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4 ways the role of the CMO has changed as a result of the pandemic

Greg Salmon

May 20, 2021

If Covid-19 has one legacy for anyone in business, as runs the well-worn narrative, it will be that it accelerated the shift to a digital-first mindset for teams within organizations of all sizes. And for many teams — particularly those whose modus operandi was predicated upon highly physicalized engagements — the lack of face-to-face opportunity has brought considerable strain.

Listening to our clients — CMOs and heads of marketing, who were already inhabiting a highly digital environment — it’s clear that this shift for everyone else has meant a promotion for marketing into the spotlight where, more than any other department in the organization, is owning the data, predictions and market trend analysis.

Having occupied a digital-first world for some time now, marketing is stepping up to help the entire organization get out into the market and is directly influencing the sales funnel more than ever before.

Agencies need to understand this shift in responsibility in order to better support their clients.

So, how has the CMO role expanded beyond the realm of, well, “marketing,” since the pandemic started?

  1. The CMO As Business Accelerator: Driving Business Growth and Revenue

With sales teams now being unable to engage customers face to face, they are looking to marketing for support — not just with sales-enabling, but with sales-making. The post-Covid CMO must go beyond simply creating leads and actively look to make deals and revenue happen thanks to their digital fluency and already-honed skill in driving relationships via online channels.

Today’s and tomorrow’s CMOs must go beyond just seeking to drive audience engagement and look to drive the sales process as a whole. 

Marketing leaders are unique in that they own not just marketing operations but, beyond this, increasingly, the entire go-to-market of the business. This, together with the intense competition for markets and customers (and reduced channels), makes the role of marketing to increase market share more direct, immediate and urgent than ever.

  1. The CMO As Focuser: Predicting Change and Demanding Focused Approaches for the Business

CMOs and marketing leaders have always been tasked with anticipating the way that audiences, customers and prospects will change. As one of the most data-savvy areas of business, CMOs are in the front seat when it comes to the prediction of change.

As the business landscape shifts, however, and CMOs become more strategic and tasked with market growth and revenue more directly than ever, they will also need to become more plugged into predicting and pre-empting how the sales and market opportunity itself will evolve.

A good example of this would be the evolution of many sales models to ‘as-a-service,’ which immediately changes the nature of the sales conversation and engagement as the opportunity evolves.

The CMO will increasingly drive decision-making around what opportunities to go for and how it all connects to product, portfolio and delivery.

CMOs, and marketing more generally, will increasingly have to consult with the rest of the business to define not just the direction of marketing, but the direction of product and service delivery. Thus, as key data drivers of the business, CMOs can use the need to predict change to step further into the operations of the business as a whole and drive it forward.

In addition, CMOs will help use their predictive insight to focus the business not just in terms of using their (more limited) marketing budgets, but wider in terms of helping the business evolve more precise, specific products and delivery.

Today’s and tomorrow’s CMO is using data and analytics, combined with industry and market focus, to define not just the next direction for channel communications, but for the business and its sales targeting.

  1. Cutting Through the Noise: CMOs Need to Create New Rules of Attention and Personalization at Scale — Everywhere

With most sales conversations limited, the race is on to deliver content to over-communicated customers. To compete, CMOs must be skilled in the intelligent use of traditional channels to drive more nuanced, relevant and useful materials, as well as advice, to customers.

In addition to speed, CMOs need to be able to create a strategy of engagement that is more compelling and actionable for customers, which, increasingly, will require them to radically evolve the content and formats they create. With the engagement potential of offline channels (such as events) no longer possible, CMOs need to draw on the data-driven intelligence of alternative online channels, which means more personalized programmatic delivery at scale, delivering to every individual and every enterprise customer as an “audience of one.”

Today’s and tomorrow’s CMO is connecting deep analytical and data capability to customer processes and moments across the business to not just develop customer experiences, but to make the entire business an experience through scaled, industrialized personalization everywhere.

  1. The CMO As Cultural Revolutionary: Driving Employment and Community

Today’s and tomorrow’s CMO is working actively to create greater certainty for their people. They’re competing for and driving the most relevant skills — particularly digital — and actively engineering a culture across not just marketing, but the business, coded for success.

In short, Covid-19 and the ensuing need for digital business have expanded the goals of marketing beyond where it has previously been confined. The CMO is now helping the entire organization go to market and, in order to succeed, CMOs have to reinvent themselves and their teams to deliver more to the business to drive it forward.

At root, CMOs must address — from a business, customer, workforce/employment and wider perspective — the fact that we face uncertainties and volatilities as never before and they must find answers, or directions, through this uncertainty.

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