In a study of 575 Fortune 500 C-suite executives, only 5% of CMOs are highly confident in their ability to impact strategic decision making and the overall direction of the business and to garner support for their initiatives among their peers. That’s a woefully inaccurate self-perception. In fact, most C-suite executives rate CMOs’ performance much more highly than CMOs themselves do. In nearly all cases, C-suite players respect — and lean on — the CMO’s expertise. If there’s one area their C-suite colleagues would like to see CMOs improve on, it’s collaboration.
Chief marketing officers are under enormous pressure. They’re expected to deliver ever-improving results for marketing activities, manage the explosion of customer channels, and own customer strategy — while still running legacy tactical initiatives like ad campaigns. It’s no wonder their average tenure is the shortest of all C-suite roles, and that so many CMOs, accurately or not, feel they’re underperforming.
To understand how CMOs assess their abilities, and to see how their colleagues think they measure up, we surveyed 575 Fortune 500 C-suite executives (principally CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and CTOs) and conducted 19 in-depth interviews. Here’s what we found:
CMOs suffer from a crisis of confidence.
Only 5% of CMOs are highly confident in their ability to impact strategic decision making and the overall direction of the business and to garner support for their initiatives among their peers. (That is, only 5% “strongly agree” they have a significant impact on all three measures.) That’s the lowest self-ranking of anyone in the C-suite; the average is 35%, and 55% of CEOs consider themselves high performers across these domains.
Beyond this, CMOs show little faith in their ability on any single competency. Fewer than a third of all CMOs think they accomplish any of the following “extremely well”:
- demonstrating financial impact (27%)
- establishing an understanding of the customer (32%)
- initiating collaborative efforts (32%)
But there’s good news:
CMOs’ lack of confidence is largely unwarranted.
Most C-suite executives rate CMOs’ performance more highly than CMOs themselves do. In nearly all cases, most C-suite players respect — and lean on — the CMO’s expertise and feel that CMOs deliver effectively on many fronts.
- CMOs receive their highest performance marks from CEOs. For every metric captured, nearly 50% of CEOs think their CMOs are highly effective.
- Chief information officers and chief technology officers hold CMOs in high regard as well (although not quite as much as CEOs do); they especially appreciate marketing heads’ customer expertise. The one area in which they have a more tempered view is CMOs’ ability to initiate collaborative efforts, where CIOs and CTOs are fairly in line with CMOs’ personal views (32%).
- Overall, chief financial officers have a relatively positive view of their CMO colleagues. However, to an even greater degree than CIOs and CTOs, CFOs desire better collaboration: Only 23% of CFOs believe that CMOs collaborate effectively — the lowest percentage of all C-suite roles.
CSOs and COOs still need some convincing.
Chief sales officers and chief operations officers remain skeptical that CMOs perform at a high level. The following areas stand out:
- In nearly all competencies, CSOs’ ratings of CMOs were well below those of the rest of the C-suite. CSOs are particularly doubtful of CMOs’ ability to demonstrate a financial impact and to persuade others to support their initiatives.
- While not as critical of CMOs as CSOs are, COOs are looking to CMOs to step up their game across the board, especially in demonstrating a financial impact.
CMOs should lead with their strengths.
Across the C-suite, CMOs receive their highest ratings on their understanding of the customer. CMOs have the most complete view of the omnichannel customer journey and experience. They can use this position of expertise as a way in with colleagues. By starting with their recognized strength, CMOs can lead with confidence.
If there’s one area the C-suite is telling us CMOs need to focus on, it’s collaboration. Only 17% of C-suite executives in our study reported having collaborated with CMOs over the previous 12 months. The onus to initiate such cooperation is on CMOs. They should invite C-suite colleagues to co-own key initiatives that are of shared interest (such as evaluating new geographic markets) and that leverage the CMO’s unique customer insight. This can both foster buy-in and avoid taking colleagues by surprise. More broadly, CMOs should seek ways to use their understanding of customers to help C-suite colleagues reach their goals. Finally, CMOs should leverage the support of their biggest advocate, the CEO, by asking for an endorsement of their collaborative efforts.
By having confidence in their deep domain expertise, and artfully sharing this understanding, CMOs are poised to be a powerful force in their enterprises’ strategic direction.
read more at http://hbr.org by Diana O’Brien