The modern marketing leader: Is your CMO ready?

By Lisa Loftis, SAS Best Practices

Years ago, a longtime marketing manager gave me a tongue-in-cheek description of his job as ”telling and selling” and a more serious explanation that managing the marketing mix (price, product, promotion and place) was his primary consideration.

If he were a practitioner today, he would be astounded at the metamorphosis that has taken place within marketing. Modern marketers are expected to focus on the customer – to assure satisfaction, promote loyalty, engage in dialog – and along the way sell products and generate profit for the organization.

In today’s world, this means implementing omnichannel digital strategies and managing the end-to-end customer experience. While there are tools (journey maps, lifecycle diagrams) and technologies (optimization engines, event stream processing and marketing automation) to help with this, in practice it can be a daunting endeavor.

Marketing rarely has authority over every customer touch point, conflicting objectives across business units are not uncommon and entrenched business processes can lack the flexibility necessary in an agile environment. To succeed, the CMO has to be an outstanding leader capable of ”knowing the way, going the way and showing the way” forward to the whole organization.

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If I had to pick three adjectives most important for the modern CMO, they would be:

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
John C Maxwell

Transformative – forging dramatic change

Being transformative is critical because managing customer experience requires the ability to develop and implement multichannel strategies and business processes. Mapping the customer journey and understanding which business units own each journey step is only the beginning.

Exploring business objectives across these diverse groups, identifying competing or incompatible goals and working across the organization to reconcile conflicts is a critical, but often overlooked, step – one that often requires significant transformation to mindsets, metrics and potentially even to compensation. Changing business processes to facilitate a better customer experience and taking advantage of new metrics could also require substantial changes to the status quo.

Cogent – convincing or believable with a clear, incisive presentation

Being cogent is essential because data-driven marketing leaders must be able to use customer insights and advanced analytic techniques to present a clear and compelling story to the rest of the organization; about market direction, about customer behavior and value, and about ROI on marketing and experience management activity.

Analytically savvy marketers can even find themselves in a position to help develop a fact-based, decision-making culture throughout the organization by using analytics to drive organizational behavior and process change in the name of customer experience (e.g., analyzing beacon, sensor and POS data to identify consistently crowded grocery store aisles and recommending reconfigurations or additional staff presence to help alleviate bottlenecks).

Cohesive – well-integrated and unifying

Being cohesive is indispensable because marketers need to foster cooperation and coordination across business units in order to implement the sweeping change necessary for multichannel business strategies such as experience management. The CMO may be identifying and driving these changes, but it will likely fall to the business units themselves to execute them. It will be imperative that marketing forge solid partnerships with areas ranging from IT to HR.


Transformation, cogence and cohesion will go a long way toward ensuring that marketing can transcend traditional boundaries and lead the company into a future of loyal, engaged and profitable customers. Is your CMO ready to assume the mantle of a leader?

Lisa Loftis

Lisa Loftis is a principal consultant in the Customer Advisory Services team in SAS Best Practices. She was co-author of the book, Building the Customer Centric Enterprise. She can be reached at


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