What Does [Should] a CMO Do?


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In its quarterly SEC filing, Orbitz announced that it has (also see related AdAge article):

“…decided to eliminate the global Chief Marketing Officer position and continue managing the Company’s marketing efforts on a regional basis. In connection with that decision, Randy Wagner, Chief Marketing Officer of the Company, is expected to leave the Company in mid-February 2008.”

That’s unfortunate. I’ve met Randy — she was a keynote speaker at the Forrester Marketing Forum last year which I hosted. She’s a bright, strong leader and I’m sorry to see her go. But, I’m more concerned about Orbitz and all of the other companies out there that are cutting CMO positions and/or clearly struggling to define the role.

I think Orbitz is missing the point. I don’t disagree at all with the idea that defining and managing campaigns on a regional level can be a more effective way to drive to growth goals. I just don’t think that the job of the CMO is to define and manage campaigns.

So, what SHOULD a CMO do?

Well, we’ve been talking for years about integrated marketing, customer centricity, customer relationship management, customer experience management, 1:1 marketing, etc… I’ve been intimately focused in this arena myself for a over a dozen years and I feel like we (the broad and royal “we”) have made little progress towards these goals. To be sure, a lot has also changed in the last 12 years but if we EVER want to get there (or even close) then we need a strong leader. And, from my perspective, that leader is the CMO. The role of the CMO should be to:

define and lead a customer-focused marketing strategy that crosses product, channel, geographic, and even functional boundaries.

I realize that this is much easier said than done. It starts with a CEO who believes in the business benefit of being customer-focused and a CMO with the vision, leadership capabilities, and charter to make it happen. It will also require:

  • A complete overhaul of the marketing organization. I’m talking structure and reporting hierarchies, metrics, culture, and process — all of it. What’s the right answer here? Well, as all good consultants say, “it depends”;-) I haven’t found a perfect organization yet. The key is understanding where the organizational weaknesses are and then putting tools or processes in place to help bridge the gaps. First and foremost, however, I believe it starts with the metrics. The CEO, CMO, and CFO need to sit down and figure out how to measure marketing impact in ways that don’t result in marketing teams competing with one another for customer mindshare or quibbling over which team gets credit for customer conversion.
  • Acquiring and nurturing new skills. What skills am I referring to? Left-brained skills: business acumen, process orientation, quantitative analysis, and technical knowhow. We’ve been talking about this one for a while and it is slowly happening. But, marketing leaders often complain that it’s hard to find these skills along with a love of the customer and a passion for marketing all in the same body. I suggest looking for consultants (Accenture, Bain, etc.) who want to get off the road, pillaging your internal IT organization for the systems analysts or project managers that always ask the business questions, or plucking young marketing analysts for whom there is no technical barrier and putting them all in an aggressive mentorship and cross-team training program.
  • Significant investment in technology and infrastructure. How boring is this one? My POV on this is that rather than going goo-goo gaga over the next trend and treating it as a antidote to all of marketing’s woes, it’s high time for marketing organizations to recognize that technology — and integrated technology at that — is a crucial enabler. To achieve our goals of customer-centric and integrated marketing, we need to manage the marketing process on top of a framework that is, itself, integrated. Again, no easy answers here — there’s no vendor or application out there that will take care of this for you. And, I’m not saying that the CMO has to be a techie. But, a good leader recognizes his/her strengths and weaknesses and surrounds him/herself with a team that can fill the gaps. The bottom line here is that marketing organizations need to have a technology strategy. Those that don’t will NEVER achieve the customer-centric vision or be able to effectively integrate their activities.

Who is responsible for driving this agenda — on a global level? The CMO.

Now, I also want to be clear here that I was not implying above that the CMO doesn’t have responsibility for the global brand(s)… She does! Today’s consumers are really good at sniffing out and publicizing inconsistencies between what corporations and their brands say and how they act (think the recent Unilever Dove/Axe controversy). So, today’s CMOs must own aligning every brand under the corporate umbrella with the core values of the corporate entity and reconciling the brands with one another. Companies that fail to do this are at the mercy of the consumer.

