Picture members of the average C-Suite 10 years ago, all gathered around a big conference table.

Where would the chief marketing officer be? Probably outside on the front lawn. 

The CMO was the branding person, pushing out messages — hoping something would stick. 

Of course, that's changed today. CMOs are -- or at least will be -- true revenue drivers. 

They've already made their mark, even though some may not fully trust them yet.

How do CEOs view CMOs? We caught up with three company leaders last week at the C-Suite Network Conference at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston to find out.

The Question

What's the most important function of a CMO?

The Answers

Gavin Finn, CEO, Kaon Interactive

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Finn is president and CEO of Maynard, Mass.-based Kaon Interactive. He is responsible for the company’s strategic, financial, product and customer relationship strategies. In this capacity, he has led the transformation of the company’s business model and marketing strategies. Finn has instituted Kaon’s continuous innovation process, resulting in the introduction of several award-winning solutions. Tweet to Gavin Finn

The CMO role in general and definitely at Kaon has become a much more strategically important integrator for the entire company. I think that chief executive officers used to expect the CMOs to worry about branding, and this is what you do.

Today it’s really about making sure the entire customer experience works for the whole company.

When you think about customer experience personally when you interact with companies -- whether you are calling up for support, etc. -- you're not thinking about it as a marketing function, but it’s affecting your marketing perception.

That’s what the CEOs are expecting of marketing executives today. You need to make sure that we’re presenting that customer experience that reflects our brand across every touchpoint, whether it’s customer support or sales or training or anything that the customer might interact with and that’s taken on a much more important role.

One of the big differences we see is that marketing has become much more important to sales. Sales used to do their own thing. They would basically ignore everything marketing said to them. You can’t do that any more.

Companies have become so complex and so deep that sales needs marketing. In order for sales to be successful marketing has to be successful and I think that’s another evolution that’s really become very significant, especially for big companies.

Peter Bordes, CEO, oneQube

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Bordes is the founder and CEO of New York City-based oneQube, which includes social media listening tools SpiderQube, Tweet Chart and SeeS.aw. Bordes is also an active angel investor and mentor ranked in the top 100 most influential angel investors in the United States and social media. Tweet to Peter Bordes.

The CMO role is going to evolve radically. I also feel a little sorry for CMOs at the same time. They used to be email marketing and this and that. Now it’s this and this and this and this and that.

The role now is not only what we do and how we present ourselves externally but it’s also how they’re doing it internally as well.

I like the talk (at the C-Suite Network Conference) about the chief engagement officer and chief collaboration officer. I wonder if it becomes too much and that role splits or does it all roll up into it?

Learning Opportunities

It’s not just about branding and marketing. It’s about engagement and it’s about how do we harness all that internal information from the people who work within the company and collaborate as well as collaborate with everybody externally. It’s a huge undertaking.

But it’s I think one of the most critical roles because in today’s environment, when you talk about the real-time, agile corporation, it's those CMOs who are understanding how to harness what’s on kind of like the funnel of their organization and their brand on the side of it.

And I think the biggest gap with most CMOs is still really understanding the value of social and how that fits into it. But I’m seeing that starting to change radically.

Edouard Beaslay, CEO, Intelligent Brand Extension

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Beaslay is responsible for his New York City-based company’s strategic development, operations and management. Intelligent Brand Extension is a brand development advisory company targeting SMEs. Before his current role, he served as global marketing and communications director for Pernod Ricard Winemakers in Australia. Tweet to Edouard Beaslay

The CMO has a role both internally and externally. Let’s start with the external part of it. In the end the CMO needs to be the person who has a true vision for his brand and what the brand can do for the people outside.

The CMO needs to be very open and curious. There’s a tendency sometimes to be much too inward-focused and too much thinking of how to defend your ideas internally.

But the first thing you need to do is be very cognizant of what’s happening outside so that you can actually identify those opportunities.

Those opportunities today have to come through a real understanding of insight. If you don’t have that perspective -- and that’s where we’ll probably come back to technology -- it will be very difficult for you to really add value and you will just become, you know, sort of a reference point when it comes to doing some nice communication or whatever.

The CMO is not just about creating great messages and communicating what your product is. He is really about uncovering opportunities for the company and therefore having a role in terms of driving revenue.

That has been one of the key issues of CEOs with their CMO -- they’re more into creativity, doing beautiful commercials, etc. But actually it’s about doing business and driving sales and helping drive sales and supporting sales processes.

That’s what CMO today has to be doing -- driving revenue and driving sales.

And there are ways to do it in the short-term and also ways to do it in the long-term, which is the brand-building part of it, but a lot of tactical activation in the short-term to actually drive those revenues.