What does the C-suite really think about CMOs?

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
24th September 2019
Author: Nick Mason
Posted in: Education & Upskilling

The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) role is notoriously one of the most volatile positions in any firm. The average CMO in a large US company lasts about 4 years, which is half that of the CEO. No other C-suite executive experiences firing or leaving so often.

To add some insight into the reasons behind this, Deloitte recently conducted a survey of 575 C-suite executives. Their results provide a great glimpse into a question most of us are too afraid to ask – What does the C-suite really think about CMOs?

How the study carried out

A pool of 575 C-suite executives were drawn from exclusively Fortune 500 companies. They were mainly made up of CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CSOs, CMOs, and CFOs.

They conducted the study between October 2018 and February 2019 in the form of several in-depth interviews with members of the C-suite to find out what they think of the CMOs’ contributions to the business.

The results:

Note: All results are pulled from Deloitte’s report and/or an affiliated article in Harvard Business Review.

CMOs are severely lacking confidence

It turns out the biggest critics of the CMO are actually the CMOs themselves. Only 5% of CMOs strongly agreed that they were able to make a significant impact on:

  • strategic decision making
  • the overall direction of the business
  • their ability to raise support among their peers for their initiatives

Not only that, but very few CMOs think they are performing “extremely well” in these competencies:

  • demonstrating financial impact (27%)
  • establishing an understanding of the customer (32%)
  • initiating collaborative efforts (32%)

Most of the C-suite have confidence in the CMO

Ironically, for the most part, the CMO’s lack of confidence is not something their peers share. Nearly 50% of CEOs think their CMOs are “highly effective” at their jobs.

While not as enthusiastic as the CEO, the chief technology officers and chief information officers also have confidence in the CMO, especially in their ability to provide customer insights. 

The CFOs are fairly confident in their CMOs but only 23% feel that CMOs are effective collaborators with the rest of the C-suite.

CSOs have little confidence in the CMO

Bet you didn’t see that one coming, huh? Yes, chief sales officers are still skeptical of how well CMOs perform for the business.

The CSOs rated almost every competency of the CMO significantly lower than the rest of the C-suite, especially their ability to prove a financial impact or their capacity to influence people to support them.

COOs had a similarly lower opinion, but not as severe as the CSOs.

What does this mean for the CMO?

These results paint a pretty interesting picture of where the CMO stands among the C-suite.

1. The CMO has high value for business customer insights

The CMO received the highest ratings for their understanding and insights into the entire customer journey. This was the general opinion across the entire C-suite.

This is a far cry from the comparatively low opinions CMOs have of their own contributions to the business. It could be very valuable for CMOs to leverage and demonstrate their effectiveness in this area, overcoming these confidence issues and proving value to the business.

2. The C-suite wants to see better collaboration with their CMO

Only 17% of C-suite executives in the study said they had collaborated with their CMO in the previous 12 months. A lack of collaboration was consistently rated as one of the CMO’s leading weaknesses.

As we know, the majority of the C-suite has a lot of respect for how much customer insight the CMO can provide. This could be a very valuable way of bridging this gap. By offering this insight to help the goals of the other C-suite members, the CMO should be able to improve their standing among their peers. Additionally, leveraging the rest of the C-suite in the CMO’s initiatives could improve relations and boost team transparency.

3. The CMO has a long way to go to prove their value to the CSO

While there are a few issues that the C-suite has in general, the chief sales officer is clearly not convinced of the CMO’s value in almost any capacity.

Much of that focus is on monetary value to the business. It’s becoming increasingly important for marketers to prove ROI on all of their activities. According to the bi-annual CMO survey, around 60% of marketing leaders are feeling pressure from the C-suite to ‘prove’ the value of marketing activities.

Despite this, Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound survey found that 41% of marketers were unable to calculate or didn’t know the ROI of their marketing activities.

As the Deloitte study found that CSO’s have little confidence in the financial impact of their CMO, proving ROI would be a huge step in bridging the gap between them. If the CMO was able to prove how their activities and initiatives are bringing in money to the business, their position would likely be more stable and help build self-confidence at the same time.