Elana Anderson
Unica Corp.
Elana Anderson is vice president of product marketing and strategy at Unica Corp.. A highly regarded marketing software expert, Anderson previously served as vice president and research director of the marketing practice at Forrester Research. Prior to Forrester, Anderson was a strategy consultant and systems integrator for nearly 15 years.


  1. Elana – good article. Do you think that the role of CMO’s is universal?

    If not, wouldn’t “what they should or shouldn’t do” be different?

    If so, how do you see the roles being the same?

    To publish my bias, I think the roles are so different, calling them both “marketing” almost seems to be a stretch.

  2. Elana

    Great to have you posting on CustomerThink.

    You have some great suggestions. I thought it would be interesting to cross-reference them with where CMO members of the CMO Council think their responsibilities lie, to see how well they fit. The CMO Council’s recent report Define & Align the CMO sets out what CMOs see as their top areas of responsibility. The Top 5 responsibilities are:

    • Marketing plans, programmes and deliverables
    • Brand Ombudsman – values, consistency, culture
    • Competitive intelligence and pre-emptive strategies
    • Marketing operations, process and resource management
    • Strategic communications and market engagement.

    These speak to the nuts and bolts of marketing operations much more than they do to visionary marketing strategy, cross-functional collaboration, or reinventing marketing through increased customer-centricity.

    This brings us to some of the responsibilities that CMOs didn’t rate quite so highly, things like:

    • Sales, marketing & channel integration (cross-functional collaboration)
    • Product specification and user experience (customer experience management)
    • Budgetting and account of spending with CFO (internal value reporting)
    • Demand generation and pipeline management (sales integration)
    • Customer service and support operations (service integration).

    If CMOs are to rise to the three challenges you set them, they are going to have to hear the voice of the customer more, to think about the end-to-end delivery of value through the customer experience more, and to get better at collaborating with other parts of the value delivery and value support organisation. Quite a tall order for today’s operationally focussed CMO.

    I am not so upbeat on the adoption of marketing technology as you though. Technology is a powerful enabler, but ONLY when all the other complementary marketing capability levers – marketing processes, market & customer information flows, collaborative work climate, integrating organisational roles & responsibilities, etc – are pulled at the same time. Far too many CMOs rush to implement the panacea of new technology without first understanding the organisation’s business objectives, the strategies it should use to achieve them and the roadmap of capability development required to get there. As we used to say in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Change Practice

    OO + NT = EOO (Old Organisation + New Technology = Expensive Old Organisation)

    It would be interesting to see what sort of marketing capabilities roadmap you would develop to get CMOs from where they are today to where they need to be tomorrow.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  3. Scott –
    Thanks for your comment. Broadly speaking, I do believe that the role of the CMO is universal. I posted some thoughts on my blog regarding this question a couple of months ago which I’d love your feedback on. See:
    1. B2B vs B2C — Humbug
    2. Three key questions differentiate go-to-market strategies

    In short, my belief is that at the top level three key things are more important than whether a company is B2B or B2C:
    1. What you are selling (product, service)
    2. The level of purchase consideration
    3. The sales distribution model (direct/indirect)

    I think the fact that we tend to break things down by B2C and B2B can limit our ability to see the similarities between companies in some industries.

    My bias is driven by the companies that I tend to work with most – very large companies — which tend to sell to both B2B and B2C audiences. And, I believe that the job of a CMO in these large firms should be what I described. At Forrester’s Marketing Forum last April, Eric Kintz from HP did a B2B-focused keynote speech on how marketing at HP is driving customer-centricity as well as the challenges the company has had as it has tried to focus its efforts around the customer.

    Certainly, I agree that go-to-market strategy — which the CMO should drive — varies by company. But, my belief that marketing should be the voice of the customer and lead efforts towards customer centricity holds fast across the board.

    Would love you thoughts on the posts noted above if you have a chance. Thanks!

