How marketing leaders can reclaim their seat in the C-suite and ignite growth18 min read

by | Sep 16, 2019

The new playbook for commercial organizations is tearing down silos between marketing, sales & customer success

As Technology has changed how customers behave and how companies can respond to this behaviour, there is now a need to create better alignment across the customer-facing parts of the demand chain. Parts that used to act fairly independent of each other. As the playbook for the new model for commercial organization is still being written, many companies are experimenting with new ways of organizing and slowly tearing down silos between marketing, sales and customer success.

On the back of this flux, Marketing, as a function, is increasingly finding itself on the losing end. This happens as both the management team – and sometimes the marketing team – struggle to clearly articulate a vision and case for Marketing as an independent function that has a seat in the C-suite. The numbers support this tendency;

  • A study of 1,200 CEOs in North America showed that 80% of CEOs don’t really trust their marketing team and are not impressed by the work being done. In comparison, 90% of the same CEOs state that they trust in, and value the opinion and work of, their CFOs and CIOs (Fournaise Group, 2012).
  • Average tenure across marketing leaders came in at 2 years 5 months in 2019, down from 2 years 11 months in 2017 (Spencer Stuart, 2019)
  • CMOs are feeling the pressure: 52% agree that board and CEO pressure has increased in the last 12 months (Spencer Stuart, 2019)

While this picture might be unfair, it is also a product of the fact that no other function in the company has such a poorly-defined mandate and to the same extend suffer from misaligned expectations with the CEO. This misalignment probably goes both ways.

It all starts with the boss…

As mentioned, Marketing’s internal descent often starts with poor alignment with other c-suite members, but is also often triggered by the fact that the CMO has not managed to take true ownership of the business and communicate a clear vision for the Marketing function.

In these cases, the CMO – voluntarily or not – is often reduced to a “Chief Marketing Communications Officer”, which in turn is too “light” a job to justify a C-suite seat. This means that Marketing loses its voice at the highest level, and the function becomes easy prey during budget discussions and re-org exercises. The question is then, how does CMOs avoid falling into the trap of only becoming responsible for marketing communications and brand stewardship?

What makes CMOs great – not just good

In our experience, the CMOs that make the cut (or even get promoted to CCO or CEO) and win c-suite respect stretch their mandate and responsibility beyond Marketing Communications. By doing so they increase their contribution to the business and make themselves indispensable.

These CMO’s share two characteristics:

  1. They share some baseline skills and traits that are universal for many of the successful CMOs we have encountered.
  2. They have expanded beyond their base as responsible for Marketing Communications into one or more of the following functional spikes: revenue generation, product excellence, customer experience and/or strategy.

The universal characteristics of the modern CMO

In our experience the baseline characteristics that describe future-fit CMOs are a blend of functional abilities and character traits:

  • Financial literacy: Ability to understand the pressing business issues and the financial mechanisms behind these and how marketing efforts addresses these. It also a terminology and language component to this – speaking c-suite language help them position marketing as a business-critical function
  • High knowledge about the foundations of Marketing: Full spectrum knowledge about all the Ps of Marketing. including pricing, strategy and other topics that reach beyond Marketing Communications.
  • Strong business understanding and strategic tool box: Strong understanding of business strategy, technical knowledge about the product and industry. This foundation helps them understand how they can use marketing as a lever to solve business problems. This experience is usually build through former jobs outside Marketing
  • Growth mindset: While Marketing fundamentals change very little, curiosity and an appetite for learning and growing is a huge driver for personal growth and ultimately job performance
  • Digital-savviness and data proficiency: They might be tactical skills, but nevertheless capabilities that needs to be prioritized and anchored at the top. Future-fit marketers excel in these domains by understanding the high-level concepts and the strategic opportunities, but are not functional or tactical specialists
  • Frontline obsession: A constant eye on what works and what does not work – including the reasons behind. Does not stay in their ivory tower but is obsessed with and spends time in the trenches with salespeople and customers
  • Strong organizational and collaborative competencies: Future-fit marketing organizations are highly collaborative and intervened with Product, Sales and Customer success teams on a daily basis. Enabling a smooth and productive collaboration model is instrumental for marketers to do their job well

Of course not all great CMOs ticks all boxes, but they have a clear tilt towards the majority of these characteristics. On top of this “baseline”, our experience is that great CMOs also has spike within one or two of the functional areas that we will describe next

The four archetypal CMOs of the future

While no CMO job-descriptions are alike, there are some archetypal roles that the CMO can assume on top of leading the marketing communication and brand governance efforts. While these archetypes are not set in stone, they represent the functional areas that we see as relevant for CMOs that wants to go from good to great.

1. The product champion: Owns the product lifecycle from ideation to development, launch and phase out.


Key objectives:

  • Increase the profit impact of new launches
  • Reduce likelihood of failed launches
  • Reduce time-to-market of new launches

Key activities

  • Govern the product roadmap and backlog
  • Take responsibility for product lifecycle management & pricing
  • Design and implement innovation frameworks, processes and modes
  • Drive launch excellence, including go-to-market, value propositions, launch campaign development and salesforce anchoring

2. The experience orchestrator: Owns the customer experience, including strategic objectives, channels & platforms, revenue streams and communication

Key objectives:

  • Ensure that revenue targets are met from existing customers
  • Improve customer satisfaction

Key responsibilities:

  • Segmentation of customer base and define corresponding customer journeys
  • Design the target operating model of these collaborations.
  • Encourage continuous learning and productive processes within team
  • Design the Adoption, Expand and Renewal playbook and drive relevant initiatives
  • Define strategic objectives and operational metrics
  • Be the voice-of-the-customer in the boardroom
  • Align all customer facing channels to create seamless customer experiences and drive revenue from customers

3. The revenue generator: Owns the process of landing buyers and take full P&L responsibility

 Key objective:

  • Generate revenue that is directly attributable to marketing

Key responsibilities:


  • Own the pipeline in conjunction with sales
  • Design and implement prospect-to-lead process across the customer facing organization, including lead stage definition, qualification and disqualification logic, technology stack and sales- marketing handover model
  • Design thought leadership framework and implement corresponding programs across sales & marketing
  • Drive content planning and production proactively, including ensuring organizational involvement and buy-in
  • Define and launch attribution model and revenue measurement framework.

4. The strategy architect: Owns corporate strategy and special projects, also a major player in the digitalization / digital transformation agenda

 Key objectives:

  • Set the strategic agenda of the company and take responsibility for the objectives connected to the strategic direction
  • Ability to anchor the strategic direction internally

Key responsibilities:

  • Monitor on an ongoing basis and analyze the strategic situation related to customer, competitors and the company
  • Define and implement major transformation programs
  • Lead digital transformation of the customer facing part of the business
  • Drive strategy and planning cycles
  • Ensure Internal change management and communication related to strategic choices

While no CMO job-descriptions are alike, there are some archetypal roles that the CMO can assume on top of leading the marketing communication and brand governance efforts. While these archetypes are not set in stone, they represent the functional areas that we see as relevant for CMO´s that wants to go from good to great.

How to choose which archetype to concentrate on

Truth be told, not all of these archetypes fits all industries, companies and all people. The important important notion is to find the sweet spot between where the function is important for the company and fits the capabilities of the CMO. We have created a small heuristic you can use to rate the attractiveness of each archetype to your business:

Exhibit 1

Template for rating the attractiveness of each archetype to your business


Mikkel Bach-Andersen

Mikkel Bach-Andersen

Partner at Kvadrant Consulting

+45 40411331

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