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The CMO guide to finding allies in the C-suite

Bonnie Crater is president and CEO at Full Circle Insights. Prior to joining Full Circle Insights, Bonnie Crater was a five-time vice president of marketing and executive at many software companies in Silicon Valley. Bonnie held vice president and senior vice president roles at Genesys, Netscape, Network Computer Inc.,, Stratify, Realization, and VoiceObjects (now Voxeo). A ten-year veteran of Oracle Corporation and its various subsidiaries, Bonnie was vice president, Compaq Products Division and vice president, Workgroup Products Division. In 2013, Bonnie was named one of the “100 Most Influential Women” by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, in 2015 the Sales Lead Management Association named her one of the “20 Women to Watch” and in 2016 Diversity Journal honored her as one of the “Women Worth Watching.” Bonnie holds a B.A. in biology from Princeton University.

There’s a lot of optimism in the air about the pandemic coming to an end, thanks to increasingly widespread vaccine deployment. People hope to resume normal lives at home and at work. But marketing executives already suspect there’s no going back to the way things were in 2019. Many CMOs saw huge budget cuts in 2020 and are wondering what comes next.

One thing seems certain: digital ad spending, which outpaced expenditures on non-digital forms of advertising for the first time in 2020, will continue to grow. CMOs are investing in martech tools to manage activities more efficiently on digital channels, and they expect their investments in technology to continue in 2021.

But there’s anxiety in the air also, as CMOs consider the implications of a reduction in marketing spend that may continue in the years ahead. Will that leave the CMO role vulnerable? Here’s one thing CMOs can do to strengthen their position in the years to come: create alliances with their C-suite neighbours, the CEO, CIO and CFO.

Reaching across the table

So, how can CMOs make friends with their neighbors in the executive suite? The first step is to consider what people in each role need to do their jobs with maximum efficiency and effectiveness and consider how marketing can help. For example, CMOs can think about how CEOs, CIOs and CFOs use technology and data and how marketing can contribute.

It also helps to consider the decisions CEOs, CIOs and CFOs have to make and how marketing intersects. CEOs focus on the overarching business strategy, and marketing definitely plays a role there. CIOs concentrate on technology and data, and that impacts marketing and vice-versa. CFOs focus on financial performance, so CMOs can make inroads on that basis too.

Also consider the perspective of the person in each role. CEOs will be interested in projects that are aligned with corporate objectives. CIOs are technology experts and will appreciate a say in martech investments the CMO makes. CFOs are looking for credible data, so hard numbers from analytics and accurate campaign attribution will appeal to them.

Working with C-suite neighbours

With these general principles in mind, CMOs can work toward a cooperative relationship with their C-suite neighbors. Only 13% of F100 CEOs have a background in sales or marketing, so CMOs who are looking to forge an alliance with their CEO might have to make up some ground there, demonstrating what marketing is doing to produce large-scale business results.

One of the quickest ways to form an alliance with the CIO is to collaborate on martech purchases. There’s been a decentralisation trend across enterprises, where department leaders

are making their own technology purchasing decisions without necessarily asking the CIO to weigh in. But a recent Infosys survey found that 44% of companies believe a close CMO-CIO partnership can boost profits by 5% or more, which is reason enough to explore closer ties.

CMOs are increasingly focused on data, and that opens the door for greater collaboration with CFOs since that’s the language they speak as well. Hard numbers that clearly and accurately outline marketing’s impact on the bottom line in terms of returns on campaign investments can give CMOs and CFOs something to talk about.

Embracing accountability

If there’s a single asset that helps CMOs foster better relationships with all of their C-suite counterparts, it’s credible evidence of marketing’s impact on company results. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of data credibility. Data generated by martech solutions won’t mean much outside of marketing unless it’s put in a context that non-marketing people recognise.

This is why so many B2B companies have already added the company CRM to their solution stack. By putting marketing data inside the CRM, which functions as the revenue record, CMOs can provide context that is otherwise missing. They can use data inside the CRM to align their department’s efforts with sales, working cooperatively to drive demand generation efforts.

With the ability to measure performance accurately, CMOs can take a seat at the strategy table, working with CEOs to translate business goals into marketing activities that produce the lead volume, velocity and conversion rates needed to meet company objectives. Accurate data also allows the CMO to defend marketing spend — and make the case for an increase.

Data that can demonstrate marketing’s impact can also help CIOs justify technology investments and show how solution stacks align across departments to support company objectives. And credible data from marketing can help CFOs and their finance teams create accurate forecasts and deliver insights that help the business navigate economic uncertainty.

The old stereotype about CMOs being more attuned to art than science is probably less true today than at any point in the history of the CMO role. Successful modern CMOs embrace data and accountability because they understand the value of marketing’s work and are eager to share that story. Those same qualities can also help CMOs find allies in the C-suite.


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The CMO guide to finding allies in the C-suite