Want to be a CMO? Here's what you need to know

The chief marketing officer's job just got tougher. You need to do more with less, keep up a relentless pace of change, drive sales, and build a brand. All while growing loyalty and creating great customer experiences. Two top CMOs share insider tips with you.

In the past, CMOs were tasked with managing and optimizing all marketing activities, developing a budget, and creating initiatives that (hopefully) led to a total increase in sales.

Today's chief marketing officers must consider the bigger picture: how can their company stand out in a competitive field? How does customer experience play a role in their company's success? What do customers want throughout the entire lifecycle and buying journey? And, can the company meet those buyers' needs?

These questions go beyond marketing efficiency, pushing the boundaries of marketing innovation to move the needle on sales, customer loyalty, and lifetime customer value.

To gain an insider's look at how CMO's think, I spoke with two prominent marketing leaders on episode #712 of the CXOTalk series of conversations with people shaping our world: Suzanne Kounkel, the chief marketing officer of Deloitte, and Norman de Greve, the chief marketing officer for CVS Health.

Watch our entire, in-depth conversation in the video above and read the complete transcript.

Check out edited comments from Suzanne Kounkel and Norman de Greve, below. And be sure to share your views in the comments!


What is the modern chief marketing officer role?

Suzanne Kounkel: The modern CMO has four facets. The first is certainly a growth driver, and that's changed dramatically over time. We've talked a lot about that being within the CMO set of responsibilities and it is absolutely one thousand percent true today.

Part of the CMO role is being an innovation catalyst and specifically about digital. Norm talked about how dramatically technology is changing business; it certainly has changed the face of what we do as marketers.

Obviously, brand storyteller, bringing creative to light, and being the face of the organization (both internally and externally) is a big part of the CMO role.

Last, but not least, is the capability filter, making sure that we're [working] with the CFO to get the highest return on the investments we make in marketing.

Norman de Greve: I anchor a bit more on the first one, which is to create customer-driven growth, though I think every element you said is exactly right.

Most companies go through a few stages. You start by finding an unmet need in the marketplace, you create a product or service to meet it. It's quite an entrepreneurial idea.

Then they go to the next stage of customer relationships. What else can they sell to them? Now you've got kind of a marketing mindset, an innovation mindset there as well.

Then, many companies are in the third stage, driving operational profits from the company they've built and the relationships they have developed.

At each stage, marketing plays an important role. Certainly, in the beginning, that is what marketing does. We find an unmet need in the marketplace, and we help create a product or service to meet it. In the second stage, we're helping to figure out what else we can do to help those customers.

Really importantly, in big companies that are focused on operational efficiencies with an analytic mindset – very important. Lots of value in this area – the marketer's job is to make sure that the company is also creating products and services to meet unmet needs in the marketplace to drive the next iteration of growth.

The marketer's job is to be an outside perspective to say, "Where do we have to go and why should we go there?" and make sure that the company is focused on their customers.

Suzanne Kounkel: You have to land your message in a way that can be heard from various viewpoints [inside the C-suite]. I think CMOs are trying to actively bridge that gap, with respect to language and metrics and being able to talk about the impact they're having through the eyes of the business.

Norman de Greve: That point is really, really important. What's also important is the importance of creativity and to bring that forth. But if you just go in and talk about creativity, they're not exactly sure what to do with you. There's somebody sitting next to you who has a bunch of ideas with exact profit dollars that can be driven. And so, you have to do both.

Customer experience and the CMO

Norman de Greve: Seventy-five percent of a brand is built through experience.

If a CMO's job is to build the brand, then they better spend a lot of time on what the experience is. They don't have to own it all, but they need to be working with people about how it becomes a great experience.

Suzanne Kounkel: [Customer experience] can be led by marketing.

Life is lived in the small moments every day. Because of that, the experience has to be thought about and contemplated through the roles of every part of the organization and the talent experience. Otherwise, you can't ever land an authentic, repeatable customer experience that engenders loyalty with customers.

How do you plan marketing investments?

Norman de Greve: You can think about allocation of investment in a couple of different ways.

If you want to drive the maximum return [over time,] it takes you to a very different set of allocation activities than if you want to drive the return in a quarter. As an example, if I want to drive a return this quarter, I will focus on selling products that are already known to existing customers.

You can't grow a business just by focusing on your existing customers, and so you have to think about the right allocation. When we look at allocation, it what's the best return for the money? But not just the percentage return. It is the total dollar return at a reasonable rate.

Suzanne Kounkel: Over the brand-to-demand spectrum, we're constantly making choices, depending on how the business is performing, to accelerate and make those shifts. Tie in with the other executives to make very explicit and known and collectively agree on what we need at this moment in time.

That allows for two things. It allows for that collaboration with the business, and it also allows for us, as marketers, to do the things that we do particularly and uniquely well.

How do you define innovation?

Suzanne Kounkel: There are two things that we think about with respect to innovation. One, we think about meeting our clients/customers where they are and, as they're innovating and doing different things, how do we innovate to be able to meet them where they need us to be?

Norman de Greve: First and foremost, [innovation for CMOs means] a better way to solve customer needs.


CXOTalk offers in-depth conversations with people shaping our world. Thank you to my senior researcher, Sumeye Dalkilinc, for assistance with this post.