CMOs: How not to get fired

Last week I participated in a roundtable discussion at the Fifth Annual Ascent Conference in NYC, which looked at the CMO of the future,  Hosted by the excellent Dstillery CMO,  Patti Boyle, her introduction touched upon the oft-quoted statistics of the ever decreasing tenure of a CMO, now estimated at just over three years. That is compared to CFOs and CEOs who average just shy of five years. The difference is stark and the reasons complex, but also raises the question of why, and how could this improve?

The following day I was in a meeting with the CEO and CFO of a large enterprise technology business who asked me directly whether I thought marketing should carry a sales number. For me, the answer to that question was a resounding YES.

How are these two things linked? 


I think the only way that CMOs can protect their jobs and truly become a strategic member of the board is to own the number. The leadership of any business needs to be pulling in the same direction, winning together, losing together and, for that reason, a simple unifying metric is a sales number.

In a world of data, revtech and digital experiences it simply makes no sense to be unaccountable for impacting the top and bottom line directly through the marketing activity. It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be other metrics to judge performance, but if sales numbers aren’t one of them, the ability for CMOs to command a seat at the top table is severely compromised.

It has to be said that my view was not shared by some of the other attendees. Some felt that being accountable for sales numbers wasn’t right as it could be argued that the product team is responsible for coming up with a great product and if sales are off, it may be a product problem as opposed to a marketing issue. Others took the view that the intricacies of attribution made it hard to truly define the impact of marketing activity and so sales numbers aren’t a fair metric to be judged on. Linked to this, some felt that the job of marketing is to create demand and for sales to convert to closed revenue, meaning that marketing isn’t responsible for the end result, but sales teams are.

Heading into the future I expect that the CMO will increasingly own the customer experience end-to-end. Everything from the very first touch point on a website through to when a lead becomes a customer and is onboarded, as well as when they require help with an issue on a support ticket. This broadening of ownership of the complete customer experience makes sense when you consider today’s most advanced marketing teams’ ability to deliver highly personalized and tailored campaigns underpinned by fully integrated revtech platforms – although it should be pointed out that this is a small minority.  It would seem, therefore, only natural to extend this expertise across the entire customer journey, meaning CMOs would own much more than a sales number and instead be judged on metrics such as Total Lifetime Value (TLV) and retention rates.

It’s obviously just my opinion and it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out, but I suspect the CMOs who own the number and proactively manage activity to achieve it will keep their jobs. And the ones who consider the entire customer lifecycle will excel!

<< Previous article Next article >>

Every two weeks we send out our latest insights and research, developed by our ABM specialists.
Get access here (Don't worry - we hate spam too, you won't receive
anything but occasional emails from us)