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Is CEO-CMO Alignment Sufficient for Optimal Business Growth?

In a recent study conducted by a prominent global consulting firm, insights from over 100 C-level executives specializing in growth, including Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Growth Officers, were analyzed alongside input from 21 CEOs across B2B and B2C companies of varying sizes and industries.

While the sample size might raise eyebrows for those seeking quantitative certainty, the findings echo patterns observed by industry experts. The linchpin for successful business growth appears to be a shared understanding between CEOs and CMOs regarding the role of marketing in shaping the company’s trajectory. Simply put, when CEOs and CMOs align on the purpose of marketing, their businesses tend to outperform those lacking this agreement.

The evolving landscape of modern marketing, shifting from the traditional 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) to a broader focus on promotion alone, has brought forth challenges. Companies have responded by creating additional roles, such as Chief Customer Officers and Chief Revenue Officers, often segregating pricing and distribution functions to other departments. Simultaneously, there’s been a surge in specialized teams—awareness, demand generation, sales enablement, and customer experience—reporting to various C-suite leaders. This compartmentalization confuses the overall strategy and blurs the CMO’s focus.

A striking revelation from the study is the discord between CEOs and CMOs regarding the primary role of marketing in their companies. While there is consensus on marketing as a brand steward, disagreements arise on its role in customer experience, sales force enablement, customer relationships, and loyalty.

Attributes this disconnect to the limited marketing experience among Fortune 250 CEOs, who may not fully comprehend the technical, data-driven nature of modern marketing.

The solution proposed is for CMOs to better define and communicate the role of marketing, fostering joint understanding with CEOs on measurement frameworks and necessary marketing innovations. However, some argue that this advice is somewhat stale.

According to industry experts, true alignment between CMOs and CEOs needs to occur at a level deeper than the executive suite. In today’s landscape, CMOs and CEOs, especially in larger organizations, are less involved in marketing details. Instead, CMOs often rely on functional or line-of-business leaders to formulate plans, summarizing strategies for the CMO’s awareness in a brief conversation.

To achieve genuine alignment, mid-level team leads are called upon to collaborate and avoid competing for the same audiences. This entails comprehending how overarching objectives contribute to shared goals and objectives. The notion of integrated marketing planning, considered a lost art in many businesses, is reintroduced as a critical element in this process.

The report concludes with a pertinent quote from a CMO in the retail sector: “CEOs should ask themselves what outcomes – not activities – do I want from marketing? Then they should ask their CMOs what are the best levers to achieve the outcomes.”

Echoing this sentiment, industry experts agree that before CMOs answer this question for CEOs, they should introspect and consult their teams to identify the most effective levers to propel their marketing organizations toward a range of outcomes. This approach ensures that CEOs’ expectations align with achievable results and CMOs do not overpromise.

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