Chief Marketing Officers, You Own Organizational Growth

Chief Marketing Officers, You Own Organizational Growth

According to Mckinsey, 83% of Global CEOs say that marketing can be a significant growth driver in their organization. This is great news for the Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs).

But don’t pop the champagne bottle just yet! Only 23% of CEOs feel that marketing is delivering on that plan. Ouch!

Like it or not, the responsibility to fix this is squarely on us marketers.

So how do marketers drive growth?

It starts by (1) recognizing that the role of marketing has indeed changed and (2) taking on accountability for the entire customer journey.

Let’s deep dive into these two areas.

Consumers Have Redefined Marketers’ Role

During the pandemic, offline interactions and transactions moved to digital touchpoints at a shocking pace. And there are no signs of this abating.

As a result, we are in the midst of a new era of consumer expectations. To cater to this demand, large and small companies have already moved, or are fast-moving, to digital experiences for their customers.

This change is forced upon us by consumer behavior. Given marketing’s close proximity to the consumer, the impact on it is also most widely felt. As a result, the role of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and their teams is changing fast.

80% of respondents to the 2021 CMO Spend Survey by Gartner indicated that they are solely responsible or play a leading role in their company’s digital business transformation strategy. According to another report from Capgemini Research Institute, CMOs’ responsibilities are shifting. Approximately 76% are now responsible for contributing to business growth and 74% for data and technology.

These new-age demands of a CMO and her team are a far cry from the traditional roles. A CMO needs to get into the driver’s seat and orchestrate the change, many times with the risk of ruffling feathers of other C-suite leaders.

Additionally, to deliver to the consumer expectations in an always-connected world, marketers need to own the end-to-end consumer journey, from the first touch to loyalty and advocacy. Thus, CMO and her teams’ concerns need to shift from just marketing to the challenges of orchestrating customer-centric complex journeys.

This brings me to my second point about what marketing needs to own and is accountable for.

Accountability: Kill “Lead-Gratification”

To be successful, CMOs need to go to the heart of the organization to expand the role marketing plays. To do so, they need to free the organization and the marketing department of what I call the “lead-gratification” culture.

In this culture, marketing thrives on the lead volume from in-bound and out-bound tactics. Marketing hits its lead targets based on some qualifying criteria like industry type, title, or some other parameters. From here on out sales chases these leads. The CRM systems get updated regularly with the lead or contact status.

On the surface, the performance looks great. But a look under the hood will show that despite the hefty marketing spends and the volume of leads, there isn’t enough revenue coming in to keep the business afloat in the long run, i.e. the lead-to-customer rates are not optimal.

Unfortunately, this culture not only plagues the marketing and sales teams, but also the leadership. When the growth conversations about revenue, profits, customer satisfaction, and retention are missing in the leadership meetings or in the boardroom, it is an organizational issue. This culture has to change.

Why Should CMO’s be Accountable for this Cultural Change?

In the digital ecosystem that consumers now buy-in, marketing has become less about empowering sales with leads and some collateral to chase these leads. Marketing, now more than ever, is about working together with sales, product, finance, customer success, and offline teams to define the consumer journey touchpoints and tackle real customer pain points. Marketing can now own and demonstrate success to help educate, guide, and navigate the consumer through the entire buying process.

To be the growth drivers, the CMO and her team need to go beyond just marketing-related metrics such as branding, engagement and leads. Marketing needs to own business metrics that offer insights into the company’s performance and marketing’s impact on the overall business. All KPIs—such as customer experience, churn, customer lifetime value, recurring revenue, and customer retention—need to be the metrics that marketing owns. This is the only way marketers can meet the demands of the CEO and become the growth drivers.


The pandemic-driven behaviors changed customers’ engagement with brands. This forced firms to relook at how each function added value to the customer and the organization. Marketing was no exception.

To adapt to the new reality and be agile, CEOs and the rest of the C-suite need to accept that the scope of marketing has already expanded. Marketing can no longer be a cost center but needs to be treated as a growth driver.

These times offer great opportunities to CMOs and marketers to grab the reins and drive organizational growth. This is not going to be easy as it starts with changing the core culture within the firm and the marketing teams. It is incumbent upon marketers to ensure that the growth conversations keep happening in the leadership meetings and the boardroom and it is marketing that leads from the front.



Sajjan Kanukolanu

December 7, 2021

By Sajjan Kanukolanu