• The B2B space is ready for CMOs to take on a more elevated role
  • Recruiters have unrealistic expectations of the CMO’s functional expertise
  • B2B CMOs must master four key capabilities – strategy, transformation, impact and organizational design

Many assert that there has never been a better time to be a CMO in the B2B space. I agree. The spotlight on customer-centricity, market or audience orientation lends itself to a more elevated role for the B2B CMO. The challenge is in managing expectations and clarifying the meaning of a balanced role. Hype around data-driven capabilities and digital transformation (apparently requisite skills for today’s CMO) masks the true requirements of an effective CMO. The task is not to be the master of all trades, or the master of all new trades, but to be the master of the four CMO-specific trades. The balanced CMO can strategizetransformdeliver impact and design the organization in the most optimal way to ensure the entire team is equipped and enabled to deliver a range of functional expertise to meet business goals.

We must resist the unrealistic assumptions of recruiters who suggest that CMOs must be experts in all new or evolving technologies and data-driven competencies and must be savvy and experienced in demand generation as well as branding. This fails to recognize that marketing leaders develop strengths in particular functional areas as a consequence of sector-specific characteristics. Growing up in manufacturing vs. the high-tech space delivers a CMO with very different profiles, and this is okay. The key to success is in having CMOs with expertise across the spectrum of the four CMO capabilities:

  • The CMO must be able to strategize (at a business and marketing level). This ability to strategize is crucial. However, it is often seen as moving in one direction. That is, the CMO must convert business strategy into the functional strategies of the marketing department. However, the CMO must also play a role in moving strategy in an upward direction. The CMO needs to contribute to the business strategy as well as develop the marketing strategy. As the guardian of their companies’ market position, CMOs must use their unique lens to influence the C-suite to focus on buyer needs, prioritize market segments and embed customer-centricity in the strategic planning process. The CMO must also strive to align the marketing strategy with the business strategy, bringing the sales, product and marketing teams together in pursuit of customer-centricity.
  • The CMO must be capable of leading transformation. Nearly every CMO we talk to (86 percent in our recent CMO study) is going through some sort of transformation. From product- to audience-centricity, an onsite to a software-as-a-solution (SaaS) business model, post-mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) integration, global rebranding, and digital transformation to the modernization of the overall marketing scope and vision. The list is endless. The CMO needs the leadership capabilities to drive change throughout the business.
  • The CMO must be capable of driving and demonstrating impact. Too many CMOs rush to prove how hard their departments are working in an attempt to raise the profile of marketing. New metrics and measurement techniques, facilitated by pervasive technology, are abundant. Despite this, few CMOs can link activity to real business impact. This is a skill that combines the art and science of modern-day marketing. The most effective CMO can tell the story of marketing’s contribution and provide meaningful data that links activities to output to drive genuine business impact.
  • The CMO must be able to optimize organizational design to leverage the right skills, process and technologies. Underpinning the first three capabilities is the need to continually align the marketing organization to the evolving business strategy, while identifying and capitalizing on emerging skills and best practice capabilities (whether human or technological). The CMO must be able to balance the competencies of its organization by ensuring the right processes and technology are in place. It is not the task of the CMO to master all marketing functions but to bring in the right expertise, place people in the right roles and ensure they work collaboratively, fending off the threat of siloed mentalities. Maximizing the collective contribution of the team by equipping and enabling team members is an ongoing challenge and a foundational capability of the CMO.

If recruiters really want to know what to look for in a B2B CMO, they should focus their searches on marketing leaders who can demonstrate an ability to strategize, transform, deliver impact and ensure an optimal organizational design. After all, this is what a modern, balanced CMO actually looks like.

SiriusDecisions’ Marketing Executive Strategies Service supports B2B marketing leaders and CMOs in harnessing the capabilities necessary for delivering best-in-class marketing. Visit our Web site (www.siriusdecisions.com), or join us at our Summit, where thousands of senior B2B executives convene annually to hear about our pioneering research.