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CMOs are swimming upstream

The excerpt below is part three from the Economist Intelligence Unit report, Outside Looking In: The CMO Struggles to Get in Sync with the C-Suite.

According to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey, more than one-quarter of C-suite executives believe the CMO should play a leading role in developing a customer engagement strategy, but only 17% of CMOs see themselves as the leader of customer engagement. Seventy percent of CMOs believe they should play a lead or key role in selecting new markets to enter, compared with 56% of their C-suite peers.

Incredibly, one-fifth of CMOs say they are only consulted on marketing strategy, but don’t take the lead (and 3% say they play no role at all).

What’s going on here? Many CMOs say they are not getting the support they need from the rest of the C-suite, which apparently doesn’t feel their pain. But even more seem to be questioning their own abilities: fully half of all CMOs say their ability to play a more strategic role is limited by a lack of relevant skills among marketing executives. And nearly half (46%) say there is a disconnect over what marketing should be delivering. Twenty-eight percent of CMOs say a lack of senior management support for marketing investments impedes marketing’s ability to deliver more value; only 17% of other C-suite executives agree with that assessment.

If nothing else, these results indicate that CMOs need to do a better job convincing their C-suite colleagues that marketing is a significant contributor to business value. Perhaps this is why CMOs view communications skills and team-building as two of the three most important skills they need to succeed (along with customer insight). Looking out over the next three years, 80% of CMOs see communications expertise increasing in importance (compared with 59% of the C-suite) and 69% say team-building will become more valuable. CMOs rate these types of internal organizational skills higher than functional expertise, even in emerging areas such as social media and data-driven analytical capabilities.

Team-building and general communications capabilities speak to a need for CMOs to have a broad base of skills, beyond traditional marketing expertise, that allows them to work smoothly with multiple constituents across the entire organization.

“The ability to work cross-functionally is extremely important,” says Leontyne Green Sykes, CMO of IKEA US, a home products company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture. “One of the reasons we have been successful is that we are partnering with other parts of the business. The ability to influence someone, less with marketing speak but in terms of how we are contributing to the business, is a critical skill.”

Ms Green sees a general trend towards marketers who bring a more balanced mix of functional, business and analytical skills to the table. “In the past, we were much more structured as specialists,” she explains. “But we now have more general marketers than specialists. Even if you are developing creative, you still need to understand the business and the impact of what you are doing on our overall objectives.”

Other emerging skills are more tangible, particularly across the broader marketing organization. Abacus International Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based provider of travel solutions and services in 31 Asia-Pacific markets, is investing in new training programs for its product marketing teams, with an emphasis on hard skills such as user interface design, search engine optimization and business process engineering.

“A lot of these skill sets were not out there ten years ago,” says Brett Henry, Abacus’s vice-president of commercial and marketing. “Having an industrial engineer who can uncover real customer problems and translate them into a product offering is how business is done now.”

See the full report on the EIU site: Outside Looking In: The CMO Struggles to Get in Sync with the C-Suite

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2 Comments

  1. Jamie Hamberlin
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    For the sake of sounding ignorant in this line of communication, what is a CMO? Forgive me, I am just beginning my quest for knowledge in Management. Thank you for time in this issue.

  2. Jamie Hamberlin
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    what does the C-suite contain? or should I ask “who”?

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