4 Traits B-to-B CMOs Need in the Digital Era

Debbie Qaqish
B-to-B Marketing
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Key Takeaways

​What? Our tech-fueled and customer-controlled digital world has altered the DNA of the successful B-to-B CMO.

So what? We need to define the new traits and determine where future CMOs will come from.

Now what? Marketers should become fluent in the data that will prove their value as revenue generators and customer advocates.

​Sept.19, 2017

B-to-B CMOs need to be evermore revenue-minded and customer-centric to excel and lead in the digital era

Today’s CMO is feeling intense pressure to demonstrate financial accountability, yet less than a third of CMOs actually report any financial numbers. Companies are pivoting from product-focused strategies to customer-centric strategies driven by the customer’s control of the buying process. The gap between real-world B-to-B marketing and what is being taught in college at graduate and under-graduate levels, is now the widest in history. This gap grows even wider when we talk about future CMOs.

Characteristics of the B-to-B CMO Version 2.0

A recent survey from Forbes identified the top 50 most influential CMOs (B-to-B and B-to-C) and suggested that these 50 represented the future of the CMO job description. Forbes describes influence as “the impact a chief marketer’s actions and words have on his or her internal organization’s motivation and performance, corporate brand perception, broader marketing and advertising industry trend and, ultimately, corporate financial performance, including stock price.”

I would add four distinct traits that the next generation of CMOs must have: accountability, transformational leadership, customer centricity and tech and data savvy.

1. Accountability

Today’s CMO is responsible for brand, messaging, customer centricity and a positive impact on financial performance. For the B-to-B CMO, financial accountability comes first. Given the pervasive amount of technology, new buyer behaviors and consumer control of the journey, no one is better positioned than marketing to drive revenue and growth.

I recently spoke to a CMO who shared a story about a local CMO group where so few CMOs showed any financial results. One CMO said, “I report my number of MQLs and get out of meetings as fast as possible.” This behavior is one of pure avoidance. In contrast, B-to-B CMOs must be perceived as the key to revenue growth. With this type of financial accountability comes power, influence and legitimacy. In the B-to-B world, CMO accountability is table stakes to become the change agent.

2. Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader sets a vision and motivates others to perform beyond expectations. In addition, the transformational leader sets up an environment where change is rewarded. The CMO also provides the blocking and tackling for that change to happen. The CMO can only be successful in this role if he or she has power, influence and legitimacy.

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Their proximity to and understanding of the customer makes them well-suited to steer customer-centric businesses.

3. Customer Centricity

Using a customer-centric lens to create and drive strategy is an absolute requirement for the B-to-B CMO. The customer is now in charge of their own journey and the company that can best engage at a personal level is the one that will win. Studies show companies with a customer focus gain competitive advantage. In this environment, the CMO often assumes the role of chief customer officer as she sits on a gold mine of customer data and has the tools to effectively engage at every point of the customer life cycle. As companies pivot from product-focused to customer-focused, it is the CMO who most often leads the transformation.

4. Tech and Data Savvy

Finally, B-to-B CMOs must have a sophisticated grasp and understanding of technology and data in terms of driving the business of marketing. They are embracing data-based decision-making and have often assembled a world-class marketing operations organization to enable the change. The “Mad Men” mentality has been replaced by a CMO who leverages technology and data to drive a repeatable, predictable and scalable revenue engine. This is only possible through building a highly efficient and effective marketing operations capability.

The Future’s CMOs

CMOs with financial accountability have more power, influence and legitimacy. This baseline is needed to be a transformational leader and implement massive change. Using customer-centricity as the lens for all actions defines the change. And being tech and data savvy executes the change.

Given these traits, I predict we will see more CMOs emerge from the operations side of marketing. It is the marketing operations organization that enables and drives accountability and customer centricity. These left-brained behaviors are becoming a hallmark of the successful CMO because in the B-to-B world, what matters are numbers on the board. Applying transformational leadership enables marketing to evolve from a cost center to a revenue center and guides the pivot from product-focused to customer-focused. But without the tech and data capability, the vision for what can be often flounders.

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Author Bio:

Debbie Qaqish
Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of <a href="http://www.pedowitzgroup.com/?utm_source=PR&utm_campaign=AMA%27s%20B2B%20Marketing%20newsletter&utm_medium=Bylined%20Article" target="_blank">The Pedowitz Group</a>, Debbie manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.
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