Guest Column | September 15, 2020

Redefining The CMO: Expectations Vs. Reality

By Isabelle Papoulias, Mediafly

Email Marketing

As the business landscape changes due to evolving buyer preferences and unprecedented circumstances, Chief Marketing Officers are under increasing pressure to stay one step ahead of the curve. Time and time again, CMOs are required to broaden their scope and role to encompass all the latest trends and technologies. With CMOs often overseeing go-to-market business development and sales enablement on top of marketing, the job description of a “CMO” is more complicated than ever.

Even though the role has shifted, many myths — like “businesses are choosing to eliminate the role of CMO in favor of new titles such as Chief Experience Officer or Chief Innovation Officer” — remain the same. Here are a few more common myths about the CMO that need busted:

Myth #1: All CMO Roles Are The Same

No matter what industry, companies are experiencing rapid change. From changing customer attitudes to unpredictable trends, marketing is continually forced to quickly evolve. Most people assume the CMO role is solely dedicated to leading marketing strategy and initiatives, but according to a recent report by Forrester, 88 percent of organizations agree that the role of a CMO has changed in the last two years and will only continue to change. As this evolution unfolds, CMOs will be required to shape-shift with the current needs of their organization, which means not every CMO will be alike.

Many CMOs are transitioning their focus from marketing to sales and product development, leading enterprisewide innovation, managing distribution channels, and establishing critical partnerships based on the current focuses of their company — which will be different for everyone. As businesses pivot and grow, 90 percent of organizations view the CMO role as the connective tissue between different lines of business. In this world, a cookie-cutter CMO just won’t cut it anymore.

Myth #2: A CMOs Responsibility Only Involves Marketing Initiatives

If you think the role of the CMO is to only lead tasks that fall under marketing strategy and implementation, think again. The role of the CMO must change to fit the needs of modern organizations, overseeing not only branding and marketing activities but business growth and customer experience. To stay relevant in today’s business landscape, CMOs must rise to meet needs inside and outside the marketing department. Instead of solely focusing on brand building or demand generation, daily responsibilities touch everything from enterprisewide business planning, sales enablement, and performance analytics to product pricing and M&A evaluations.

The CMO role is ever evolving and, as a result, establishes an environment to drive growth across the organization and act as an adviser to peers on the executive team. But this new set of expectations can come with its share of ambiguity. While more CMOs are invited to have a seat at the strategic table, many are struggling to have their voices heard. Compared to the 52 percent of CEOs that believe CMOs are initiating collaborative efforts, only 32 percent of CMOs believe they’re doing a good job in this particular area. With this in mind, it’s time to help CMOs recognize they need to be engaged in crucial conversations within the organization, not only when it pertains to marketing strategy and implementation. CMOs should leverage the resources they have during these critical conversations along with other functions that can lead to tangible results. This, in turn, will help bolster their case for more authority and responsibility within their role and help them execute more efficiently while working alongside other executives in the organization.

Myth #3: CMOs Have All The Marketing Answers

CMOs are the designated miracle makers. Daily, they’re busy innovating, creating strategies, crafting messages, bringing in leads, and leveraging data and insights to drive results. The demands facing CMOs can feel incredibly tough. What most CMOs fail to recognize is that they don’t have to solve every task alone. Connecting with other CMOs and talking through takeaways from previous experiences can be beneficial moving forward in this role. One of the best habits that a CMO can practice is creating an ongoing line of communication with like-minded individuals, having conversations with other CMOs and leaders on an ongoing basis to help gain insight that will help them tackle both tactical and strategic decisions moving forward.

Thankfully, peer groups are on the rise to help facilitate this kind of collaboration. For CMOs wading through new strategic challenges, joining one of these groups could be the idea-mill you need. Facilitating openness and creating a network of peers outside your organization can help deliver new perspectives and foster creative ideas you may not have come up with yourself. So, while you may not have all the answers, you’ll be one step closer to coming up with them.

While some may still believe these myths today, CMOs are changing their perception for the future. By remaining agile in your responsibilities, taking a seat at the strategic table, and creating a space to openly explore new problems, CMOs will be well-prepared for the future that lies ahead.

About The Author

Isabelle Papoulias is the CMO of sales enablement solutions provider Mediafly. Starting as a sales director, Isabelle quickly transitioned her role to marketing to build Mediafly’s marketing engine from the ground up. She is passionate about partnering with all areas of the organization to drive growth. Before Mediafly, Isabelle started her career in quantitative research for companies like Kraft Foods, Sprint, and more. From there, she spent the majority of her 20+ year career working for ad and media agencies in global account management roles for Fortune 500 brands across industries like tech, finance, retail, and CPG. Outside of her time spent developing marketing strategies and campaigns, Isabelle enjoys her professional hobby teaching dance.