There continues to be a great amount of variation in what is the scope of the Chief Marketing Officer.  Regardless,  no matter if you are a more tactical or strategic CMO, the need for executives in this role to be bold, forward thinking change leaders remain the same.

There is a tremendous amount material published about how to structure the CMO role so I won’t address all the organizational nuances.  In general, though, it is important that the CMO be empowered to shape the company growth agenda and have the authority to deploy resources and initiatives to support that growth.  That said, no matter what is in your job description or what authority is granted, the mentality of how you approach the role will determine its success.

If you feel complacently safe in your role or feel subservient to other functions, you have the wrong mindset and you won’t succeed.

While the CEO is ultimately accountable for enabling the long-term vision of the company, the CMO is the member of the C-Suite that keeps the true north of the company focused on long-term growth. If you are relegating yourself to waiting for orders vs helping lead the way to growth,  you are ignoring the key strategic duties of what should be your role.

To have a material impact on the organization, the CMO should seek and embrace critical strategic levers that drive cross-functional behavior for the company.  In many cases, some of the levers below don’t have a clear full time unbiased home in the C-Suite if not embraced by the CMO. While cross-functional in nature and heavy on influence, taking on these activities will raise your profile as a CMO and provide consistent strategic growth discipline to the company.

The CMO should be the chief advocate for the customer.  Your role is not only to understand how to get the attention of your customer but be the eyes and ears for your company of the customers evolving needs.  More important is that you must keep your organization honest on delivering what the markets cares about and be one step ahead on what is around the corner.  The CMO needs to have the right listening processes to interpret customer behavior in an unbiased manner and shape the agenda of the company accordingly.

Being the curator of the brand brings an awesome responsibility to the CMO.  The brand sets the tone for your company culture and externally manifests itself with the customer experience.  Shaping your company culture requires the CMO to be bold and strategic in creating culture change that aligns the behaviors of the company with the values of the brand. The ability to impact organizational behavior is also necessary in making sure that your company is creating the customer experience that your brand promises to the world.  Shaping company culture and customer experience requires a tremendous amount of cross-functional influence and leadership while executing effective change-management strategies.  The bold CMO knows that working on the brand extends well beyond visual identity and reaches into the DNA of the organization.

The CMO need to be a vocal and active voice of the company vision and long-term growth.  Yes, this is the job of the CEO but the CEO is also balancing short-term operational deliverables with long-term demands.  The CMO needs to embrace the role of being the guardian of the long-term vision and strategy on behalf of the CEO and be comfortable creating the right level of friction within the organization.  It is imperative that the tension between short and long priorities exists in order to find the right balance for the company to deliver its immediate financial results and stay true to its strategic plan. The CMO will be outnumbered by those feeling the short-term pressure but needs to have the resolve to keep the company focused on the future while having the business acumen to understand the needed short-term trade-offs.

How you approach the role of CMO could determine if you are one of the most critical leaders in the C-Suite or a “nice to have” role that could easily become irrelevant.  If you act strictly as sales support, you are not attacking the role effectively and meeting your strategic obligations to the company.  Perhaps you are being set-up not to succeed.  That said, you need to evaluate if you are not pushing boundaries and making yourself uncomfortable (in a positive way.)

Don’t get relegated to the sidelines.  Be bold, innovative and shape change.  That is the role of the CMO.

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