The CMO as C-Suite Maestro, Orchestrating B2B Growth Amidst Digital Transformation

By Kristin Gower, Global President, B2B Practice at EssenceMediacom

Digital transformation demands that businesses change their tune. Business outcomes are no longer strictly determined by return-on-investment and the CEO as the sole decision-maker.

Today, long-term growth revolves around the customer experience (CX) and is driven by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who now plays a critical executive role. Yet, despite this transformational shift, broader organizational evolution has been slower to adapt to the digital-first world, forcing the CMO role to evolve from a bookended sales communicator into a tech integrator, customer oracle, and cross-departmental orchestrator.

So, as we prepare to enter a new year, what unique challenges does this present for CMOs?

Marketing is Outpacing the Organization

In EssenceMediacom’s recent global survey of marketing leaders, 62% of respondents agreed there has been a shift from a sales-owned customer experience to a marketing-owned one. This means that marketing gurus who once spent their days crafting the perfect promotional strategies and providing sales teams with the tools to win new business, are now also tasked with serving as growth orchestrators alongside the CEO.

Digital transformation has radically changed the B2B landscape. The buyer’s journey now features multiple touchpoints and is largely self-directed through independent online research. As the voice of the customer, the CMO must drive customer centricity inside the organisation to deliver on the growth potential of this new buyer. And as marketing leaders quickly adapt to their expanded job description, they are outpacing their organization.

Customer centricity is also an important aspiration but achieving a comprehensive view of the customer remains a challenge. This success hinges on the unification of buyer data sources and democratizing that data across departments. Here in lies the question of organizational readiness. 80% now place greater importance on customer centricity , but only 50% of respondents said their organization prioritizes sharing audience data across teams, while teams critical to achieving customer centricity and integrating buyer data remain siloed.

Customer-Centricity Requires Organization-Wide Alignment

CMO’s are increasingly becoming connectors within businesses. As one CMO put it,

“CMOs are leaned on to do a lot of cross-functional alignment, collaboration, pulling various people together on a topic that may have nothing to do necessarily with marketing.”

Seventy-two percent of marketers believe that non-marketing colleagues consider marketing to be an essential partner, while 23% indicated the complexity of their role is driven by increase engagement and responsibilities with other functions.

This is where CMOs need to assume the role of conductor, beginning with the establishment of uniform business goals and metrics. Transcending departmental lines is the only way to access cross-department insights and facilitate harmonious action.

And as marketing budgets increase, data and technology account for the lion’s share of this investment. This focus is requiring the CMO to collaborate with Sales and the CTO to define commons goals that are tied to integrated business outcomes, rather than traditional marketing goals or campaign metrics. And yet only 10% of survey respondents perceived their marketing stack and performance to be mature, bringing into question organisational readiness.

CMOs must rewrite the B2B playbook

Once internal alignment has been realized, orchestrating B2B growth with a digital-first customer requires marketers to move beyond legacy playbooks.

Content development and distribution are the cornerstone of aB2B marketing playbook, ranking second only to measurement. Hiring specialist content development agencies can supplement internal marketing departments, helping to meet the ever-increasing demand for relevant, targeted content to deploy in the congested, self-directed digital landscape. Tools such as ChatGPT have revolutionised the status quo with 60% of marketing leaders indicating they have already begun to assign generative AI to content-oriented tasks.

But advanced technology and additional resources must be applied not only to content creation, but also to better understanding the digital-first customer. CMOs have seen their workload increase tenfold with the shift to customer-centricity, yet their arsenal of weapons has largely remained the same. Less than a quarter think their organisations effectively utilise AI to understand, segment and target buyers.

With all of this considered, the modern CMO must become a “Growth Orchestrator” conducting the entire business’s customer-centric symphony. Successful CMOs will adopt a “full-brained” approach that combines behavioural science and creativity to connect with customers.

To foster innovation, CMOs must also encourage a culture of experimentation and creativity within their own teams by providing resources and allowing calculated risks. With this innovative mindset, bold cross-department leadership, and a refreshed toolkit, CMOs will not only drive customer centricity, but also successful business outcomes.