Knuckle-Draggin’ CMOs

Kudos to Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles for their recent report on The Evolved CMO. It’s a good report (that’s a glowing review for Mr. Cranky here) and I wanted to share some of the highlights with my takes on their findings.

Before I do, though, I wanted to point out that I did find it odd that they would hold out the model CMO as an “evolved” CMO. That paints a picture of most CMOs as knuckle-draggin’ cavemen types from the Stone Age. (Maybe that was intentional, who knows). Seems to me there’s a better label to connote the CMO they’re trying to describe (“catalytic” comes to mind).

Some of the findings involved CMOs’:

1. Top marketing objectives. Number one was acquiring new customers, listed by just over 60% of respondents. But only about one-third listed increasing customer retention. And less than 30% of the senior marketers surveyed said increasing customer lifetime value is a top marketing objective.

My take: This is a worrisome finding. Increasing customer lifetime value should be towards the top of the list. A coherent and effective strategy for increasing CLV will result in the acquisition of profitable new customers, guide customer retention tactics, and help marketing better measure the impact of its efforts and investments.

2. Views on the skills important to their personal success. Vision and strategic thinking was cited by more than three-quarters of marketers as the most important skill/competency. When asked about self-improvement areas, of the 17 attributes listed, the most popular area was “personal knowledge of your customers” and the third most popular was “technology-savviness.” But customer knowledge was only mentioned as an important skill by about 10% of respondents, and technology-savviness by less than 20%.

My take:
There’s a disconnect here. On one hand “strategic thinking” is listed as the most critical skill, but only 16% desire self-improvement in this area. Which implies that they think they’ve got this nailed down. And the attributes that rose toward the top of the self-improvement list — customer knowledge and technology-savviness — were ranked towards the bottom of the importance list. If they’re not very important, then why do so many CMOs want to improve in those areas?

3. Career development resources.
Among a list of 16 resources to help CMOs build their skills and competencies, marketing publications, conferences, and organizations were ranked at the bottom. Forty percent of respondents found marketing conferences to be of little to no value — just 10% said they were of great value.

My take: No surprise here (see my comments on why so many conferences suck). It would be interesting to know, though, why so many (40%) marketers see great value in business publications, but so few (~15%) see great value in marketing publications.

4. Marketing tools and tactics. When asked which tools and tactics are the most important to their marketing organization’s future success, the top three are: 1) customer trends and research; 2) marketing measurement; and 3) CRM/customer data analytics. Despite all the hype, social computing/Web 2.0 was second from the bottom, just ahead of user-generated content [note to self: resist urge to call UGC “dumb”].

My take: Many CMOs are missing something here. Social computing and customer community development are techniques to help them better understand customer trends and do customer research.

The next few years will interesting times for CMOs. I hope I get to work with the ones that walk upright.

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10 thoughts on “Knuckle-Draggin’ CMOs

  1. My prediction: Evolving marketers will continue to dip toes in the online/social-networking water in the name of better understanding their customers. They will then discover all kinds of conversations are already happening about their companies and products. They will then discover that the best marketing is to join and foster these conversations.

  2. Ron – Interesting that the #1 marketing objective was acquiring new customers – not, as you listed it, acquiring PROFITABLE new customers. It’s this thought process that continues to permeate within financial institutions – volume for the sake of volume. I’m concerned that it’s these type of results and answers that contribute to marketers not being taken seriously within the executive ranks.

  3. Re: #2 – I just don’t think you get a stategic seat when you are viewed as a bit player with limited knowledge of the business. How many marketing people have taken calls in the call center? Worked a counter? Rode in a truck with an engineer? Gone on a sales call?

    Further, how many of those who have experienced the above have then *done something* in marketing to improve the customer-facing situations they have experienced? The opportunity for positive marketing impact just in customer service alone is huge.

    That’s the kind of action that gets you a strategic seat. Prove that you deserve it. Prove you can think past the advertising down into the guts of the operation. Prove that marketing in your hands is more than buying media.

  4. Ron- Yet another rockin’ good post. Also, head butts and high fives to Jim Novo’s comment about what it takes to get a seat at the strategy table. I agree 100%.

  5. @Mike: I think your “concern” is very well founded.

    @Jim: It might be somewhat of a paradox, but I think what earns marketing a seat at the strategy table is its ability to deliver on the tactical, operational stuff. If you can’t do that, then the exec team figures you can’t contribute strategically.

  6. Ron,
    I agree with all of your comments. Just one selfish thing to add. If CMOs, and by default the companies they work for, are most interested in new customer acquisition, it’s a good thing for those of us out there that dabble in list/data brokering.

    Suzanne, being selfish this Thursday morning.

  7. @Mike: I see this problem every day. And its a BIG concern for the back office folks. A lot of the front-line folks are concerned also. The jury is still out on upper management.
    @Jim: Thank you. A lot of my frustration comes from idea people that have no clue as to what happens in daily work life. Theory is all well and good but I deal in reality. I’ve also seen marketing react with disdain to ideas that weren’t generated by them personally. That’s probably why other areas do their own marketing now instead of keeping it centralized.

  8. Relative to the disconnect on strategic thinking, it may also stem from an apparent gap that takes place in many businesses – there’s a strong desire from senior management to devote significant time to considering strategic issues, but in reality senior teams invest little time at it. Here’s a link to a series of posts on approaches we’ve used to try and identify the reasons for the gap & close it through improving the efficiency & effectiveness of strategic thinking: (

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