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CEO-CMO Alignment: The Missing Piece for Marketing Growth

While quantifying marketing's impact through ROI calculations is important, a more critical first step lies in addressing the strategic misalignment between CEOs and CMOs on the very role and purpose of marketing itself. This disconnect can significantly hinder a company's ability to leverage marketing as a powerful growth accelerator. A recent report by The CMO Council reinforces the importance of CEO-CMO alignment, highlighting that only 42% of CMOs believe their CEO fully understands marketing's contribution to the business.

The strategic disconnect often manifests in CEOs prioritizing short-term sales activation, while CMOs push for longer-term brand building efforts. In other cases, CEOs may view marketing as a support function executing tactical campaigns, while CMOs see their role as being the voice of the customer, shaping product and business strategy.

Resolving this fundamental strategic dissonance is crucial because companies with strong CEO-CMO alignment outperform the competition. Research shows that when CEOs and

CMOs agree on marketing's responsibilities:

  • Companies are twice as likely to achieve over 5% annual revenue growth

  • Customer lifetime value increases by 30% on average

  • Brand awareness and consideration metrics see a 25% uplift

  • Overall shareholder value is boosted by 80% over a 10-year period

The implications of persistent strategic disconnect are clear - marketing's potential as a growth engine remains untapped, impairing the company's ability to drive sustainable revenue gains, deepen customer relationships, and create long-term shareholder value.

It falls on the shoulders of the CMO to be the catalyst driving this strategic alignment. As the customer expert, the CMO must initiate open and transparent conversations with the CEO to get on the same page around:

  1. The company's overarching strategic growth priorities (e.g. new market entry, product innovation, customer acquisition)

  2. Marketing's vital role in enabling those priorities (e.g. chief customer advocate, brand strategy leader, demand generator)

  3. The key performance indicators marketing will be evaluated against, directly tied to those growth objectives

Only once these core strategic questions are resolved can the CMO construct an integrated marketing vision, investment plan and measurement framework laser-focused on delivering quantifiable business impact.

Pushing ROI analyses and budget micro-optimizations before securing this strategic unity risks optimizing for the wrong outcomes. The first step for savvy CMOs is having that courageous alignment conversation.

Some conversation starters:

  • "What's our #1 priority this year - deepening relationships with existing customers or acquiring new ones? How can marketing best support that?"

  • "Where do you see marketing's biggest opportunity to create value - shaping our brand narrative or enabling more seamless customer experiences?"

  • "Let's review our growth strategy. How can we better integrate marketing's customer insights and voice of the market data into our planning?"

Achieving true strategic cohesion with the CEO first clears the path for CMOs to then effectively deploy techniques like those suggested by Gartner around budgeting rigor, ROI quantification, scenario planning and investment triggers. Check out Gartner's guide on proving marketing's value for more detailed methodologies.

But skipping this vital alignment step first virtually guarantees suboptimal returns, as marketing's efforts will be misaligned with the company's core objectives. For companies looking to unleash the full potential of marketing as a growth driver, resolving the CEO-CMO strategic disconnect is the crucial foundation. CMOs who can bridge this gap position marketing as a central catalyst accelerating the entire company's success. The CMO Council's report on The State of CMO-CEO Relationships 2023 provides additional insights into navigating this key executive partnership.


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