CMOs Identify 4 Areas in Need of Improvement in Marketing

May 14, 2018

CMOs’ average tenure may have slightly rebounded this past year, but that doesn’t mean the position doesn’t come with a hefty amount of pressure. So what areas do CMOs see as needing improvement? A recent report from Korn Ferry [download page], based on a survey of 220 CMOs and marketing leaders, offers some insights.

1. Progress Needs to Be Made in Analytics and Personalization

The survey asked CMOs which of 5 marketing functions is in the greatest need of advancement (see chart above).

Leading the way as the area in the greatest need of progress is Analytics, cited by 39% of respondents. CMOs have been increasing their use of analytics in recent months, although organizational use of analytics remains immature.

This is an area in which CMOs are tasked with finding the right talent – which can be a challenge. Indeed, past research has found CMOs saying that data analytics is the most difficult skill to find when building a team, and analytics skills remain in high demand today.

In fact, the Korn Ferry survey found that of 7 areas identified, CMOs far and away see Data Science (45% citing) as the most important to progressing the marketing function in the future via entry level/college and mid-level hiring.

Meanwhile, there’s one other main area beyond Analytics that is need of advancement: Personalization. Some 30% cited this as being the area most in need of progress, slightly behind Analytics but well ahead of the other options.

Personalization is the most exciting area for brand marketers this year, per separate research, and has also been tabbed “the next big trend” in marketing for this year. Despite the great potential for personalization, efforts still remain basic and likely just scratching the surface.

2. Organizational Alignment Could Use A Boost

CMOs seem quite clear that their effectiveness depends more on organizational alignment than on resources. Asked which of 5 areas would most help them be more effective at their job, and 43% pointed to organizational alignment. That was more than twice the share that cited any other factor, including greater resources (19%), increased budget (17%) or a different CEO (16%).

Organizational alignment will be difficult to achieve without a strong CMO-CEO relationship, though – and close to one-third say the CEO doesn’t understand the CMO role.

There isn’t one overarching issue here, either: those who said the CEO doesn’t fully understand the CMO function cited a range of disconnects, from CEOs underestimating the complexity of brand-building to CEOs not understanding the importance of a customer-centric approach or not understanding the connection between marketing and revenue generation.

3. Marketing Needs to Tie Results to Company Performance

If the CEO doesn’t understand the connection between marketing and revenue generation, it may be due to CMOs not making a strong enough case. After all, CMOs are only now beginning to quantitatively demonstrate the short-term impact of their spending, and proving the long-term impact of marketing spend remains elusive for most.

Korn Ferry’s study finds that only 48% of CMOs are able to effectively tie their marketing organization’s results to company performance. The majority are either only somewhat (38%) able to do so or do so poorly (11%) or not at all (3%).

Considering that financial performance is a much bigger consideration in CMOs’ bonuses than leadership, customer satisfaction and brand health, this is also a personal issue for marketing leaders.

4. Employees Should be More Engaged With the Organization’s Purpose

Research has demonstrated that “articulating and activating purpose is now a critical component of the CMO’s responsibilities.” There are some positive signs on this end in the Korn Ferry survey: fully 85% of CMOs, for example, say their organization has a clear and well-articulated purpose. Additionally, more than two-thirds report that the stated purpose is authentic and aligned with the company’s way of operating.

Where things fall short is with employee engagement: only half (51%) of CMOs said that their organization’s purpose is understood and embraced internally by employees. For the largest proportion, it’s only somewhat (39%) understood and embraced, with many saying it’s poorly (8%) understood or not embraced at all (2%).

As such, it may be that CMOs should engage not only in group-wide evaluation of purpose-driven initiatives, but also in training across all functions.

Just one more task to add to the CMO’s list…

The full Korn Ferry report can be downloaded here.

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