How to Get CEOs and CMOs on the Same Page
There’s an infamous disconnect between CEOs and CMOs, attributed in popular culture to left-brain/right-brain personality types and quantitative vs. qualitative workstyles. But a CEO-CMO divide is a luxury we can’t afford in the current economic situation. Whether for messaging, budgetary, or marketing operations purposes, it’s more important than ever to get CEOs and CMOs on the same page.
As someone who has functioned in both roles, I have insights into what makes CEOs and CMOs tick, how they communicate, what marketers can do to improve their relationship with the CMO, and how an aligned CEO and CMO can provide a competitive advantage. Let’s consider three scenarios where collaboration is essential and drill down into how we can all work together more effectively.
How CEOs and CMOs Can Align to Get Corporate Messaging Right
We’re a little more than halfway through 2020, but the year has presented some incredibly complex messaging challenges. The pandemic didn’t just upend marketing budgets (more on that in a moment); it disrupted messaging by changing how we see the world and highlighting inequalities that were always present. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations are also providing an opportunity for companies to echo their ethics.
Corporate messaging is in the CMO’s wheelhouse, and some companies put out a statement on the issue of the day and leave it at that. But to get messaging right, companies need to take action where appropriate in addition to issuing statements, and the CMO and CEO must work together to make sure the business is walking the talk as well as being represented correctly. That means listening to all voices and taking action internally and externally.
To cite one example, my company recently had a conversation about making Juneteenth a paid holiday and a broader discussion about inequality and what we can do about it as a team and as individuals. We reached a consensus on the PTO question, adding a day to the paid volunteer hours we already provide. By working together, we were able to address the issue in a meaningful way internally and accurately represent the company’s position.
CMOs and CEOs Teaming Up on Re-Planning the Budget
In the current environment, annual budgets are out the window. No one knows for sure what the business climate will be next month, let alone next year. Uncertainty can make the CEO-CMO relationship even more challenging, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, CMOs can demonstrate the ability to create and implement new plans quickly to help their companies adapt to changing times.
We’ve seen CMOs at B2B companies rise to this challenge in response to the pandemic. For instance, many CMOs have restructured budgets to direct funds that were allocated for events to digital marketing investments instead. The success of this effort depends on the ability to not only make decisions quickly but to make the right decisions when reallocating marketing spend.
Ideally, the CMO and CEO would work together on re-planning, with the marketing expert refining the target customer profile to fit changing times and selecting messages, content types, and digital channels to test. Once baseline performance is established, the CMO can then adjust the approach to maximize the return on investment from the marketing budget. Taking action quickly and producing results establishes the CMO as a team player who has the CEO’s back during tough times.
Working Together to Refine Marketing Operations
Nothing is more emblematic of the CEO-CMO divide than the data gap that exists in too many C-suites. CEOs want hard data to justify spending in terms of revenue gained from investments. They tend to rely on the company’s CRM as the de facto revenue reporting tool. CMOs who show up to a board or leadership team meeting with reports on engagement and impressions don’t have the same level of credibility as peers who report on revenue influenced and revenue won.
That’s why it’s imperative for CMOs to report on marketing operations’ results rather than marketing activities. Engagement and impressions are important because of the revenue they generate, so CMOs need to be able to quantify their impact in terms of ROI. That means they need funnel metrics and campaign attribution capabilities to be able to justify marketing spend.
When CMOs can produce data on the volume of leads generated, demonstrate the rate at which those leads are moving through the marketing and sales funnel, and discuss conversion rates in terms of which campaigns are producing results, they earn a seat at the strategy table. In this scenario, CMOs and CEOs can work together to refine marketing operations and maximize the revenue it produces.
CMOs Thinking Like CEOs
In the old days, marketing was considered more art than science, which goes a long way toward explaining the CMO-CEO divide. But the proliferation of business data requires modern CMOs to think in terms of revenue and analytics. It’s a challenge CMOs should embrace because marketing operations produces real value and being able to quantify that value is incredibly powerful.
The most obvious expression of that power is to use data to justify and even increase marketing’s budget. But thinking in terms of data like a CEO can also strengthen the CMO’s influence on corporate messaging, brand identity, and much more. It’s the CMO’s job to conceptualize and present ideas for messaging and identity elements effectively, and data can help the CMO make the business case.
Collaboration is always important, but in uncertain times when there’s no margin for error, teamwork is even more essential. Whether refining corporate messaging, re-planning budgets that were blown up by unexpected events, or making sure marketing operations is fueling the revenue engine, CMOs and CEOs need to get on the same page, and there’s no time to lose.