they question the value/contribution that CMOs are making. And it doesn’t look like they listen to CMOs with much respect. Here is how the EIU report puts it:
“CMOs believe they are constrained because the rest of the organisation does not consider marketing to be strategic; the C-suite believes marketing has not earned the right to be more strategic because it is ineffective at demonstrating value of its investments.”
Here are the other big problems that CMOs face:
- Many organisations have trouble defining, clearly/exactly, the CMO’s role and responsibilities. Which could explain why it is that there is no agreement on what business objective the CMO (and the marketing function) should focus upon and be held accountable for. Worse still there is a fundamental disagreement between what CMOs see as marketing’s priorities and the priorities that the other members of the C-suite assign to the marketing function. Which makes me wonder if members of the C-suite actually talk with each other, share and agree what they expect of one another. Doesn’t look like it. The EIU report says “..their greatest challenge: getting everyone to agree on marketing’s priorities.”
- The marketing function is not coping with the challenge that comes with the territory that falls under the market umbrella: advertising, brand, market research, communications, customer analytics, social media, mobile and so forth. Why? First, the marketing function lacks people with the necessary skills and expertise to cope/deal with this broad/dynamic challenge. Second, members of the C-suite do not feel the CMO’s pain – they are not approving the necessary marketing investments.
So whilst it looks like CMOs are in a difficult position, there is no need to despair. The EIU reports offers a route to influence, credibility, impact and respect from the C-suite.
What can CMOs do to make an impact and amass influence/respect in the C-suite?
The EIU report advises CMOs to focus on the customer experience and the voice of the customer. The authors pin their hopes on the following quote from Steve Cannon, CEO, Mercedes Benz USA:
“Every single customer experience is a brand moment of truth. If we create an aspiration through our advertising, and a customer walks into a store and does not deliver on that promise that reflects on marketing.”
Any intelligent person could drive a coach and horses through this assertion. And for the the time being lets just accept and go with this assertion.
OK, if Customer Experience is the unifying theme and the rallying call for the organisation then how exactly can the CMO contribute to this play given that the CMO is not the CEO and does not control all the touchpoints, which as a whole, generate the Customer Experience?
Focus on the voice of the customer:
“Chief marketing officers (CMOs) stand a better chance of increasing their internal influence – and changing lingering doubts about marketing’s strategic contribution to the business – if marketing can consistently deliver insights and tools that benefit others across the organisation, from salespeople to call centre agents to merchandising teams.”
How feasible is this 'success route' being put forward by the EIU?
I say that there is a big difference between a poor strategist and a good strategist. A good strategist takes into account feasibility. Specifically, he asks this question: what is the likelihood that my client can execute this strategy? And the good strategist keeps on going until he comes up with a strategy that the client has a good chance of being able to execute successfully.
So let’s ask this question, how likely is it that marketing can:
- marshal the voice of the customer from all the disparate sources and turn this into a comprehensive view – single view of the customer;
- generate actionable insight into customers, how they interact with the business as a whole, the jobs that they hire the business to do for them, and their experience of using the product and dealing with the company?”; and
- inspire the various members of the C-suite to act – to make changes in their priorities, policies and practices – so as to improve the customer experience?
I’ll let you decide for yourself. For my part I could not help noticing the following hurdles identified in the same EIU report:
- Single customer view. ”The airline [BA] has spent the better part of the last decade integrating its systems to support the effort; data warehouse not stores 200 separate data sources from different parts of the business to provide a more granular view of the customer, based on information they have volunteered.”
- Converting data into actionable insight. “For all the talk about data-driven customer insight, marketers are just starting to understand how they should be using the growing repository of information they are collecting through digital media and other channels.”
What do I say?
I say that if you and your organisation are serious about building your competitive position and commercial success on the Customer Experience then follow the example of Steve Cannon the CEO of Mercedes Benz USA. Why?
Because, the role and this responsibility or organising the business around the Customer Experience is a huge change full of organisational politics. And as such it is beyond the remit and the capacity of the CMO and the marketing function. This role/challenge – that of aligning the organisation around the customer experience requires marshalling resources, reassigning resources, engendering and dealing with organisational conflict - belongs to the CEO.
Here is what Steve Cannon did in the words of the EIU report:
“..aligning the organisation around a superior customer experience has been the focus of Steve Cannon since he took over as CEO in January 2012…. Investments in customer experience programmes have been large – such as the formation of a dedicated customer experience team – and small – like providing Mercedes Benz dealers with iPads equipped with custom apps and videos.”
As regards what Steve Cannon is doing at Mercedes Benz USA I draw your attention to the following:
- Steven Cannon was the CMO before he came the CEO. When he was the CMO he did not take charge of “aligning the organisation around a superior customer experience” No, he did it when he became the CEO. I say he is a smart man who has a sound grasp of reality.
- If the CMO had come up with the clever idea of buying hundreds of iPads for dealers it is highly likely that he would have reinforced the C-suite’s already always listening of the marketing function as the “department of coloured pencils” (how one CEO described the marketing function) and s/he would not have got the budget approved by the CEO/CFO.
What do you say?