The role of marketing has undoubtedly evolved, as has the customer experience. Signing on the dotted line is now just the beginning. Businesses that understand that tomorrow's customers care more about the journey will come out on top.

As a result, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are forced to have an entirely new set of skills in their toolkit—namely, the ability to wear many hats at once.

It's about acting as a chief financial officer (CFO) to be strategic about when and where to invest marketing dollars for optimum ROI, acting as a product developer to ensure the solution matches the customers' evolving technical needs, and integrating sales expertise to ensure marketing is driving leads through the funnel.

So let's break down this evolution...

CMOs of companies of all sizes are now, more than ever, directly responsible not only for revenue but also for their contribution to profitability.

At the beginning of any planning period, every dollar requested by the CMO for Marketing's budget needs to be justified to the CFO/CEO, and every dollar spent needs to be accounted for. But once the budget is approved, the CMO and Marketing's performance will ultimately be assessed on a hard ROI metric by the end of the stated time period, usually 3, 6, or 12 months.

Until recently, that assessment was based on a series of volume metrics, such as number of event attendees or number of website visitors, and a choice of cost metrics, such as cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquisition (CPA). But with increasing adoption of deep analytics and data visualization technologies, the most progressive businesses assess marketing's performance on the revenue-based metric of customer lifetime value (LTV) divided by the customer acquisition costs (CAC), or LTV:CAC.

To calculate the total cost of acquiring a customer (CAC), all expenses need to be considered, including digital marketing, content marketing and SEO, content creation, event management, media relations, influencer marketing, creative services, website development and maintenance, personnel, and other vendor costs.

Anything in excess of 2-3X for the LTV:CAC calculation is fairly healthy; and, if that rate is sustainable, the CMO can breathe easily. The hard part now for CMOs is truly understanding where to invest precious Marketing dollars for the best ROI.

The good news is, as with every profession and school of thought, there are guiding principles with which to navigate...

1. Know your customer

The best CMOs first ask the simple, but fundamental questions: Who are our customers? How do they buy? Why do they want to buy from us? The answers to those questions will help define the foundations of the most effective CMOs—a deep understanding of the ideal customer journey, by type of customer.

With such knowledge, the CMO and the marketing team can make more informed decisions on whom to target, with what content, in what form, how often, and in what sequence.

A customer journey can range from the very simple and linear to the highly sophisticated and multilayered. When versioned by customer segment and type, the entire exercise can get complicated.

2. Choose the right tech

There are literally thousands of technology providers servicing every aspect of the marketing function. They include paid search and advertising, media relations, and content management systems; marketing automation platforms; customer journey analytics... the list goes on.

Choosing the right combination of technologies is critical to the CMO's success and the task of delivering ROI results to the rest of the C-suite. Having a deep understanding of many of these technologies, and the often only slight differences in their functionality, is a must. One wrong decision can be costly: Many technology vendors require minimum-term or multiyear contracts, and unwanted costs will very quickly eat into positive ROI.

3. Assemble a team of athletes

Marketing as a functional area is the decathlon of business; no other area in a company has such diversity in skillsets, running the gamut from the highly analytical (left brain) to the ultra-creative (right brain). CMOs must have a deep working knowledge of an ever expanding range of disciplines or be schooled enough to intelligently and effectively direct and help those responsible on the marketing team.

The key is to hire the right people for every role. People are a CMO's most valuable asset. Hiring the wrong person can, again, cripple the effectiveness of the marketing organization, and it can be a very costly mistake. Hire only when you are 100% sure that the person has the level of expertise that is required for a role.

The level of expertise required can vary depending on the go-to-market (GTM) strategy. For example, if PR is a critical part of the overall strategy, hiring a highly skilled and seasoned media relations expert is key. If a business is highly reliant on its website as a source of demand, then having a deep technical and creative team is preferred.

Whatever the goal, be sure to align your people resource with the marketing strategy, and hire only the best talent you can attract.

4. Craft your GTM playbook

Defining how to go to market involves making critical decisions about target market segments, ideal customer profiles and personas, partnerships, branding, campaigns, advertising (online and out-of-home), messaging, and timing and sequencing of activities.

Those decisions are not just the purview of the CMO. All those responsible for the commercial success of the business—CEO, sales and support leaders, product development and engineering leaders, and the heads of business development and partnering—have a role to play in determining the GTM plan for the business.

It is imperative that everyone be aligned around common GTM goals and objectives for a business to reach its revenue goals and beat the competition. Those need to be documented and revisited periodically during a formal operations review process to make sure the business is on track, and to change course if needed.

5. Integrate with other departments

In addition to generating revenue and positive ROI on investment dollars, CMOs also act as a service provider for many internal business functions:

  • Sales for campaign development, product training and enablement, and event management
  • Customer Success for customer marketing
  • Support for online help center creation
  • Human Resources for recruiting and talent branding

Marketing is the hub for the customer journey, and it is imperative that the CMO integrate and have transparency into other vital functions to ensure a successful end-to-end relationship.

* * *

Today, CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-suite, so those who want to survive and thrive must attack the position in a new, evolved way to ensure a successful customer journey, business growth, and career longevity.

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The Evolving Role of the CMO (And All Marketers): Five Guiding Principles

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image of Tony Kavanagh

Tony Kavanagh is CMO of Insightly, an innovator in scalable customer relationship management. He is responsible for the company's go-to-market strategy and execution, focusing on midsize and enterprise businesses.

LinkedIn: Tony Kavanagh

Twitter: @TK_SF