How CMOs can become a disruptive growth change agent

1st Nov 2016

In a digitally disrupted market, where traditional revenue sources are becoming more elusive, business leaders are revising their growth strategy into two areas – incremental growth from their current portfolio through traditional approaches, and ‘disruptive growth’ opportunities that push well beyond today’s boundaries.

With 44% of chief executive officers (CEOs) globally citing ‘disruptive growth’ as being very important to their overall growth strategy, and half (50%) looking to chief marketing officers (CMOs) to drive the disruptive growth agenda, CMOs could presume they are best suited to drive the disruptive growth agenda. However, according to recent research, it’s not necessarily theirs for the taking. The c-level race to becoming the chief growth officer has begun...

C-suite soup

As front office-functions continue to converge and more c-suite leaders enter the mix – from chief sales officers, to chief digital, chief experience and strategy officers – CEOs have given the entire c-suite some level of responsibility for disruptive growth, yet no one is fully accountable. Today, 90% of companies are in this position, with three or more c-suite leaders ‘responsible’ for disruptive growth.

Yet, although it may not be explicitly said in everyday interactions, more than a third (37%) of CEOs say that CMOs are first in the firing line if growth targets are not met. Despite diluted accountability throughout the c-suite, our research highlights that CMOs are clearly in the hot seat, but the majority may not know it.

Given that CMOs fill a key role in the end-to-end customer experience and typically have control of many of the digital levers that drive disruptive growth, CMOs have a huge opportunity to actively drive the disruptive growth and be rewarded for it.

However, many traditional leaders, like the chief sales officer and the ‘newer’ c-level roles, such as chief data officer, chief experience officer and chief digital officer, could be held equally as accountable. It’s imperative that CMOs with a growth mind-set step-up to lead as the chief growth officer, and take accountability for the disruptive growth agenda which is fragmented today.

CMOs best placed to lead the disruptive growth agenda

CEOs see CMOs as the primary driver of disruptive growth (50%), closely followed by chief strategy officers (49%), and chief sales officers (38%). The majority of CMOs (96%) also recognise the importance of disruptive growth to revenue potential, and another 75% believe they have a great deal of control over the disruptive growth levers in their company. However, many CMOs are not currently in a position to drive disruptive growth due to mind-set and time.

Never has there been a better time for CMOs to reposition themselves by taking control of the disruptive growth agenda.

Only 30% of CMOs believe that they are cutting-edge marketing innovators, and a little over a third (37%) of their time is currently spent on innovation. 60% spend the majority of their time on traditional marketing initiatives, such as maintaining brand image, improving customer experience and loyalty. While evidently important, over half (54%) feel that a large portion of their marketing budget is being wasted and not delivering the results the business expects.

CMOs can take a greater role by actively driving the disruptive growth agenda and generating new value for the business. Such initiatives include developing ecosystems with non-traditional players, launching platforms that elevate current products into expanded service models for customers, and increasing revenue through next generation connected data monetisation – all of which CMOs are well positioned to do.

Becoming a disruptive growth change agent

Never has there been a better time for CMOs to reposition themselves by taking control of the disruptive growth agenda. Such initiatives are often the most creative, have the biggest revenue potential and command strong leadership. CMOs are well positioned to do so due to their experience of being brand guardians, which will help enable them to intuitively navigate new opportunities internally and externally, and identify new areas of growth.

CMOs that want to reach their potential and move into a disruptive growth role can do so by:

  1. Opening the door: The executive that can best articulate a disruptive growth strategy will be the defacto ‘chief growth officer’. As many companies look to create this position, CMOs should be the one to step forward to create the platforms that will catapult their company forward into new business opportunities.
  2. Making priorities disruptive: While traditional marketing activities continue to be important, more focus can be afforded to driving disruptive growth initiatives that present higher revenue growth potential. Initiatives include launching new business models, developing new partnerships, and increasing revenues from data monetisation.  
  3. Accepting clear responsibility for disruptive growth: Establish the ‘office of disruptive growth’. Marketing then becomes the epicenter of disruptive growth that moves their organisation to own a greater share of each customer, as well as fostering new customers.
  4. Paying more attention to the evolving competitor landscape: Who your competitors were yesterday are not who they are today. Only 43% of CMOs believe defending their organisation against new competitors that have not traditionally been part of their industry is a priority to their organisation today. Organisations can avoid being disrupted, but only if they can see what’s coming.
  5. Becoming a new market entrant: Only 30% of CMOs say their organisation is moving into a different industry outside their traditional industry. Organisations that want to get ahead need to diversify their offerings and appeal to new audiences. CMOs have the opportunity to guide that process and identify the best fit.

CMOs are now at an inflection point. They have the clear opportunity to step up to the role of Chief Growth Officer. So far, most have missed the opportunity, resulting in others being front of line for the role. Currently, the position is ripe for the taking, but opportunities such as this one have a shelf life. With swift, sure action, CMOs can capitalise on their window of opportunity.



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