Blog post

CMOs Finally Get Some Respect

By Jake Sorofman | March 04, 2016 | 3 Comments

digital marketing

The CMO hasn’t always been a power player in the c-suite. In fact, for a very long time, the CMO was the designated short timer, often the most vulnerable among his or her peers.

Why? Because the chief marketer was sometimes confused as the head of the department of arts and crafts, caretaker of all things shiny and bright.

Or, they simply spoke a different language, offering incantations on the vague world of reach, impressions, engagement and lift that made other executives shift uncomfortably in their chairs.

And then there’s the thing every CMO knows as practically a truism: On some level, everyone thinks they’re a marketer.

Historically, this has made for some tough sledding for the average CMO, many of whom could practically time their oil changes by new assignment.

But, today, the narrative has shifted. CMO tenures, according to Spencer Stuart, have doubled to 48 months over the past decade. The CMO is finally getting the respect they’re due.

Every role has its currency, a commodity it brings to the table whose value can fluctuate over time. The CIO’s currency lies in the fact that every business is now a technology company. The head of sales owns revenue and the head of HR looks after human capital, both currencies with fairly stable, life-giving importance to any organization. The currency of the CFO is, well, currency.

But it’s the CMO’s currency whose value has compounded most appreciably.

The CMO’s currency is the customer—customer voice, value, valence and, often, the experience itself:

  • Customer voice combines direct, indirect and inferred feedback to provide insight into customer needs, motivations, goals, satisfaction and sentiment.
  • Customer value is the economics of a customer relationship, from the cost to acquire to cost to the serve, to purchase frequency, to order value and, ultimately, lifetime value.
  • Customer valence represents the positive and negative changes in these things over time
  • And the customer experience is the sum of every branded interaction, pre- and post-sales.

On this last part, it’s important to note that, while the scope of the customer experience goes well beyond the CMO’s direct remit, the chief marketer is frequently expected to design the desired-state experience—and, in many cases, is expected to align others accordingly as formal or de facto chief customer officer.

The customer has always been a currency of essential value for any organization. But, today, it’s trading at an all-time high. This is good news for the CMO; it’s created a close kinship between CEOs and CMOs.

In fact, as my colleague Kirsten Newbold-Knipp aptly points out, as the value of the CMO’s currency grows, so does their status as the potential heir apparent for the top executive position.

That notion would have seemed downright curious a decade ago. But, today, as Kirsten points out, “critical skills to CMO success today look more and more like the laundry list of what boards might seek in their next CEO.”

Comments are closed


  • chandar says:

    great post, Jake

  • Jake — seeing this across the board with our customers in field service management — where we used to focus on operations management or the CIO, we are increasingly engaging with the CMO who owns the “brand” experience — basically the relationship the customer has with the company throughout their relationship. In stead of just MQLs, we’re now measuring the CMO’s contribution by total lifetime value of the customer.

  • Alex Dwight says:

    It has helped me to analyze my business strategies and marketing skills therefore maximizing the potential for growth and profitability.