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Does Your Company Need a CMO at the table?

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Ah, the C-suite. Most people know who has a seat at that table — the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Chief Financial officer (CFO), and the Chief Operating Officer (COO). More recently, additional seats were added and included the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

The concept around having this “suite” of executive team members is that they work together to ensure a company’s strategies and operations align with its established plans and policies. Although all are coming to the table with a different perspective, they all contribute to the big picture given their unique discipline. While some may fight like cats and dogs along the way, at the end of the day, the goal is harmony, or at least peaceful coexistence.

Given their longevity, the CEO, CFO and COO have pretty well-established definitions. The others, less so. The term “chief information officer” was coined in 1981 by William Synnott, vice president of data processing at the Bank of Boston, who argued that IT was strategic, not just a means to reduce costs, and should be examined and deployed from an enterprise perspective. Way to go, William!

CMOs likely owe William a big “thank you” because it wasn’t until companies began to expand their marketing technologies that the chief marketing officer role came to be. In the early 1990s, data-mining programs and customer relationship management (CRM) software to track customers hit the scene. With it came the need for personnel to analyze the data and do something productive with it.

Fast forward to today, we’re knocking on the door of 2021, and technology continues to evolve faster than businesses can keep up. We have artificial intelligence (AI), aiding voice-assisted technologies that impact how search engine optimization (SEO) is approached. Social media platforms like Tik Tok give brands a new opportunity to engage with Gen Z and millennials (until it was banned). And new acronyms like CRO (conversion rate optimization) and CMPs (consent management platforms) are popping up every day. It’s a mad world, and it needs someone to make sense of it all. Enter the CMO.

What Does a CMO Do, Exactly?

When someone wears numerous hats, it’s frequently challenging to pinpoint what they do. The lack of clarity sometimes creates a lack of perceived value, simply because the role can’t easily be defined. That was the fate of the CMO title in recent years, which led to its title rebrand. Some companies sought a CGO (chief growth officer), suggesting that the emphasis needed to be on growth. However, most would argue that the term “marketing” is inherently a catalyst for “growth.” One markets their business to gain more brand awareness and grow!

Growth is one of the essential deliverables CMOs provide as a result of their role. However, the path to growth is much more complex and varies depending on the industry and size of the organization.

For example, enterprise-level companies with multiple brands, products, and services, and departments have a ton of moving parts and personalities. Wrangling all of these disparate pieces and finding or creating commonalities is no small feat. In this scenario, a CMO’s role is primarily strategic. She/he has to skillfully and creatively trim the fat of distractions that weigh a brand down and give new life to what may be a miss-matched brand positioning, a tired message, outdated technology, and KPIs that don’t mean squat. In this case, the CMO has to understand the business goals and how to achieve them and the right people skills to get other department heads to get on board and do so willingly. Otherwise, it will be a bumpy ride. From there, the CMO will then manage and mentor internal and/or external implementation teams. But at the end of the day, it’s the CMO’s responsibility to meet the goals on time and budget.

For smaller organizations, much of the above holds true. However, the CMO will be even more hands-on and tend to have a more significant voice in the executive board room. The smaller the company, the fewer departments, fewer layers, and fewer doers. That means that the CMO has to be even more well-versed in marketing strategy and all of the marketing department’s disciplines that come with it. These include marketing research, competitive analysis, writing, design, digital marketing, social media marketing, content management, SEO, customer experience, reputation management, and all of the ever-evolving marketing technologies — just to name a few. And awareness of all of these moving parts, tools, and tactics is just part of the job description. A great CMO will know how to create the right marketing mix for each business or product line.

What’s the Difference Between a CMO and a Marketing Director

As we covered above, a CMO’s role will vary depending on the size of the organization. Larger companies that have the benefit of employing a CMO and a marketing director will carve up the responsibilities. CMOs tend to have more years of experience and, as a result, have the ultimate responsibility of increasing a company’s profits by creating and communicating a strategic marketing vision that generates growth. A CMO’s right-hand person is the marketing director, who implements the vision utilizing internal and external team members.

In smaller organizations where the org chart is leaner, some may opt to employ one or the other. This is unfortunate because there are unique skill sets and benefits to each role. Alternatively, companies may opt to hire a full-time marketing director to help fulfill all day-to-day tactical needs. Examples are getting monthly newsletters out on time, writing an occasional blog, maintaining the website, and posting to social media platforms. Additionally, they may hire a fractional CMO to provide the outside-in perspective, vision, and senior marketing leadership and mentor the internal marketing team member(s).

Can My Small Business Afford to Employ a CMO?

Fractional CMOs or sometimes called an “outsourced CMO” or “CMO for hire,” is appealing to many small business owners because they get all of the benefits without the overhead. For instance, a full-time CMO requires a salary in the ballpark of $180,000/year or more. This price tag may be a bit too steep for early-stage and growing companies, even though they recognize the need and value. Alternatively, engaging an outsourced CMO with industry expertise, who operates remotely yet productively, and has several other clients yet can devote a set number of hours per month to each client, can provide tremendous value at a fraction of the investment required for a full-time position.

Why Companies Need a CMO Entering 2021

As we approach arguably one of the most heated elections to date and are still contending with a pandemic that has rocked even the steadiest of businesses, the benefits of a CMO are clear. To prevail and thrive in 2021, the C-suite, however big or small, needs a CMO at the table. They need a leader that doesn’t merely follow trends but understands the competitive landscape, knows how to leverage a company’s strengths and opportunities, and isn’t afraid to roll up her/his sleeves to get the job done. Whether insourced or outsourced, a qualified CMO may be your best recourse.


About Incite Creative, Inc.: Incite Creative is a marketing advisory firm that works in an outsourced capacity. In short, we become your company's chief marketing officer (CMO) and do so virtually and efficiently — saving you time and money. Since 1999 we've had the pleasure of building and boosting brands for a core set of industries. Our thoughtful process, experienced team, and vested interest in our client's success have positioned us as one of the Mid-Atlantic's most sought-after marketing partners for those looking to grow their brand awareness and bottom line. Stop paying for digital and traditional services you may not need. Our retainer, no mark-up model means our recommendations don't come with any catch or commission. The advice we provide align with what you need and what fits within your budget. For more information, contact us at 410-366-9479 or info@incitecmo.com.