3 Questions CMOs Must Answer in 2020

February 17, 2020
Contributor: Laura Starita

CMOs will drive growth if they set priorities that concentrate marketing resources where they serve customer needs and extract value from data and martech investments.

All eyes are on the chief marketing officer (CMO) to deliver revenue growth in a context of disruption and changing customer behavior, according to a recent Gartner poll. Yet respondents report that market uncertainty and new challenges from competitors have the potential to derail their strategic marketing agendas.

“Incumbent brands are struggling to grow as they face more threats to their market share,” says Alexandra Bellis, Senior Principal, Research, Gartner. “B2C firms are faced with new direct-to-consumer (DTC) competitors that are better able to implement and adapt to digital business, while the B2B buying journey is getting more complex as buying groups get larger and bring conflicting needs to the decision-making process.”

Read More: 4 Key Findings in the Annual Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020

CMOs must focus on answering three critical questions: How they’ll drive revenue growth, how they’ll set priorities and how they’ll fill skills gaps.


How to drive growth within a changing market

Marketing leaders from both B2B and B2C firms say they aim to focus on accelerating sales conversions and differentiating the firm’s value proposition to drive growth in the short term.

Although CMOs agree on what they need to do, many are unsure about how to achieve their growth targets for their organizations. When asked, 12% or fewer say they’re confident they can overcome shifting market conditions and customer behaviors to realize growth expectations

Read More: A CMO's Guide to Winning in the Turns

To start, focus on reducing friction for the customer. Gartner research shows positive conversion results from efforts that help make customer buying decisions easier. Content that helps customers choose the right product or complete a purchase serves both the customer and the business.

How to choose priorities when everything is important

CMOs engage today with a far wider range of business activity than they did five years ago. The four Ps of marketing — product, price, placement and promotion — already covered a lot of ground. Add in today’s expectation that marketing take part, or lead, upstream innovation and product development, and downstream sales support and customer experience activities, and it’s easy to see why so many survey respondents placed high urgency on nearly every marketing activity. Without priorities, CMOs can end up stretching their people and budgets too thin.

Focus marketing resources on high-impact activities and eliminate or partner for everything else. Review existing programs, platforms and partnerships through a lens of effort-to-return to identify the critical few that are worth marketing’s time and attention. At the same time, collaborate with partners outside of marketing to distribute the labor and resources needed to make progress on common goals and challenges.

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How to fill skills gaps when skills are scarce

CMOs name analytics and insights as key enablers of the marketing strategy. Getting value from analytics investments and from marketing technology — another key enabler — is a must. Marketing needs skilled analytics and martech experts to execute on their initiatives, and those people are hard to find — so hard that the second most common problem respondents say they will face in the next year is a mismatch between marketing’s needs and its existing capabilities.

One way CMOs can address skills gaps is by centralizing key capabilities within a marketing operations subfunction. Marketing ops has gained relevance as the scope of marketing expands. A clear zone of control and strong leadership can enable marketing operations teams to drive efficiency and execution throughout marketing.

Marketers should also develop complementary recruitment and training programs to recruit analytics and tech specialty skills while deepening basic data literacy in existing staff.

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