    Marketing Strategy Consultant
    NxtERA Marketing
    [email protected]


  4. Graham,
    Thanks for your comments. Regarding how CMO’s view themselves, I’d go so far as to say that I think the strategic business driver view vs. operational view is what differentiates a CMO from a VP of Marketing. To get the “C” title, you have to be focused on more than marketing execution and operations. I think this is a key reason why marketing often struggles to gain respect at the top levels.

    Also, I TOTALLY agree with your comment about technology as an enabler. Without a strategy, strong process (all of the things you mention), marketing technology investment may be nothing more than a big boondoggle. I’ve seen my share of these projects! But, I do beleive that firms that what to drive towards customer centricity (and are defining the strategy, organization, and processes required to get there) must also define a technology infrastructure to enable those efforts.

    Thanks for adding to the discussing and linking in the CMO Council doc.

    Marketing Strategy Consultant
    NxtERA Marketing
    [email protected]


  5. Elana, Scott

    Interestingly, in the industries I work in most (financial services, telecoms, aviation and automotive) the B2B side of the business is looking more like B2C everyday. In fact, you might even call it B2B2C. This recognises that there are marketing activities that the B2B centre can do better than their often independent distributors, particularly where there is bi-directional dataflow between both parties.

    Lean marketing thinking with its emphasis on understanding customer value, integrated value streams, continuous value flow and customer pull, increases the effectiveness of the B2B2C model even further.

    Any thoughts on B2B2C?

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  6. Elana,

    Thanks for the clarification. We share the same common ground in that marketing should be the voice of the customer. I will guess to that at a high level, the roles are also similar. Interestingly enough, where we differ is that while you suggest breaking B2C and B2B into different camps make it harder for us to learn, I actually think they need to be differentiated because how you execute in these worlds is so different. I actually created a graphic that highlights the differences, but I just can’t figure out right now how to load the picture in my response to you. So, you can see it in an article I wrote about sales and marketing alignment.

    I also agree with your distinction between the difference of a CMO and a VP of Marketing. However, I tend to think of businesses as a being on a continuum with pure b2c on the one end, and pure b2b on the other. Given the nature of business today, any one company is going to fall anywhere between those two bookends.

    My point of view and experience is with companies on the b2b end of the spectrum, industrial supply, enterprise software, consulting, research firms, professional services, outsourcing, systems integrators, etc are the kinds of companies I work with. To me, the difference between B2B and B2C really lie in how to execute. For example….

    1) How much knowledge does the customer require?
    2) How large of a portfolio do you have to sell?
    3) How complex are the problems you help solve?
    4) How much experience with the solution do your customers have?
    5) Can you make a finite list of your customers?

    Also, the CMO role in a lot of cases isn’t working out. You pointed out that Orbitz was eliminating that position, and last year the king of marketing Coca-Cola terminated it as well. While I agree with your high level definitions, I think marketing professionals (who would staff a CMO role) really need to elevate their game if they want to keep their chair at the adult table. (I know you agree with that point) I’ve actually been working a lot on a “Chief Value Architect” concept which factors in a lot of your ideas, but I don’t really like the emphasis on “marketing” and want more focus in the charter to be on customers.

    I think the biggest opportunity for a marketing professional to elevate their importance is to help their company actually be a “value engine” for its investors and customers by coordinating all of the internal stovepipes around a common customer model.

    I hope I don’t come off to harsh or cynical because I really do enjoy your posts and value your expertise. You have a lot more data points in speaking with CMOs than I do. However, its my opinion (which I will make the case for if anyone is interested) that tectonic forces are driving fundamental change to business today which require radical change to business structures, organizations, and how companies operate.

    I can go on and on with examples, but I just wanted to give you an overview on why I think the roles are so different. Let me just some it up with this analogy.

    It’s not cost effective for Coca-Cola to hire a professional sales force to follow people around to try to persuade them they are thirsty. Conversely, EDS wouldn’t get many sales running 30 second super bowl ads trying to make the business case to companies to outsource their infrastructure to them. I think that B2C skills sets and best practices are very different than those for B2B, and therein lies the difference between the two.

