From CMO to CEO: Why Marketers Should Own the Business–But Don’t

3 min read · 6 years ago


Peter Drucker said the “the purpose of a business is to create a customer.” Only the Sales and Marketing functions are focused on this. So you might assume that they are natural allies and jointly control the business.

Yet, Peter Drucker also said that Sales and Marketing are antithetical. If Marketing were to do its job perfectly and customers were to come and buy, there would be no need for Sales. So if only Marketing could do its job perfectly, it would be the “go-to” function in business. Yet, companies routinely look to the CFO or Head of Operations, who do not directly contribute to the key objective of the company when it comes to choosing a CEO instead of promoting the CMO to CEO. Why?

Clearly, Marketing is, and has been, falling short of its goals. Is it even possible for Marketers to come closer to doing what they are supposed to do, and why have they not become better at doing it over the past century? Is the effectiveness of Marketing any better than it was in “Mad Men” days?

In the summer of 1969, I was an intern in an ad agency in Manhattan. Shortly afterwards, I joined Procter & Gamble in Brand Management. Since then the technology of Marketing has seen a dramatic change, yet Marketing has become perhaps less respected than it was then. So the increased number of tools has not always led to increased credibility. Why is this? Perhaps Marketing is not just tools, but rather an approach to Strategy that is as scientific as it is intuitive. Too many Marketers over rely on gut feel. Engineers can’t, or bridges would collapse, buildings crumble, and machines fail. Marketers need to think more like good engineers than mere wielders of tools.

Back in “Mad Men” days there were a number of innovative thinkers about Marketing. Not only Peter Drucker, but McCarthy and Levitt created some of the best thinking about Marketing to date, while Everett Rogers developed the first theories about the diffusion of innovation. A lot of work went into understanding how Advertising works, much of which is still used today. Rosser Reeves’ USP, AIDA, and DAGMAR were widely in use by advertising agencies and Marketers. Today, we have a plethora of tools that we do not fully understand. Perhaps the complexity of them has resulted in an inability to look at the broader goals and strategies.

This does not need to be the case. A Marketer can be just as focused on the goals of the organization while recognizing that the long term growth in business valuation is key. All the steps that are taken should be focused on this. A strong CMO needs to be as much financial strategist as Marketing strategist.

Seven rules for moving from CMO to CEO (at least in terms of functional excellence) are:

  1. Define precisely your current and target customers by ROI.
  2. Measure how well you are creating and retaining customers.
  3. Understand the profitability of your customers, products, and programs.
  4. Build and grow a product innovation roadmap.
  5. Understand and manage the supply chain from field to the consumer to optimize performance.
  6. Develop synergies to get the best return on marketing investment.
  7. Provide growth leadership to other functions.

There is every reason why highly qualified ex-CMOs should dominate the ranks of CEOs.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: From CMO to CEO: Why Marketers Should Own the Business–But Don’t

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