CMOs Are A Dying Job. Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing

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CMOs Are A Dying Job. Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing

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Written by Houston Golden
October 26, 2018
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The CMO job is dead.

Namely, it’s becoming definitively data-driven. It’s routine now for marketing departments to prioritize and invest in functions like:

  • Personalizing campaigns by tracking user behavior
  • Measuring ROI on disparate marketing strategies
  • Adjusting tactics in accordance with the resulting analytics.

In other words, startups now treat marketing like it’s a science.

It wasn’t always like this, and the adjustment has created a variety of internal repercussions. The most noteworthy? Founders from startups to Co-Cola are restructuring their organizations and abandoning the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in favor of something more dynamic: the Head of Growth or Chief Growth Officer.

People who currently hold CMO roles may bemoan the shift. But for companies, it’s the smart play. Here’s why.

The role of CMO is obsolete.

For a long time, the responsibilities of most CMOs looked something like this:

  • Identify marketing agencies to outsource marketing work to.
  • Identify software applications which might drive marketing work in-house.
  • Coordinate the logistics around making and sustaining those purchases.

Traditionally, this type of marketing made little use of analytics, but that was fine because data was less available. Marketing was less a science than it was an art — and because of that, companies needed CMOs with a pulse on the market and connections in the industry to run the show.

But times have changed.

In our digital world, engagement with your brand, excitement about your products, loyalty — it can all be quantified, turned into data you can draw analysis from. And using data to inform your decision making is a much better way to market your business. Data-driven marketing equips you with the tools you need to make informed decisions about how to engage with current and potential customers.

That means founders today need marketing leaders who are positioned to utilize the wealth of personalized customer information that’s now available by way of digital technologies. They need marketing professionals who understand how to distill intelligence from analytics to improve ROI.

Enter: the Chief Growth Officer.

The Chief Growth Officer embodies the data-driven approach. They study what available evidence regarding their customers will be effective, and they use that to determine how to move forward.

That’s what today’s marketing experts are positioned to do — and it’s simply more efficient.

This is especially true when you compare it to the un-scientific approach employed by traditional CMOs. Traditional CMOs, who are often uncertain around using metrics, will use anecdotal evidence over hard data when determining whether a marketing campaign has been successful.

And leading with fiction over fact, in the end, can greatly damage a company.

Today’s startups are positioning themselves to avoid that sort of self-inflicted harm. We insist on operating intelligently and with purpose — on measuring ROI and using the insight gleaned from that analysis to drive strategy, for example.

Another way of looking at it? Founders need the people powering their marketing processes to understand today’s world — the possibilities allowed by technology and social media, and the capacity of customer classification.

Shifting away from the old guard essentially means embracing these new capabilities.

If you’re someone on the CMO track, now’s the time to double down on your technical skills and revamp your skillset.

That’s the only way you’ll survive in today’s digital climate. Teach yourself:

  • The ins and outs of Facebook advertising
  • What sort of content is interesting, and engaging, and what’s not
  • How to build attribution models
  • How to build and interact with spreadsheets to accurately present intelligence generated by collected data.

It’s a lot, but it’s the key to staying relevant. Your connections will only get you so far for so long.

If you’re a founder building out your marketing department, embrace the shift and look for someone with a strong analytics background.

That means:

  • Someone with experience navigating database management languages like SQL
  • Someone with experience using Python and Excel
  • Someone with experience using Facebook ads manager
  • Someone with an understanding of SEO.

Your Chief Growth Officer should also understand how to build a content marketing funnel and know what great content looks like.

As a founder, what you want to avoid is hiring someone who can’t derive logic from data. If you’re running a one-month trial and users are quitting at the 14-day mark, your marketing team has to be able to identify why.

That’s a basic example, and the possibilities of today’s world go much deeper than that, but they’re also more exciting.

Ditch the old way, and position yourself and your company to dive in and embrace the future.

About the Author

The name’s Houston Golden. I’m the Founder & CEO of BAMF ― a company I’ve grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $4M in revenue over a span of 3 years.
How did I do it? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win). I tell you how on this blog.
Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.

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4 comments on “CMOs Are A Dying Job. Here’s Why That’s A Good Thing”

  1. As a former CMO, this article is severely flawed in a number of ways. It also feels like it was written by someone who, while they be competent in data analytics and growth marketing, doesn't fundamentally understand the role of the CMO or hasn't been one.

    I'm not going to cut and paste what a CMO is but if you're interested in an depth view of what a CMO is, why you might need one and the different versions of CMO's (there is definitively a need by some companies for a more quant driven CMO) you can read my post here: https://medium.com/swlh/startup-lessons-hiring-a-cmo-part-1-fe0c9968860d

    If you're interested in what skills a CMO should have (quantitative skills and a data mindset is a huge plus) you can read my article on the INSEAD business school knowledge blog here: https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/how-to-hire-a-rock-star-chief-marketing-officer-9271

    The point is times have changed and the CMO job, far from being obsolete, has to change. It's also become much more complex, which is why so few of them last beyond 18 months (Google the article from Forbes on this).

    Growth is important, but a CMO also has many other responsabilities including:

    - Communications / PR / Social
    - Brand
    - CRM / Customer retention
    - Customer Service (in some companies)
    - Content Marketing
    - Employee branding (increasingly)
    - Product marketing

    The CMO is the person who provides the strategic vision, direction and resources for the marketing team and good CMO's generally are the ones who can put together all the pieces to make marketing productive and ROI positive.

    While growth matters, particularly for startups, if you can't keep your customers (retention), can't communicate a convincing story (brand) and don't add value to customers beyond your product (content marketing and customer service) you won't have a business for long.

    The better way to have structured this article would have been to interview actual CMO's about how complex the role has become and why it needs to change. This article feels more like clickbait designed to get eyeballs without informing the truth of the role or how it can possibly evolve to provide more value to organizations.

    mad mork

  2. As a former CMO, this article is severely flawed in a number of ways. It also feels like it was written by someone who, while they be competent in data analytics and growth marketing, doesn't fundamentally understand the role of the CMO or hasn't been one.

    I'm not going to cut and paste what a CMO is but if you're interested in an depth view of what a CMO is, why you might need one and the different versions of CMO's (there is definitively a need by some companies for a more quant driven CMO) you can read my post here: https://medium.com/swlh/startup-lessons-hiring-a-cmo-part-1-fe0c9968860d

    If you're interested in what skills a CMO should have (quantitative skills and a data mindset is a huge plus) you can read my article on the INSEAD business school knowledge blog here: https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/how-to-hire-a-rock-star-chief-marketing-officer-9271

    The point is times have changed and the CMO job, far from being obsolete, has to change. It's also become much more complex, which is why so few of them last beyond 18 months (Google the article from Forbes on this).

    Growth is important, but a CMO also has many other responsabilities including:

    - Communications / PR / Social
    - Brand
    - CRM / Customer retention
    - Customer Service (in some companies)
    - Content Marketing
    - Employee branding (increasingly)
    - Product marketing

    The CMO is the person who provides the strategic vision, direction and resources for the marketing team and good CMO's generally are the ones who can put together all the pieces to make marketing productive and ROI positive.

    While growth matters, particularly for startups, if you can't keep your customers (retention), can't communicate a convincing story (brand) and don't add value to customers beyond your product (content marketing and customer service) you won't have a business for long.

    The better way to have structured this article would have been to interview actual CMO's about how complex the role has become and why it needs to change. This article feels more like clickbait designed to get eyeballs without informing the truth of the role or how it can possibly evolve to provide more value to organizations.

    mad mork

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