The B2B CMO Balancing Act: 13 Top CMOs Share Insights On Shifting Priorities For Teams, Tech And Customer Experience

Published: September 25, 2019

B2B CMOs are shifting focus to expanded revenue responsibilities, which means they are increasingly being asked to own their numbers with heightened involvement in the customer experience and communication across the organization with strong teams. This requires today’s CMO to transform into a leader that focuses on brand storytelling, strong talent retention and team building, revenue- and customer-focused, as well as maximizing the efficiency of their tech stack.

As the CMO role continues to be observed under the microscope  — and some companies questioning its value — 13 CMOs and VP’s of Marketing from some of the fastest-growing brands in B2B are detailing ways to drive revenue and increase growth while bringing more value.

“The role has broadened, considerably. It used to be the title given to the top marketer,” said Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at Pendo. “Now it’s a blend of marketing, customer success, sales — with a bit of CEO-whisperer thrown in for good measure. It’s still about helping generate revenue, but now it’s also about how that revenue is generated.”

Thirteen CMOs and VP’s of Marketing interviewed by Demand Gen Report cite their top priorities in the coming years include:

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  • A focus on developing teams that are efficient, productive and engaged;
  • Assessing what’s working and what isn’t in their tech stack; and
  • Enhancing the customer experience by building on traditional methods of messaging and brand promise to ensure trust and customer success.

Building a strong team is crucial for today’s CMOs, with the rising pressures of meeting revenue goals, but Elle Woulfe, former VP of Marketing at PathFactory, details it as a major challenge.

“There’s a lot of great marketing talent out there, but right now, the market is incredibly competitive, so attracting the best talent and building performance-oriented teams can be difficult,” said Woulfe.

Having a strong team can also help with assessing your tech stack and seeing how the tech is impacting ROI and avoiding a pileup of technology which could be more efficient if consolidated.

“As CMO, your role on a regular cadence should be to look at your tech stack, review with your team, determine if the tech is viable (or not) and move forward,” said Jeanne Hopkins, CMO at “Having a team member or two regularly getting demos from vendors is important just to have something that may make a difference in revenue velocity.”

In addition to doing more with fewer applications in your tech stack, today’s CMOs need to build the brand by being the storytellers and develop emotional connections with customers, said Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense.

“Today’s CMOs need to be masters of understanding customer insights and putting them to use,” said Conant. “Modern CMOs need to be great storytellers, creating emotional connections to the brand across multiple personas, industries, buying stages and channels — all simultaneously.”

Building A Team To Address The Alignment Imperative

From dealing directly with technology to figuring out what needs to be fixed to achieve results, the traditional CMO role is a juggling act that tends to bare the blame for any revenue loss. John Steinert, CMO of TechTarget, noted that developing collaboration between departments and building a team that can address what the issues are and what needs to get done to fix them will be a continued challenge for CMOs.

“Building the right team will always be the primary challenge for a CMO who looks to be in the role for more than a couple years,” said Steinert. “It’s your team that will figure out what needs to be fixed, what needs to be amplified and how to get it done.”

In addition to building a team that can help with aligning collaboration and strategy across sub-departments, Derek Slayton, CMO of Terminus, stated that as marketing is taking on a broader role, CMOs need to focus on forming teams that can support different aspects of sales, including sales development and customer success.

“Team is a big one and continuing to evolve the structure of marketing to best fit what the company is asking marketing to do,” Slayton said. “Now, as marketing has taken on more of a broader role — everything from customer experience or customer success rolled into marketing and sometimes sales development can be rolled into marketing — marketing is now supporting sales in new ways.”

With building the right team being a crucial part of the process, CMOs are maintaining talent retention and finding good talent to be the foundation of any marketing effort.

“CMOs should hire leaders and team members who are better than them and let them run their functional areas — provide the guidance, strategy, coaching, support and goals and then get out of the way and let them perform,” said Allison MacLeod, EVP of Global Marketing at Flywire.

CMOs Leading Charge In Refining Tech Ecosystem

With new technology constantly emerging in B2B and leaders still utilizing technology from years past, CMOs and their teams should be assessing their tech stack to see what is working and what isn’t and harnessing new tech while leveraging the existing tech stack.

Over the next year or two, Michelle Huff, CMO at UserTesting, sees ABM continuing to be a talking point and a top priority technology-wise for B2B CMOs.

“I think we’re still scratching the surface [with ABM],” Huff said. “I know it’s been more of a talking point, but you can start seeing some of the technologies over time add a bit more and more. I do think that that’s going to be a way for us to continue to scale.”

Although B2B technology is only scratching the surface and there will be more in the years to come, Maria Pergolino, former CMO at Anaplan, suggests that marketers will continue to go beyond one platform in the future and stack their tech.

“Marketers need to continue to stay on the leading edge of technology, staying abreast of new channels, tools and tactics that will allow them to stand out to their audiences,” said Pergolino. “I think marketers will think more about stackable and integrated technologies instead of staying on one platform.”

CMOs Pivoting To Customer Experience, Brand Promise

Not only has the role of CMO transformed to play a broader role in terms of revenue and across sales, CMOs are also taking the reins in terms of customer experience, which has been the biggest evolution of the CMO role, according to Karen Steele, CMO at LeanData.

“Today, the CMO isn’t just accountable for demand generation and an inbound marketing motion, they are often responsible for the entirety of the go-to-market process, including outbound with sales development reps reporting to the marketing team,” Steele said. “More and more, CX is under the umbrella of the CMO’s portfolio. This includes advocacy, advisory and adoption initiatives around the customer.

Brad Gillespie, VP of Marketing at Cvent, agreed. “The rise of ‘CX’ has presented marketing leaders with a tremendous opportunity to have a greater influence in the overall equation,” he added. “I love it when CMOs get this responsibility as it’s ultimately the best measure of all the things that marketing brings to the party.”

Today’s CMO is aiming to evolve be more involved in dealing with the customer experience — to drive trust with the brand and retain customers that are really driving ROI.

“While CMOs will always be focused on customer acquisition, in the coming years, CMO priorities will expand to include more customer evangelism,” said Jen Spencer, VP of Sales and Marketing, SmartBugMedia. “We are much more attuned to how much churn is impacting our businesses and we have a better sense of how much it costs us to acquire, onboard, activate and retain customers.”

But achieving customer success doesn’t come easy. As customers are looking to build trust with companies more than ever before, companies should ensure that trust by making a human connection.

“Now, creativity and human engagement is coming to the forefront,” said Corinne Sklar, CMO at IBM iX. “How B2B marketers leverage emerging technologies to drive deeper personalization through true human connection and storytelling will emerge as our next evolution.”

Want to get a deeper look at the discussions we had with these veteran B2B CMOs and VPs of Marketing? View all 13 in-depth Q&As here!

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