Most CEOs Think CMOs Lack Business Credibility

How well do you communicate with the CEO? Do you feel that you’re on the same page, in sync, working toward a shared strategic vision?

I’d like to think that with all the talk of tearing down silos, internal integration and the CMO as a change agent, marketers are entering a new era of C-level communication and collaboration. I’d like to think that the marketing function is becoming increasingly integrated into overall business strategy, and that it’s being used to drive revenue growth in new and exciting ways.

Of course, in some companies, that is what’s happening. (Look at the innovative initiatives underway at Pepsi, American Express, Wells Fargo and MGM – to name just a few.) But, new research tells me most CMOs aren’t there, yet.

In fact, The Fournaise Marketing Group has released study results which suggest that the vast majority of CMOs are far, far away from that goal – and that, as a result, a significant CEO-CMO disconnect is now simmering. Put simply, after interviewing more than 600 large corporation and SMB CEOs and decision-makers in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia, Fournaise found that most CEOs think marketers lack business credibility and are unable to demonstrate ROI.

Here are a few specific statistics from the report:

  • More than three-fourths (77 percent) of the business leaders in the study said marketers keep talking about brand, brand values, brand equity and other similar parameters even though their top management has great difficulty linking these “talking points” back to results that really matter, namely revenue, sales, EBITDA or even market valuation.
  • Nearly as many (74 percent) said marketers focus too much on the latest trends such as social media, because they believe they represent the new marketing frontiers – but can rarely demonstrate how these trends will help them generate more business for the company.
  • 73 percent believe that when marketers are asked to increase their marketing ROI, they tend to understand it as cost-cutting through better economies of scale or negotiations with their third-party partners and agencies, instead of top-line growth generation: more revenue, more sales, more prospects, more buyers.

Those statistics are sobering. But, how do CMOs feel about these same issues? Hold on tight, because this is where things get even more rocky…

While 73 percent of the CEOs in the study think marketers lack business credibility and are not effectiveness-focused enough to generate incremental customer demand, nearly the same percentage (69 percent) of the marketers Fournaise talked to feel their strategies and campaigns DO make an impact on the company’s business, even though they can’t precisely quantify or prove it.

That last finding is particularly troubling, and it’s obvious that ‘what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,’ as Paul Newman so famously said in Cool Hand Luke.

But, I think there’s also something more. I think this disconnect is also driven by a lack of understanding. Our industry is in the midst of a transformation. Marketing is one of the last business functions to integrate its data, processes and systems, and that has created tremendous fragmentation and complexity in proving ROI.

But, what makes this transformation so revolutionary is that today we can use integrated marketing applications and merge digital data with offline and consumer information to create a much clearer picture of the value of marketing – and that’s the view we need to communicate to our CEOs and our C-level counterparts.

Marketers today can use analytics to help us distinguish signal from noise. We can aggregate and analyze data to better understand consumer trends, and then apply those insights to our go-to-market campaigns. We can also demonstrate the impact of our campaigns. In short, now – more than ever before – we can deliver precisely what the board room wants: data on revenue, sales, EBITDA and more.

CEOs and CMOs alike must begin to understand the power of digital data and how it can connect a broader view. We must start talking the same language, the language of business. And we must agree that ROI isn’t only about cost-cutting. Instead, it’s also about a return to growth: more revenue, more sales, more prospects, more buyers.

These study results show us that marketers need to start earning credibility. Fortunately, now we have data to help us close the CEO-CMO gap.

This post was previously published on Forbes.com. Hungry for more statistics? Read the full Fournaise Group press release.

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Author:Lisa Arthur

Seasoned C-Level Marketer with Fortune 50, Start-up and mid-sized high-tech marketing expertise. Currently CMO of Aprimo. Corporate blogger for Forbes.

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