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Perspectives

Repositioning the CMO from gains to growth

Marketers with a long-term view have a leg up in the pursuit of sustainable growth

Creative strategies fueled by storytelling and branding only go so far. Research by Deloitte in collaboration with the CMO Council shows that CMOs wishing to advance along the maturity curve need a comprehensive view of new products and markets that can fuel expansion.

If there's a common trait that defines chief marketing officers, it's helping their organizations advance the growth agenda. There's a big difference between meeting those goals in the spirit of a sprint versus the mentality of an endurance race, however. Achieving gains through "pops" of engagement can provide a short-term boost. But a commitment to sustainable revenue growth can take a longer-term approach.

Only 18 percent of CMOs indicated they were "extremely poised to succeed" as the growth leader their organizations expect them to be, according to a Deloitte study on chief marketing officers.

As part of the research, Deloitte compared and contrasted efforts on complementary, yet competing areas of gains and growth. Our research found that some marketers have adopted a short-term gains focus fueled by traditional marketing activities such as demand generation. Also along the spectrum are marketers who have embraced creative strategies fueled by storytelling and branding. But these activities can only go so far.

The research also identified a budding cohort of marketers with a long-term growth mindset, who are taking marketing's traditional roles even further to help drive long-term, profitable growth rooted in a deep understanding of evolving customer needs.

Another way to think about this is along a maturity curve. In recent conversations with executives, I've found that CMOs at even the most sophisticated organizations are focusing a great deal of their time on short-term, campaign-driven marketing and brand building activities which have comprised the historical core of marketing.

By contrast, marketing leaders who are at the top end of the curve are focusing their efforts on identifying a comprehensive set of growth opportunities—including new product strategies, geographic market expansion, improving go-to-market effectiveness, and intensifying investment in areas of the business with the greatest growth potential.

What does this look like in a real business setting? 

In health care, for example, we see organizations actively working to position themselves for the future world of health care—thinking broadly across multiple pieces of the overall ecosystem. They are not simply trying to expand their current products and services—they're probing to find growth opportunities based on new ways of serving fundamental and evolving customer needs, potentially in partnership with other ecosystem players.

One example of this is research on the demand for health apps, and which age groups are enthusiastic about which kinds of apps, depending on disease state, or wellness concerns. That's a prime example of using consumer insight to identify these potential future growth opportunities, based on evolving consumer needs. Furthermore, it shows how data can help growth-focused marketers understand how their industry ecosystems might evolve.

To turn that kind of insight into growth requires the basics of good, strong marketing—segmentation and targeting, designing compelling value propositions, building robust and disciplined go-to-market engines. But there's a higher level still—projecting future consumer needs in the face of multiple external pressures, shifting competitive dynamics and technology change. We're seeing that there is an increasing cadre of CMOs who are stepping up to future-oriented, more strategic pursuits, and convincing their companies to think about growth in this way.

Be aware of blind spots

There are some common blind spots CMOs should be aware of, though. Some marketers might scan for growth opportunities in new products, new customer segments, and new markets while undervaluing the growth opportunities in the core business to increase retention and loyalty. Then there are blind spots potentially around time horizons: Some marketers struggle to look for growth opportunities beyond the next six to eight quarters, while growth over-performers manage to both focus on the next two years and look for growth more than five years out.

There's another reason for marketers to raise their sights from driving close-in gains to developing the multi-horizon growth agenda. Marketing officers with a perspective on likely future scenarios can have a leg up—they can probe the market to learn ahead of the competition and predict consumer needs to see how customers might be best served. Indeed, successful, growth-focused CMOs can use their thinking about portfolios that can maximize opportunities in five years' time to guide in-market experimentation and learning today. They can help their companies understand, shape and create future demand, not just respond to it.