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PHOTO: K. Mitch Hodge

Marketing leadership is evolving. Businesses are grappling with the role of the CMO, trying to better define all that it encompasses. Some have argued that the title Chief Marketing Officer doesn’t accurately depict all we do and that the trend will eventually resolve in CMOs shifting their title completely to Chief Revenue Officer, as it more aptly represents what we’re responsible for today.

The third annual LinkedIn US Emerging Jobs Report recently highlighted how only 5.7% of the CMOs surveyed were planning on making the jump to CRO, but the position, in and of itself, is one of the 15 fastest emerging jobs in the US. I believe more marketing leaders should evaluate whether the CRO role is appropriate for them. It was for me: I have taken on the role as CRO at Moz, and here’s why.

The Many Hats of the Modern Marketer

Twenty or so years ago, when a company didn’t hit its revenue goals, it was fairly common for marketing leaders to be held responsible (right after Sales). Granted, that was partly due to the fact that marketing KPIs were so hard to measure at the time. And because of this ambiguity, there was no way to accurately determine that marketing wasn’t the primary (or sole) problem.

Jump forward 10 years, and we had a new slew of marketing analytics technology helping us resolve some of the previous issues. Still, only a small part of an overall marketing strategy was digital, and only a smaller part of that was measurable. And, even if marketing didn’t get the expected results, the numbers only told us the “what” — they didn’t tell us the “why.”

Digital marketing today has taken over a much larger share of the overall budget and strategy, and with today’s technology is more easily tied either indirectly or directly to revenue. It is this reality that I believe is driving the evolution of the marketing leader role in an organization.

With access to data on revenue impact (and even sometimes ROI), the evolution to CRO makes sense. Who better to influence revenue than the marketing leader who has deep empathy for the customer and understands — likely as no one else in the company — the journey a customer takes from awareness to conversion to loyalty to advocacy?

And, if we boil down what’s asked of marketers today, such as driving online conversions, helping inform product feature development, or even merging marketing and sales into one seamless funnel, marketing leaders in many ways are already owning revenue responsibility.

Related Article: The DNA of a Successful CMO

How to Take the First Step

I’m one of those super visual people who has a need to jump up and start white-boarding during meetings. So, when I first started in the role of CRO, my executive coach suggested I navigate the transition with a very physical visualization of putting on the “CRO hat” versus putting on the “CMO hat” at different times throughout the day. Doing this helped me remember to be ready to look at problems from new and varying perspectives.

I realize I’m now asking different questions and seeking out a different type of information than I would have previously. I’ve broadened my view of the customer journey to include the direct sales experience — something that previously always felt aligned through marketing and sales collateral and yet was not really connected to the rest of the journey.

However, as time passes, I’ve begun to realize that the power of the CRO role will come from blending my perspectives — I need to wear both hats at the same time to truly align the teams and have the greatest impact for the company.

An example: A sales leader is typically (and hopefully) aggressively focused on hitting a monthly or quarterly quota. That leader will closely monitor activity and results throughout each month and each quarter to do whatever s/he must to meet those numbers. As CRO, I took on that responsibility with the help of a director of sales who leads the team, but I soon realized this perspective can be limiting, as it doesn’t necessarily incorporate ideas like “By closing these particular deals, how am I supporting our company strategy?” or, “Are we developing relationships with the right key customers that will benefit us year after year?” The nuance here is the difference between hitting departmental goals versus achieving company-wide success.

Related Article: The Future CMO: Chief Innovator, Chief Transformation Officer and More

Embrace the Reality of a Revenue Goal

While I am early in my role as CRO, we have made some positive changes, and I see our sales and marketing teams working much better together. We are having faster, more efficient conversations and more easily aligning on key issues, like criteria for lead definitions and campaign parameters. I think this is a direct result of sales and marketing both realizing and respecting the nuances of each other’s roles, perspectives and goals.

For those looking to evolve or make the switch to CRO, the most critical part of the plan is to embrace a revenue goal. Many marketing leaders still hang their hat on KPIs, but ultimately, especially as an executive leader, I think you have to take that bold step to own the revenue goal if you want to have a bigger impact on your company.

As this is a new endeavor for myself as well as many others, I am looking forward to learning from others who take the leap, and I look forward to hearing the positive stories of impact other marketers make on our industry.