For the past two weeks, the Sochi Olympic Winter Games showcased the best athletes in the world competing to win Olympic gold and be recognized as the best in the world. So, what does it really take to be an Olympian? A commitment to understanding the competitive environment to find your edge along with a willingness to put in the hard work to continuously excel above the rest.

Four years between Olympic Games is a lifetime in competitive sports. Yet from time to time, we find success stories such as Apolo Ohno (2002, 2006, 2010), the US women’s hockey team (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), Dick Button (1948, 1952), and Bonnie Blair (four Olympic Games between 1984 and 1994) staying at the stop of their sport year and after year. How do these Olympians succeed when so many others have tried and failed? These unique stars understand that they must learn, grow, and evolve as the sport they play in changes. Beyond keeping up with the daily physical demands and competitive nature of the competition, they understand that staying at the top and winning requires them to be agile, evolve their skills, and always be looking just ahead of the curve.

Today’s CMOs face similar challenges to our honored Olympians'. The CMO role has never provided more opportunity or been fraught with more complexity. CMOs are expected to be not only experts in the more traditional marketing areas of brand and demand generation but also evolved experts in digital, technology, data analytics, and business. And of course, they must clearly show how marketing is propelling business growth, demonstrating ROI for every marketing dollar invested.

Like an Olympic athlete, reaching that gold medal level requires an understanding of the new expectations of the CMO role and how your skills stack up to these new expectations.

And that’s where my new report, “The Evolved CMO, 2014” (subscription required) can help.

Our new report showcases the results of the Forrester Research partnership with Heidrick & Struggles to survey more than 200 CMOs about how their roles and responsibilities are changing. Our survey results show that today’s CMOs are growing their influence in the business beyond marketing. And as a result, they are demanding a full seat at the C-suite table as an executive leader.

If you’re a CMO or on the road to becoming one, insights from “The Evolved CMO, 2014” report demonstrates that you must:

  • Look for responsibility beyond marketing. Throughout the survey results, we saw CMOs assuming a broader marketing remit and taking on responsibility for functions beyond marketing. From mergers and acquisitions to profit and loss management and from corporate strategy to innovation, today’s CMOs are ramping up their involvement in the business in new ways.
  • Build greater insights into customer behavior. Success in the age of the customer demands an integrated view of customer engagement across the full life cycle along with the ability to turn that view into insights that drive better marketing actions. Evolved CMOs recognized the importance of generating rich customer insights and realize that they still have a long way to go to get there.
  • Stake a claim in making technology decisions. The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power between the customer and your organization, putting customers in charge of the relationship. It is no surprise then that technology should be intertwined into the fabric of your marketing efforts. CMOs must step up and be intimately involved in the decisions to invest in the right technologies and advanced analytics that provide deeper insights into how customers think, feel, and behave. Evolved CMOs distinguish themselves by sharing a common vision with their CIO on how marketing and IT can work together to make the promise of marketing technology a reality.
  • Get ready for your next career move. Coming out of the great recession, today’s CMOs are positioning themselves for their next career move. Our data shows that B2B CMOs are aspiring to become CEOs, while their B2C peers have their eyes on a COO move. To achieve these aspirations, evolved CMOs are building the cross-functional leadership and peer relationships now that they will need to succeed in a larger role.

CMOs that seize the opportunities ahead and evolve their skills, business influence, and peer relationships have the chance to stand at the top of the medal stand and win gold. Are you ready? What are you doing to evolve?

I’d love to hear your comments and perspectives about our survey findings. Please reach out to me via email, on my blog, or on my Twitter account with your thoughts, or request an inquiry with me here.