When companies first started appointing chief marketing officers, it reflected how important the job of building brand awareness and driving demand had become.
The recent elimination of CMO titles in many firms may suggest the reverse is happening — that marketing is becoming less critical to a company’s success than, say, its sales team.
If that’s your takeaway, you’re not seeing the full picture.
CMOs became powerful members of the C-suite in part because so much of marketing has been changing over the last several years.
Where CMOs were once primarily concerned with overseeing an advertising budget, for instance, they’ve had to get intimately closer to helping manage the direct relationship with customers.
Instead of simply hoping they notice a billboard or a TV spot, for instance, the work of marketing now involves establishing a presence and optimizing the company’s performance on a wide range of digital channels. This includes email, social media, text messaging and virtual events like webinars.
That called for a lot of upskilling within marketing departments, particularly as technologies like marketing automation and social listening tools became crucial for communicating with and assessing the sentiment of your target market. CMOs have had to oversee a big part of what’s now called digital transformation within firms.
At the same time, digital transformation is so pervasive that marketing activities have needed to expand beyond the traditional marketing department.
Sales reps are now active on social media.
The CEO might be writing blog posts herself.
Social media activities might cross over into the customer service team.
Reps might sell via an app.
For some organizations, that might mean CMOs are busier than ever as they try to orchestrate all the disparate data being collected across lines of business into something that can offer more personalized experiences for customers.
In other cases, the CMO title might not be the best way to reflect what those doing such activities are ultimately offering to the organization.
Usually when a large, well-known brand does away with a formal CMO there is a perception that marketing has somehow become less important. That’s not usually true, however. Marketing leaders are simply evolving to support goals that transcend their usual parameters.
Some of the possible alternatives to the CMO that might become the new pinnacle for marketers’ careers include:
Chief Growth Officer
Marketers have increasingly been trying to align their work to activities that will ultimately lead to increased revenue for the company, and for CMOs that has typically translated into lead generation.
The appointment of chief growth officers in many firms shows that marketers could move the needle on revenue in many other ways, too.
Though the job descriptions might vary, chief growth officers will be able to work much more cross-functionally to guide, advise and in some cases direct activities that will lead to more deals closed.
Other metrics could include growth in overall subscriber numbers (if it’s a software-as-a-service or SaaS business), or in the number of locations a company serves.
Even more than CMOs, chief growth officers may be responsible to executing on much of the CEO’s vision and plan.
Chief Experience Officer
Marketing executives have traditionally had the advantage of being able to see a lot of what happens to customers across every aspect of their relationship with a company.
This can include the moment a prospect lands on a web site to when and if they leave a review, whether connect with a service agent or buy from the firm again.
In some businesses these experiences can become highly complex, especially given the digital-first nature of so many customer interactions.
For all the talk of omnichannel marketing, what customers want are omni-channel experiences.
In other words, they want an easy way to deal with a company across the web, social, e-mail, SMS and voice.
Chief experience officers arm those with a marketing background with a broader mandate to weave those channels together and fine-tune the touchpoints customers encounter to ensure minimal friction and maximum delight.
Chief Customer Officer
Though this might just sound like chief experience officers by another name, the focus for chief customer officers might be slightly different.
In B2B organizations, for example, a chief customer can ensure the marketing, sales and services offered will align with the needs and expectations among buying committees, rather than an individual consumer.
On the B2C side, chief customer officers might be convening and facilitating focus groups, advisory boards or other forms of customer advocates to help inform and share the organization’s strategies at the highest levels.
Other CMO alternatives and possibilities
Digital transformation has already created changes in other parts of the C-suite.
The most obvious example are chief digital officers, some of whom might have been CIOs but others which came from the marketing department.
Then there are marketers who have unskilled in areas like data science to become chief data officers.
Those who have applied their managerial capabilities to become chief transformation officers.
Organizational change doesn’t always require new job titles. Some marketing leaders may become their firm’s future chief operating officer.
Given the importance of brand strength in many sectors, it’s also possible that those running marketing today will rise up to the top job or president or CEO tomorrow.
The pinnacle of a marketer’s career is definitely changing — for the better. By all means continue working towards becoming a CMO, but recognize that the possibilities might go well beyond that.