CMO Definition: The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a senior executive responsible for overseeing the marketing activities within an organization. The role of a CMO is pivotal in driving the company’s marketing strategy, brand management, customer engagement, and market research efforts.

With sales and buyer research moving online, marketing plays an ever greater role in product discovery and purchase.  AI could determine whether your product is bought, or not.

The CEO needs to clearly articulate the urgency of this new reality and unite the organization. Marketing is strategically important to the follow through, both in terms of supporting the CEO in determining the right positioning and in becoming the glue that holds the different parts of the company together behind the promise. Why? Because armed with the voice of the market and an outside-in perspective, marketing is best equipped to help different areas of the company support the positioning.

However, many marketing groups are not ready to take on this kind of leadership role. They are trapped in their tactical silos, whether from a lack of skills, vision, or their place in the organization. Some tough love, resources, and air cover from the CEO will transform marketing from an order taker to a business driver.

To be that partner, a CMO definition of marketing must embrace five key responsibilities:

  1. Represent the voice of the market.
    Most employees see no tangible benefit in their silo or in their KPIs from listening to the market, despite all the bromides from CEOs imploring them to do so. Marketing understands (or should, anyway) the voice of the market in all its different forms, from customers (and non-customers) to analysts to trending topics in social media and search. Marketing must be the cultural catalyst that gets the company thinking about the market.
  2. Be the champion of the overall experience.
    When people interact with brands, they still have relatively fragmented experiences—online is different from in-store, etc. The social Web has increased the urgency of addressing this fragmentation because customers can quickly identify—and amplify—any inconsistencies between what a company says it is (positioning) and how it acts.
  3. Be the brand steward.
    This traditional marketing role has taken on a new twist because companies no longer control their brand. Instead, marketers must take on a more subtle role: working with internal groups (such as customer service) to humanize the brand and influencing (rather than dictating) how those outside the corporate walls use the brand.
  4. Capitalize on insights.
    For the first time, marketing has the ability to get a view of customers in real time. Using customer, market, and social data together, marketing can get a macro view (think crunching data on a scale unheard of a few years ago) as well as a micro view (think data equivalent of a focus group) so that businesses can observe and react in the moment just like humans do. In retail it’s the instant offers in the aisles you’re hearing about; in other industries it could be adjusting territory and account planning on the fly. In high tech it could be serving up content in response to a person’s actions on the website. CMO definition should include how to apply both the art and the science of marketing.
  5. Be an integrator and force multiplier across the company.
    Most large organizations are designed around any number of silos—by geography, product, or function. A good CMO definition needs to rise above these divisions (including its own) and think holistically about the company’s overall value proposition, integrating messages and insights across business units, geographies, and functional groups.  This will help them to develop a winning Go to Market (GTM) strategy

By doing these things, CMOs will see how the business model should change over time and play a role in helping make that happen. CEOs need to give them the permission to do that. Together, these five responsibilities add up to something very powerful: the ability for marketing to both visualize and evangelize the future.

CEOs, what do you think about this CMO Definition?
Fellow CMOs, are we ready to handle it?

At the time of writing, Jonathan Becher was the Chief Marketing Officer at SAP. This article has been revised to remove anachronisms.  You can also follow Jonathan on Twitter: @jbecher

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