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The Era of the Super CMO

  • 10 min read

Today’s CMO’s are more technical. They are the strategy leaders that help the c suite team work better together. The evangelist on stage and a leader who inspires the company team. It’s the era of the Super CMO.

The pandemic provided an opportunity for CMOs to shine. Despite incredible growth pressures and new business challenges many set up fusion teams, made daily changes and were truly innovative. They met urgent needs with new delivery models, brand experiences, and comms strategies that redefined companies. They became laser focused on strategy, data obsessed, challenging the martech stack and took more ownership of the customer experience.

CMOs all over the world should be very proud that:

  • they ensured the company remained relevant during an unprecedented pandemic event and delivered on unimaginable new routes to growth and customer loyalty
  • they inspired every member of staff, working closer than ever before with the Chief HR Officer, their new best c-suite friend
  • they’re now punching above their weight with less budget and less staff, and still somehow achieving business goals making the CEO your biggest fan.

Not all CMOs are equal, however. As the dust has settled some have become somewhat sidelined by another chief “something” officer. After a lot of “rightsizing” quick-win growth means CEOs are favoring marketing chiefs with functional performance backgrounds — demonstrating more lead-gen and campaign experience — causing CMO’s to be relegated to a subset of marketing involving brand and promotion. CMOs are investing in the tried and tested, avoiding risks, and playing it safe.

But, CMO’s have a crucial role with lots of responsibility and influence over corporate strategy, product launch decisions, and more. And consumers and business buyers are demanding better from brands, such as the huge focus on environmental considerations, as part of a hugely important $28 trillion experience economy we’re heading towards.

Now is the time to uplevel the focus on the strategic levers that fuel long-term growth and brand equity. To leverage research and insight more than ever so as to target where buyers are going to land and to meet them there. It’s time for the Super CMO!

The Super CMO

Better C-Suite

Put Research
to Work

More Tech

on EX

With AI


Push the Data

First Create

1. Build Better C Suite Relationships

CMOs have a more hopeful outlook than other c-level executives who often believe that marketing leaders lack business and financial understanding. Marketing represents the voice of the customer. So, a good CMO is led by what audiences want to see and hear and works backwards with the product team to make sure they can say it and show it. Relevance is just too important.

As Super CMO must have better alliances and partnerships that may not have existed before with the CPO and CRO, especially. Although, the CFO, CHRO and CEO should be regulars in your daily chats. Don’t rely on that monday morning e-suite weekly update. Your contribution to the overall company strategy and success is more important than ever.

CEOs who hire and empower the right CMO will have an able and accountable marketing leader who might also become a suitable successor. 

A Super CMO earns the CEO’s confidence by, first and foremost, delivering on customer-obsessed marketing.

2. Show You’re Tech Savvy

Being more technically capable is another key role characteristic of a modern CMO. When’s Sarah Franklin, former EVP & GM for Platform, Trailhead & Developers was appointed as the new CMO, it marked a distinctly important turning point in the CMO role expectations. Not a traditional funnel builder or brand creator. In a Deloitte interview with Suzanne Kounkel informing Deloitte’s CMO Survey, Sarah says, that the CEO will look to the CMO more than ever today and that a CMO’s role should provide the magic combination of business and technical skills to be the glue between CIO and CRO.  Of course, she’s right.

There’s a crucial reason for wanting to peel back the layers on the technology you may be positioning — the discovery of things technical people can’t see. As a marketer you will be looking for the next hook, the next important way to show differentiation and it is almost always right there, in the depths of a technical team update about some feature or benefit that’s being touted as something way less important.

To make sure a company is relevant and top of mind a CMO evangelizes products, services and perspectives to customers and employees. The CEO will look to a CMO to have both business and technical skills, the magic combination a Super CMO brings. A 

Super CMO is the glue that brings it all together.

3. Apply AI in Marketing to Drive Growth

Ai is now central to optimizing revenue growth by offering more B2C-like intelligent customer journeys for B2B customers. However, B2B CMOs are struggling to realize AI-powered growth based on three key challenges:

  • Data literacy. Access to it, being able to speak data and being recognized as a key contributor to defining the company data strategy are barriers.
  • Martech alignment. It’s hard to align the existing stack to AI goals and investment in AI can be expensive.
  • Use case clarity. With so many use cases it’s not easy to decide which is right and there’s a lack of guidance beyond tactical applications.

