CMOs Need to Focus to Survive: Three Priorities to Ditch and Three to Latch On To


Here’s the hard truth: Most CMOs (including me, admittedly) will never be able to get all their work done.

That may sound discouraging, but it’s simply the nature of the job.

As Deloitte notes in a new study, many CMOs have found their plates loaded with a myriad of additional responsibilities as more and more tools and techniques have emerged. Those responsibilities may include social media campaigns, market research, digital marketing, direct marketing, advertising, and PR.

Ours is a challenging job with big responsibilities… but also big rewards: Our efforts play a critical role in the success (or failure) of businesses. So when things get too busy, the most effective recourse is a rigorous focus on the things that matter most. Unfortunately, though, that’s where many top marketers struggle.

In this article, I’ve laid out three areas for CMOs to prioritize, and three to let go of (as hard as that might be).

Focus on…

1. Getting in touch with the customer

The modern CMO is increasingly responsible for shaping the end-to-end customer experience.

Many, if not most, organizations lack the structures and processes to operationalize a unified approach to customer experience, in no small part because it requires that disjointed teams collaborate. Marketers need to be working with the customer service team, receiving information about customer behaviors and problems to continuously refine focus as well as solutions.

Beyond building bridges, CMOs can empower their teams to develop cross-functional relationships themselves and to build shared processes and resources.

Pro tip: Two-way communication between marketers and the customer service team is key: They need to understand each other’s KPIs to provide a holistic customer experience.

Marketing teams focus on customer loyalty, acquisition, and retention; customer service teams concentrate on reducing the volume of customer inquiries, responding in a quick and timely manner, and customer satisfaction. For example, if a customer service team is receiving multiple inquiries about a certain coupon offer, the customer service team can share that feedback with the marketing team, so that it, in turn, in its customer communications, can provide clearer instructions of how and where to use the coupon.

2. Recruiting a multilateral team

Multichannel and cross-pollination are not just buzzwords; it’s critical to build teams that map to those respective goals. If you’re struggling to nail down a multichannel strategy and enable responsiveness, where is the best place to begin? It all starts with your team.

Recruiting and hiring team members who think about the customer experience—such as determining customer intent based on collected data, strategizing about content that will connect with these customers, and implementing said content—will lead to a holistic and robust organization.

Pro tip: Target people who have multichannel expertise and can analyze and optimize all the customer engagement touchpoints. For example, the optimal team member will understand the nuances of email marketing and SMS and can optimize the number of messages per day a customer receives from a brand to achieve the most impactful result.

3. Getting (trusted) help

As marketers, our overarching goal is to increase brand awareness and improve the customer experience. But new developments—like the Telephone Compliance Protection Act (TCPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—can create extra cycles of work, eating up a CMO’s valuable time and energy. You can’t do it all, which is when developing trusted relationships with third-party partner and vendors is key. Strong partners are experts in these areas and can help decrease the CMO’s burden.

Pro tip: Rely on peers, industry events, and social communities to learn about what issues are keeping fellow CMOs up at night and how they are finding solutions. CMOs also build teams of experts and specialists, so listening to them and what they need to hone their craft and continue learning will provide direction on what is needed throughout a business to fill any gaps of knowledge.

Stop trying to…

1. Get too granular

The introduction of new technologies and strategies that focus on data-driven insights call for an evolving set of skills. But that doesn’t mean you need to be a data scientist in order to tread onto new territories that blend the traditional with the evolutionary. Instead of poring over what specific data points could mean, a CMO must be open to using tools that are purpose-built and designed to provide marketers with actionable information.

2. Develop one brand voice

Though it’s important to have key messages, not everything needs to sound the same. Really. Practice differentiating your verbiage across various channels while still communicating your key messages.

Every piece of digital content—from newsletters to blog posts to tweets—can have a different audience. Remember the importance of personalization and authentic connection, and put down the megaphone.

3. Rely on platforms that claim to do it all

It doesn’t matter whether you’re managing customer retention, mobile engagement, or mobile marketing, there are platforms for each of those areas that have a solution to give you with their own type of measurement and analysis. Don’t hamstring yourself by going with all-in-one solutions that will provide uninspired results.

Success is possible

Few senior-executive positions are subject to as much change as that of the chief marketing officer. Being a CMO today means managing a lot of things. The range of skills and the tasks required of a CMO are dramatically different from even a few short years ago, leaving a CMO no choice but to consistently broadening her scope and role to encompass the latest trends and technology. That makes this job both demanding and powerful. But with the right prioritization, today’s CMO can prosper.

This article first appeared in

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