by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) With the ongoing shift in enterprise focus to the needs of the customer, the role of chief marketing officer (CMO) is changing to become more in sync with customer needs and business challenges. At the same time, however, chief customer officers (CCOs) are becoming more prevalent at the cost of CMO numbers, to give supposedly better effect to this shift. What can we read into this evolution?

Is it a welcome segue into a new customer-centric age, or a worrying miscalculation of what marketing is and does? Perhaps a more-pragmatic question is whether it’s finally time for marketing to refocus and rebrand. At the same time, organisations must also restructure to support this pivotal evolution.

So, what may CMOs learn from the rapid ascent of the CCO?

Focusing on the customer journey

CCOs are claiming a seat at the table at more and more top brands, leaving a clear lesson for marketing teams — how to add more value through an understanding of the customer’s buying journey and by nurturing the customer experience (CX) at every touchpoint through their lifecycle as a customer.

In a sense, the rise of the CCO needs not have been this swift: Marketers, too, should have been focusing on the customer journey, rather than just their traditional remit of marketing communications and brand-building. The classic marketing structure is increasingly a thing of the past for many businesses today and, as a result, marketing is taking on a different role in different sectors.

The constantly changing technology industry in particular is beholden to supremely empowered customers, who are more dynamic, agile and demanding as a result of technological enablement. Taking a leaf from that sector, a more customer-centric marketing function must embrace digital transformation.

In short, leading CMOs realise that customers expect marcoms and digital to be fully joined up and integrated, ebusiness to be a reality, and the end-to-end customer journey to be top of mind for vendors.

Mapping competencies

Business-to-business (B2B) research firm, Sirius Decisions, highlights that:

  1. 89% of chief experience officers (CXOs) say vendor brand perception has a moderate-to-significant influence on their supplier short-list creation
  2. 80% of a CXO’s final choice of vendor is based on personal experience with a company, or others’ experience

And who is entrusted with perception but marketing? Bearing that in mind, CCOs don’t hold all the aces in the developing B2B customer marketing arena — CMOs are uniquely skilled to help bring the organisation’s customer-focused message to life, highlighting its best aspects and the benefits of its offerings throughout the post-sale customer journey.

The expanding role of the CMO

To accomplish their goals, customer marketing leaders and their teams must therefore possess a diverse set of competencies.

Sirius Decisions defines customer marketing as a function that develops engagement, loyalty, advocacy, growth and community participation for current customers. It likens the marketing function to that of a film director, who controls the dramatic, artistic and overall tone of a film, bringing a script to life while guiding the technical crew and actors to fulfil their vision. In this, the director plays a key role in selecting the cast, production team and creative direction of the filmmaking process, coaching and directing each cast member and helping to shape the overall film experience.

The CMO role is becoming no less nuanced and varied, playing a role in shaping and guiding the user experience by working with UX, front-end and digital teams in addition to the more-traditional functions of directing creative and placement, and working with the business in shaping the marketing direction.

The marketing organisation of the future

Marketing Week research done in partnership with MiQ shows brands have some way to go in structuring their marketing departments around customer-centric business models. This end state is currently the least prevalent model of all, with most departments either being product-centric or structured around marketing disciplines.

Ironically, finds the Future Marketing Organisation study, conducted by MiQ, 42.2% of marketers believe a customer-centric model is the way to go, but only 5.8% of respondents’ companies follow this approach. By comparison, 37.3% say their department is set up around individual products or brands, and 19.4% say one or another marketing discipline dictates structure.

What can we learn from this?

There’s clearly a desire to change marketing to fit better with customers’ lifecycle, behaviour and preferences. That being so, marketers should devote much thought and planning to moving their organisations towards a more customer-centric business model.

Mapping your organisational structure, competencies and technology platform to customer needs at every juncture, and doing so now, will make the business hyper-aware of and responsive to any shift in attitudes and customer preferences down the line.



Leeya HendricksLeeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) is a designated chartered marketer, global marketing strategist, digital driver and a Women in Tech leader. She holds a BA degree in fine arts, a BA honours degree in brand marketing management, an MBA in business management and is completing her PhD in marketing management. She is now director of customer first marketing at ORACLE UKI, responsible for driving customer success through customer advocacy, and building strategic partnerships focused on emerging technology and the changed customers’ buying behaviour. Leeya contributes the monthly column “Gestalt”, about putting customers first for sustainable business success, to MarkLives.

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One reply on “Gestalt: Chief marketing/customer officer role — one & the same?”

  1. I actually flashed to a chief marketing officer talking to an empty chair who’s supposed to be in the role of customer officer, as in the Gestalt method. But then I read through and realized it was your monthly column. Anyway, I’m glad I came across it. I hadn’t seen that MiQ study yet.

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