A Super CMO must upskill through investments in the Marketing organization being more knowledgeable about AI-powered use cases beyond predictive and prescriptive AI solutions. Meaningful and precise problem definitions will help inform clearer and more relevant AI use cases: Instead of, ”How do we reduce churn?” CMOs will ask, “Given a budget of $x million, which customers should we be targeting with a retention and growth campaign?”

Looking to existing and new AI vendors who provide AutoML solutions and better support in designing growth focused machine learning models, to inform a strategic AI use case approach will help. 

The detailed insights in B2B CMOs Should Strategically Apply AI in Marketing to Drive Growth will help develop AI genius CMO superpowers. 

4. Push the Data Strategy

Data strategy and innovation rank as the top two marketing priorities because many companies lack a consistent, data-centric approach to onboarding and identifying new customers. Businesses struggle with siloed and incomplete data, not of the right quality or providing the right level of detail, even at a time where we’re leaving huge digital trails in this experience economy.

Targeting strategic revenue growth by delivering Next Best Experience (NBX) and improving customer lifetime value (CLV) requires data that informs a deeper connection and understanding of buyer needs. So, a Super CMO must learn to speak “data”. Better access to data of suitable quality, and the right level of detail for specific objectives to drive growth is key to company success, this is obvious.

A Super CMO who leads in peer collaboration and amplifying data and insights powered decision making amongst the c-suite will be viewed as an important strategic contributor.

5. Put the Research to Work

Actionary was formed by former leading Gartner analysts who went on to be very successful c suite executives by realizing the power of research. Think about how much work and data is going into creating the research we’re consuming from leading research organizations? All the work to shape your company so it can target the stratosphere has already been done.

The CMO typically owns analyst relations and should have a good rapport with leading analysts, anyway. Strategic insights help to create a vehicle for messaging value that’s heavily infused with a deep technology understanding and industry leading research to create relevance. If your customers and potential buyers are attending a Gartner Symposium event and hearing similar messages, you’re meeting customers where they’re already headed. Your company becomes a more valuable and trusted partner. 

A Super CMO must become an orchestration master of industry research into the messaging vehicle for the company.

6. Realize the Benefit of Employee Experience Focus

After the rebalancing and “rightsizing” of staff, employee experience (EX) budgets are growing, bringing about a partnership between the CMO and CHRO — understanding the brand implications that are at stake. As brand-building leaders, CMOs are best suited to contribute to the employee experience by enlisting their HR partner in EX collaboration.

Insist on being on many all employee broadcasts, make your pitch fun, make staff laugh and ensure the team is inspired. 

As a Super CMO you have a REALLY important inspirational role when it comes to internal culture. Inspiring a team makes them unstoppable.

8. Create Demand First

There’s an important difference between creating demand and capturing demand. What do you understand about what needs to happen before a buyer goes to Google? (demand creation). Here’s some examples of how buyers discover new products to purchase:

  • Referrals from colleagues they trust
  • Consuming content from thought leaders via social and news sites
  • Reading respected research
  • Attending live events with experts to learn about what’s happening in the future, what’s new and what to buy now.

While businesses are focused on funnel, form fills, conversion rates and webinar attendance buyers have consulted peers and read the research before they go to Google and search.

A Super CMO is obsessed with creating demand first to grab mindshare, share of voice, decrease cost of customer acquisition and accelerate growth.

A Super CMO becomes relentless about listening to what customers or buyers want and then crafts a strategy around it, building a marketing machine, using all of the exact things customers tell them. For example, they:

  • launch a podcast featuring them and the thought leaders they follow on social media
  • amplify access and visibility of the research from respected companies where buyers are, (LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram ads and communities, content syndication sites and so forth)
  • host live events featuring experts who conducted and produced the research
  • get on stage at big events and important strategic shows
  • build a reference list of happy customers who can be introduced to prospective accounts as a first step in outreach.

The reality is, people trust their network a lot more than the results they get in Google. So they’re going to LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram ads and communities, content syndication sites, and more to get information on what initiatives to prioritize, what products to purchase, who to follow, etc. Once demand has been created, they go to Google to search for the generic category or the brand(s) they already know.

The Author

Simon is a thought leading analyst and $multi-billion global company c suite executive, who’s a geek at heart. He thrives on inspiring audiences and helping companies to succeed.