Leading the Revolution: CMOs Must Be the Change Agent

Published: December 7, 2010

This revolution challenges the definition and future of the marketing function, and its talent has been percolating under a slow boil for years in the halls of companies large and small.  It is a revolution long overdue and offers an exciting opportunity to restore marketing to the art of driving business results based on the science of understanding and adding value to current and future customers.

To successfully achieve the potential of this revolution, the CMO must be a powerful change agent, both internally and externally and help her department chart a course for where marketing needs to go, navigate the waters of change, and compellingly lead from vision to results for both the board and the street.

Just as the role of marketing must change in order to survive, the role of the CMO must evolve as well. All marketing leaders — from public company CMO to the head of marketing at a mid-sized enterprise — are facing increased pressure to grow revenue, retain customers and improve market results. At the same time, in a rapidly changing environment of proliferating channels and internal constraints, they struggle to keep pace and make sense of what customers want, need and expect.

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Several recent Aprimo surveys conducted of CMOs from all industries at companies of all sizes illustrate the myriad challenges that today’s marketers are facing.  For example, at Argyle’s CMO Summit in New York, we asked attendees: “What is Most Broken in Marketing Today?” The largest group — 39% — cited “correlating marketing activities to revenues.” Another question, “What is driving the highest degree of change to your marketing strategies?” resulted in 37% of respondents citing “creating more compelling customer and prospect experiences,” while 27% again cited “increased requirement for ROI and accountability.” For the final question, “What is the CMO’s biggest challenge?” 37% cited, “integrating and tracking multiple channels;” 28% cited “doing more with less;” and 18% again cited “accountability and measurement.”[1]

Another joint survey of Online Marketing Connect and Aprimo in April 2010 asked marketers at every level in the organization about their requirement for evaluating new technologies.  Of the 725 respondents, 56 percent rated measurement capabilities top of the list – again underscoring the increased pressure on marketing to demonstrate ROI[2].

The themes of these surveys clearly underscore the increased pressure marketing is under:  ROI, organizational alignment, budgetary pressures and managing demand generation to yield quality sales leads across multiple proliferating channels.

Today’s CMO can easily feel overwhelmed and not in control when trying to cater to so many dissonant demands.  Marketers face an internal conundrum that threatens to enslave the creativity of marketing to the complexities of analyzing the function. In most companies, for instance, the largest indirect, variable spend is for marketing. Yet many marketing leaders whose strongest skillset is their vaunted creativity still manage their spending by gut-feel versus sound metrics.  Marketing leaders need to balance the data requirements to analyze markets and trends — the science of market-driven-marketing –- with creative expressions of branding, positioning and go-to-market campaigns.

Businesses can no longer afford to spend marketing dollars based on gut-instincts — meaning CMOs must take the reins of their department and find new ways to marry creativity with well-grounded ROI analysis.

Further to the pressure to prove the ROI of marketing programs, as the previously mentioned surveys show, marketers are also facing a proliferation of marketing channels with the meteoric rise of social media sites and loss of control of the brand as customers take control of the online airwaves.

These increased pressures to deliver ROI and the proliferation of new media channels have created the perfect storm for marketers.  And this storm is forcing the CMO to lead a revolutionary change or risk being pushed aside into irrelevancy as a new guard takes the helm.

As a four-time CMO and previous marketing strategy consultant, I have been on the frontlines and in the depths of turning around the turmoil of many marketing departments in recent years. In conversations with peers and from personal experiences, I’ve witnessed the fallout that occurs when marketing is dysfunctional. It’s an impact that reverberates all the way up to the company’s revenue and all the way down to the bottom line. All too often, marketers will opt for the “ostrich in the sand” approach – ignoring the internal dynamics and the external market reality and then strategies, programs and results suffer. Driving change means we have to question, challenge and control shifts in order for marketing to move forward and be viewed as strategic across the entire company.


As Aprimo’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lisa Arthur drives global market and brand strategy, demand generation and customer-centric initiatives. Arthur has served as CMO for Internet leader Akamai Technologies and B2B2C application provider Mindjet. Arthur spent nearly 7 years at Oracle where she managed the market entry and growth for Oracle CRM. Most recently, as the founder for Cinterim, Arthur applied her market-centric processes and insight to provide strategic counsel for Silicon Valley start-ups and Fortune 50 technology companies. Arthur is a seasoned keynote speaker addressing diverse topics at Web 2.0, Office 2.0, American Marketing Association (AMA) Strategy Confer­ence, Stanford University and MIT Sloan CMO Summit.

[1] “Argyle Executive Forum, 2010 CMO Spotlight Forum: Retail and Consumer Goods & Services” audience poll by Argyle and Aprimo, April 29, 2010, New York.

[2] ” Marketing Technology Trends & Pain Points: Real-Life Marketers Speak Out,” by Online Marketing Connect and Aprimo, Internet poll, April, 2010.

Posted in: Demanding Views

Tagged with: Aprimo, CMO, Lisa Arthur

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