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Marketing Moves to Center Stage

5 minute read
Gavin Finn avatar

In previous generations, marketers have been thought of as “lead generators” for the sales department. But recent research into how corporate CEOs view the role of marketing reveals that now, more than ever, marketing is perceived to be strategic to a company’s success.

CMOs Play a Comprehensive Role

Because of the powerful impact of marketing on multiple dimensions of corporate profitability and growth, C-suite leaders are developing broader expectations regarding how their internal organizations must collaborate with marketers. C-level executives require specific deliverables from the marketing organization, and top-performing CMOs have a comprehensive understanding of their organizations’ needs and focus on building marketing teams that work to meet or exceed those expectations.

CEOs Need CMOs to Be Visionaries

Traditional marketing deliverables were limited to lead generation and branding/awareness metrics. Today, marketing’s impact is manifold, and includes a leadership role in building consistent, sustainable, differentiated value for the entire company.

To be sure, the CEO expects marketing to lead in brand stewardship, but now chief executives also expect a great deal of market insight and analysis. The CEO also expects the marketing team to be thought leaders on behalf of the company, articulating a vision that is clear, not only to the internal team, but to the external market as well. CEOs now expect the CMO to participate in both strategic and operational reviews, both to gain an understanding of the company’s issues and challenges and to provide guidance to operating executives.

In many companies, the CEO expects the CMO to be the glue that holds all of the disparate organizations together, providing a consistent framework for customer- and market-focused strategy and decision-making. CEOs are also relying on the CMO to make the connection to the customer, introducing the CEO to key thought leaders in relevant markets and to key customer decision-makers.

CMOs Are Key to Sales Success

C-level sales executives have also broadened their expectations of marketing – from generating high-quality leads to providing sales enablement platforms and content. The global, mobile sales organization requires access to innovations in customer engagement, from interactive applications for sales meetings to customer-centric digital content.

Marketing is the facilitator and curator of the information needs of the sales team, from competitive positioning to virtual product demonstrations to key industry knowledge. And, as face-to-face events take on an increasingly important role in strategic sales situations, sales leaders look to marketing to create opportunities for effective customer engagement, including product launches, executive briefings, tradeshows and industry networking events.

CFOs Expect Financial Returns From Marketing

Chief Financial Officers have extended their expectations for marketing — from simply developing budgets that project returns in terms of qualified leads and opportunities, to a much more nuanced set of investment criteria. As a result, marketing executives now look at their activities in terms of financial investments, asking: “What long-term returns will result from these expenditures?”

This is true of every category of marketing spend, and has changed the nature of how marketers make decisions. No longer are decisions being made on a lowest up-front cost basis, but their value is being evaluated on their potential for long-term returns. For example, traditional low-cost banners and signage are being replaced by investments in digital solutions that can be reused and repurposed across multiple venues. These enhanced return-on-investment criteria require a more comprehensive set of marketing metrics and analytics, which allow for longer-term views of how budget line-items deliver customer acquisition and retention results over an extended number of financial periods.

Learning Opportunities

Tools that allow for a multi-attributional analysis of customer lifecycle engagement have become indispensable to marketers, as they demonstrate the value of a branding campaign in conjunction with a nurturing campaign, all designed to develop multiple touch-points over the entire duration of the customer relationship, well beyond the initial transaction.

CMOs and CIOs Are Partners

Chief Information Officers are now close partners with marketing executives, and their expectations span issues in two different domains: data and systems. As marketing systems (such as campaign management and marketing automation) interact with sales systems (such as sales force automation) and customer relationship management systems, it has become an IT imperative that the marketing organization be focused on a systemic approach to technology, rather than adopting a point-solution methodology.

Creating an integrated technology platform is a key imperative as IT and marketing work together to build efficient and effective information systems that improve internal operations for marketing and sales, deliver appropriate metrics and analyses, and meet corporate standards for security and scalability.

The Bottom Line for CMOs

These myriad expectations lead to a set of imperatives for Marketing:

1. For the CEO, focus on and be an expert in the company’s key market segments:

  • Understand each segment’s needs and challenges
  • Understand trends and directions for the market in general
  • Build a thought leadership position in the market – not selling, but developing an industry vision

2. For Sales, build relationships internally and externally, with:

  • Industry influencers
  • Customers
  • Internal department executives

3. For the CFO, measure and monitor as much about prospects, customers and marketing activities as possible:

  • Capitalize on data availability
  • Develop practicable insights
  • Refine and optimize frequently to leverage key insights

4. For the CIO, build scalable technology platforms for:

  • Sales enablement
  • Marketing automation (and inbound marketing)
  • Customer relationship management

5. For the entire company, use knowledge of customer and market challenges to develop differentiated value propositions that:

  • Deliver consistent messages about corporate and product value
  • Leverage digital solutions to engage customers and sales teams

The heightened expectations that each C-level executive has for Marketing reinforces the critical role that marketers play in every aspect of corporate success. Embracing these expectations and developing a strategy to integrate marketing throughout the organization leads to top-performing marketing teams and industry-leading corporate success.

Title image Christian Bertrand /

About the author

Gavin Finn

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.

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