5 Perspective Shifts for Today’s CMO 

By Sigal Bareket, CMO 

In my day-to-day, I meet regularly with growth and marketing leaders looking for their next marketing job. While discussing their histories and the reasons why they were in the market for a change, the same story is played again and again: “I was hired by a CMO who left after a few months.” This reality is backed up by research, the WSJ claims that the average CMO tenure holds steady at lowest level in decade.

This trend of CMOs having a hard time keeping their job worries me.

Marketing is the most diverse, fascinating, and creative role there is. During times of market slowdown, the need for people who acquire users and understand market trends is bigger than ever. An experienced and long-tenured CMO can be the company’s secret weapon in driving steady business success and long-lasting user affinity. 

So, what can we do to set this critical role up for success? 

Let’s look at five perspective shifts that can empower CMOs and help the Founders, CEOs and C-level executives they work with.

1. Redefine the ownership

In her book, “No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls.” (which I recommend for all marketers – not just B2B!), Latané Conant quotes Kate Bullis’s observation about the use of the verb MARKETING in the CMO title. 

 The problem with using the verbal noun “marketing” is that it implies we are expected to focus mainly on day-to-day marketing activities and campaigns. Both Bullis and Conant suggest the term “Chief Market Officer” – a role that owns a seat at the leadership table responsible for (1) understanding the market, (2) translating this insight into internal alignment on mission and goals, and (3) persistently representing the authentic voice of the user. 

As Chief Market Officers, it is our job to ask for feedback and input, map market trends, and ensure that everyone in the organization has a clear understanding of who our users are, and what we can do to make their lives better. 

2. Break the Silos

A “performance marketer” is a made-up concept that has lost its relevance. The same goes for “brand marketer.”The boxes we build, the titles we create and the silos we maintain may be useful when it comes to org-structure, but they make it harder for us to tell our users one, inspiring, consistent story. 

A C-level Market executive must cover the whole spectrum of marketing, including growth, brand, and product marketing. Marketing inherently requires that both performance and brand – data and storytelling – work together, within and across marketing initiatives, so we can effectively target, engage, acquire, retain, and drive usage at scale. 

As Chief Market Officers, we read a data sheet and care about the consistency of our storytelling with an equal level of excitement. If we have knowledge or a skill set gap, we need to honestly map them and shamelessly ask for help (more about this in the next paragraph). 

You can see more on this in a recent LinkedIn post by Joanna Lord,  a CMO and Ruckus Expert Advisor.

3. Shamelessly ask for help

The 2023 CMO requires the most diverse skillset ever. On a regular day as CMO I found myself talking to the science team about the latest data attribution and prediction model trends, trying to figure out how Google’s Pmax impacts the future of the business, and brainstorming with the brand team on the best way to capture and communicate the cultural/emotional sentiment we want to bring to the market.  

Being an analyst and a storyteller, a business expert and the voice of the user, having to zoom in and zoom out at a pace that can easily give you vertigo is super amazing and fricking hard.
None of us can do it alone. By being honest about what we know and don’t know, by asking for help without shame, and by boldly inviting the best of the best to teach us what we have yet to learn, it is the fastest path toward success.

4. Connect with the user like no AI can do 

The most impactful work for CMOs today is not user acquisition, but user connection. Best practices in user acquisition evolve with every Google, Facebook or Apple update and we are watching in real time as AI transforms the industry. To stay ahead of the machines, our job is to do what humans (still) do best – engage and connect.

Marketers are not here to operate channels. We are here to connect with users. 

It is our job to study user behavior throughout their entire lifetime with our product or brand and use our learnings to establish a sustainable connection. Think about the products you keep coming back to as a user and how they make you feel. Do those brands make an effort to get to know you and your needs better? Do they waste your time with spammy s*&t? Do they make you feel appreciated and wanted? 

According to research by McKinsey, 72% of users said “they expect the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests. When asked to define personalization, consumers associate it with positive experiences of being made to feel special.” 

5. Don’t be tone deaf

Today’s dark cloud could be the recession that hovers above our heads, global warming, political polarization, and our children’s futures. For many, things can seem pretty scary.

In January 2021, using our regular yearly playbook, our content strategy focused on New Year’s resolutions. But in reality, we started another New Year with a new lockdown. Amid a raging Omicron virus, “new year, new me” seemed to be the last thing on our users’ minds.

I can’t help but think about the impact of these macro trends on our work as marketers. If the “times they are a-changing,” if our products and services are being sold to people who live in the reality described above – how do we participate? 

How do we use our marketing activities to talk about what people really care about? How do we help our companies to participate in a way that will make the world just a tiny bit better? 

One last thought 

Being both an art and a science, marketing is an open-ended discipline often being pushed to make compromises or quick changes. Long-term work is deprioritized in times of business softness, actions that are hard to measure are being challenged and I’m sure my fellow marketers are no strangers to feedback like “Hey, why do we use this color/ messsage/ad? Has marketing gone mad… ?“ 

Listen kindly, adjust smartly, breathe… remember the org’s WHY and do the right thing. You got it  🙂 

Sigal Bareket is an accomplished CMO, marketing executive, growth leader and entrepreneur with a proven track record of accelerating growth at tier-one companies like Lyft and Afterpay.

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