    In my heart of hearts I believe that businesses need to develop a more holistic, and adaptive model that is centered around their customers, not the products they want to sell. Having said that, I believe it’s my job as a thought leader in this space to look at the world from the customer to the client and that kind of blank sheet of paper thinking can lead to some radically different conclusions than if you thought through the issues incrementally. I say that because I am always interested in collaborating with people who think deeply about these topics and have strong points of view. Lord knows, I don’t have all the answers, but I think its right to challenge conventional wisdom to seek the truth. This is a long winded way of me saying “if you’d like to talk and share ideas, I’d love to.”

    Scott Santucci

  7. Here is an example

    Example Marketing Charter that is more or less used verbatum in two multibillion dollar enterprises. There are cascading charter statements for subordinate roles and metrics which align to each as well. I hope this helps.

    Marketing’s primary charter is to be our customer’s advocate within our organization and to provide services to other functional areas where this knowledge adds value. As a result, we will: improve sales productivity and effectiveness by creating leverage in the sales process and boost margins by prioritizing our investments for maximum return. Based on these objectives – we have six primary goals:

    1 Manage the perception of our brand within our customer and prospect base

    2 Communicate the value of our portfolio to the market in their context

    3 Improve the effectiveness of sales by providing them resources to advance customer buying objectives

    4 Promote cross selling by rationalizing and simplifying our portfolio

    5 Increase margins by creating leverage throughout all stages of the sales process

    6 Support the growth of the business unit by providing strategic information about future business opportunities


    Scott Santucci

  8. Scott

    Interesting observations. I will get back to you on the Sales and Marketing Divide a wee bit later.

    The Marketing Charter in your post touches on the issues I outlined in my recent Will Marketing Ever Be Customer Centric? post. It starts well with talk about being the customer’s advocate, but quickly moves on to what can only be described as marketing-gobbldegook (why is that the so-called masters of communication are unable to write joined-up sentences about what they do that normal people can understand) and finishes with a list that says that marketing is about ME (the marketer), ME, ME!

    Marketer, heal thyself.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  9. Graham – I agree, but all groups are about “ME” because once a department is created, its acts like a person and goes into self-preservation mode. Your observation is exactly why I think a company needs to create “value architects” which can build an execution model that factors in all groups natrual instinct for self preservation and coodinates then to maximizing the value delivered to customers.

    In the blog you mention, I commented that I agreed with you that marketing isn’t likely to be customer centered any time soon. Part of that is their fault, but part is how businesses are currently structured too.

    Scott Santucci

  10. Me lacks empathy. We is about teamwork, and there is no I in team. How to turn me into we? Turn m downside up.

    Daryl Choy, the founder of Touchpoint eXperience Management, helps firms make a difference at every touchpoint. Choy can be reached at wisdomboom.blogspot.com.

  11. Happy New Year! Sorry, I’ve been offline for a while, first vacationing, now in catch up mode… Hope you had a great holiday.

    Scott: Thanks for the link to your whitepaper. I think it’s great and well worth a read to anyone tracking this thread. I do want to point out, however, that you don’t use the term “B2B” even once. What you do is break down (in a very simple and elegant way) marketing based on the amount of consideration required for the customer and whether the company is selling direct or indirect to its customer (Figure 3). This is very consistent with what I proposed in a post on my blog: Three key questions differentiate go-to-market strategies. While I agree that most firms that fall into the consultative sales category to happen to be B2B companies, there are B2C companies that also fall into that categry (e.g., wealth managmment, home building, etc.). My point is that using models like we have both proposed that don’t have a blanket B2B, B2C, or B2B2C label on them is a much better way to drill down into defining the right marketing tactics to move the business forward.

    I’m very interested in speaking with you about your ideas around the role of “value architect.” I weigh in as a champion for marketing to essentially evolve into playing this kind of role. Few marketers are able to do it today, however, I fear that if marketing does not change, the CMO role and the strategic role that marketing has the opportunity to play within the enterprise will entirely dissolve. My role is to help marketing evolve.

    Let’s connect offline to discuss more. Thanks!

    Marketing Strategy Consultant
    NxtERA Marketing
    [email protected]



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