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CMO today, CEO tomorrow

by Fiona Shepherd, CEO

The next generation of B2B CMOs take their seats at the head of the boardroom table.

An inspiring new trend has become increasingly visible—high profile CMOs are being promoted to the role of CEO in some of the world’s largest B2B organizations. After recently hosting a CMO roundtable, I came to a better understanding of the dynamic, data-driven role of today’s company leadership, and the pace at which many marketers had embraced this new era. It’s a journey that mirrors one made by our own agency as we have refined our capabilities to meet the needs of technology clients across the globe.
This new opportunity has been driven by the constant battle among marketing professionals to balance the need for forensically targeted marketing programs, ‘stand out’ creativity and market leading ROI. There have been times when award-winning creative was enough to secure a big-ticket budget. However, the advent of data-driven measurement has made the need for ROI more relevant in securing marketing investments. Neither is enough in isolation, but the challenge of achieving both has required CMOs to rethink, restructure and rebuild their teams. Only this approach can allow you to embrace the ‘customer led’ buying behavior and build brand engagement and loyalty through intuitive targeting.
The belief that this is not simply a decision between creativity and forensic analysis has ultimately empowered marketing leaders to become the true ‘intelligence’ of the business—the only leader unshackled by boundaries, in total harmony with the customer and market. The theory is becoming so well recognized that—as polled by Korn Ferry—53% of business executives reported that their current CMO could one day be their CEO.
In order for their organizations to be truly customer-led, chief executive officers must understand the market and personas as well, if not better, than their sales teams. To align to the market, CEOs must deep-dive into the product/service roadmap in order to understand differentiation and business advantage as well, if not better than, their sales teams. And, to orchestrate the funnel and drive revenue at every stage will require financial insight comparable to those professionals managing the books!
Brand marketing has become the summation of all the professionals around the ‘big table’ and this new insight and power is ultimately ensuring that the path to the top is no longer a battle between the CFO and the SVP of sales, but an organic rite of passage for the CMO.
If you haven’t already done so, take the next step by defining the fundamental role of your marketing organization. It’s a great time to transform marketing from a traditional expense to a sustainable profit center. Today’s B2B marketers build their brands and drive awareness while creating significant opportunity—and do it all in perfect unison.
From our own vantage point, the future looks incredibly exciting. Forensic creativity is the way forward—good thing it’s our raison d’être.