How Senior Business Leaders View the Role and Performance of Marketing

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Source:  CMO Council

Last month, the CMO Council published a report that provides several important insights regarding how senior corporate executives view the role and performance of marketing in their organization. Rate the State of Marketing:  A C-Suite Scorecard was based on a survey of 120 senior management executives in a variety of leadership roles.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of the survey respondents were with companies having more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and 18% were with companies having annual revenue of $501 million to $1 billion. Survey participants worked in more then 17 industry sectors, and 84% were with companies headquartered in North America.

The CMO Council study addressed two broad issues:

  1. What do senior leaders see as the primary roles and functions of marketing in their company?
  2. How do senior executives rate the performance of their marketing organization?

How Senior Executives View the Role of Marketing

The CMO Council survey included several questions designed to capture the views of senior business leaders about the primary purpose of marketing in their organization. The question that produced the most revealing insight related to performance metrics.

The survey asked senior executives to identify the top five metrics or KPI's they would use to measure the value, contribution and performance of marketing. An overwhelming 80% of the respondents selected revenue and sales growth as one of their top five KPI's. The second and third most frequently identified metrics were customer acquisition and profitability and customer satisfaction and retention, both of which measure essential drivers of revenue growth.

Other survey responses also demonstrate the importance senior company leaders place on revenue growth. For example, the survey asked participants to identify the top five areas of marketing operations in their company that need improvement. The following table shows the five areas most frequently selected by survey respondents.

As the table shows, demand generation and pipeline was the number one area of marketing that senior executives believe needs improvement.

The CMO Council also asked survey participants to identify the five most essential roles of the chief marketing officer in their executive team. More than half of the survey respondents placed the following roles in their top five:

  • Customer experience advocate and champion (62% of respondents)
  • Digital transformation/marketing automation leader (54%)
  • Brand reputation custodian and value creator (51%)
  • Maestro of communications and demand generation (51%)

In contrast, fewer than half of the survey respondents included the following CMO roles in their top five:

  • Primary revenue builder and growth strategist (40% of respondents)
  • Architect of innovation and business expansion (34%)
  • Go-to-market authority and pricing expert (12%)

It shouldn't be surprising that most senior business leaders believe their CMO must play a leading role in customer experience and the digital transformation of marketing, given the undeniable importance of both of these issues. However, the responses to this question suggest that many senior executives still believe the most vital roles of the CMO are centered around marketing communications. This perception may limit the CMO's ability to maximize revenue growth, which requires strategies that extend beyond marketing communications.

How Senior Executives Rate Marketing's Performance

The CMO Council survey also included several questions that were designed to capture how senior business leaders feel about the performance of marketing in their company. In the introduction to the survey report, the authors write, ". . . CMOs will be more than happy with grades received in the new C-Suite Scorecard of marketing value and effectiveness benchmarked in this report . . ."

My take on these survey results is not quite that enthusiastic. If I were asked to assign a letter grade to marketing based on the totality of the survey findings, I would give marketing a "B," meaning good but with clear room for improvement. Here are two survey findings that illustrate my reasoning.

Marketing's Performance in 2020 - On a 10-point scale, 6% of the surveyed executives rated the performance of their marketing teams in 2020 as exceptional (9 or 10), and another 40% rated marketing's performance as very good (7 or 8). However, 45% of the survey respondents graded marketing's performance last year as only moderate (5 or 6).

Marketing's Ability to Lead Growth in 2021 - Seventeen percent (17%) of the surveyed business leaders said they were extremely confident that their marketing function can lead a growth recovery in 2021. However, 52% of the survey respondents said they were only moderately confident in marketing's ability to lead growth this year, and another 29% reported being only somewhat confident.

The bottom line here is that marketing leaders still have work to do to earn the highest levels of confidence from other senior business leaders.

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