Chief marketing officers (CMOs), under greater budget scrutiny and hampered by operational silos and limited visibility, must take the lead on initiatives to drive revenue growth.

As marketing budgets drop to their lowest levels in recent history, CMOs continue to prioritize metrics that enable them to make a direct connection between a marketing activity (such as a digital campaign) and a business outcome (such as a sale).

By tapping into the power of data to reach larger audiences and increase profits, CMOs can leverage that expertise to drive business outcomes and expand their role to help drive larger business goals.

Amy Abatangle, senior director analyst in the Gartner for Marketing Leaders practice, explained when ROI measurement is elusive due to limitations in technology or availability of data, CMOs are turning to metrics that demonstrate return on objectives (ROO).

“For example, one marketing value driver is brand and reputation,” Abatangle explained. “CMOs can measure the return on this objective by looking at brand awareness or affinity, price premiums, good will, or even employment attractiveness.”

She added CMOs, now more than ever, are in the perfect position to drive collaboration across the C-suite.

Abatangle noted several areas that were primarily CMO concerns are becoming enterprise-level strategic initiatives with shifting accountability, such as innovation, customer experience and e-commerce.

“CMOs are recalibrating and reasserting their role as digital orchestrators, leading the enterprise in addressing complex, customer-centric journeys across a dynamic mix of online and offline channels,” she said.

Verint CMO Celia Fleischaker said those changes in the business world have provided an opportunity for CMOs to expand their remit and take charge from a business perspective.

“Increased revenue for an organization, especially from a source perspective, is based on the relationship that you have with that customer,” she said. “It’s not that initial sale. What really drives that long term business growth is the relationship and the renewal. That has put the CMO in a position to lead the business because of their ability to drive customer relationships.”

She added that as she sought to take a bigger leadership role as a CMO, some of her best mentors were CFOs.

“CFOs tend to frame things up so quickly in terms of what matters to the business, and how your ideas are going to impact it,” she said.

Heidi Bullock, CMO of Tealium, said the most important step for CMOs to enhance their profile in the company’s C-suite is to communicate value and focus on aspects key for the business, for example, growth or retention.

“When engaging with CFOs and CEOs, position marketing as an investment, versus a cost,” she said. “It is the job of marketing to use the financial investment to drive positive business outcomes for the organization.”

She said another powerful area CMOs can focus on is bringing valuable insights to the executive team, such as customer data platforms (CDPs) to better understand customer sentiment or at-risk segments.

However, the data CMOs have used historically is rapidly changing, with third party cookies going away, privacy regulations expanding and the way companies connect with their customers still transforming as a result of the pandemic.

“All the while, CMOs still need to know their customers, and data is still the answer,” Bullock said. “CPDs are the software that can connect companies’ customer data and make it actionable in this new era of marketing.”

She recommended leveraging a technology that other teams benefit from, but also makes the current tech stack more valuable.

“For example, if the data on a potential buyer is more comprehensive and timelier, the email I am sending can be much more targeted,” she said. “Reports have found CDP investments paid for themselves within six months, making it easy to secure executive buy-in.”

Bullock explained it is also helpful if CMOs treat executive leadership as their immediate team.

“Understand the goals and challenges of other departments, and see where the marketing organization can help or can align on a shared goal,” she said.

She explained at many software as a service (SaaS) companies, retention is critical, and is an area for marketing and customer success to jointly own.

“Sharing goals and being rewarded if that objective is met helps support teamwork and alignment,” Bullock said.

Abatangle added that as CMOs prioritize investment into marketing operations in pursuit of greater efficiency and effectiveness, they are also evaluating how to improve collaboration with the extended commercial team to drive attainment against revenue and growth targets.

She explained the pivot to customer-centricity that many organizations are making necessitates breaking down silos between marketing, sales and service.

“CMOs are becoming experts in change leadership as they adapt to ongoing waves of disruption,” she said. “To build future-proof organizations, CMOs are focusing on creating agile organizations that can flex in response to transformation pressures.”

Those toolsets now include scenario planning and adaptive capability development to help them identify gaps in their resource plan, then create roadmaps for building out additional capabilities and capacity in the areas that will help them address emerging needs.

“By aligning marketing capabilities to strategic objectives, CMOs can ensure that their teams are ready to face tomorrow’s challenges,” Abatangle said.

Fleischaker agreed, noting people talk about the CMO as being the shortest tenure in the C-suite—from her perspective, if you want to be a CMO long-term in the business, you absolutely need to look at that expanded role.

“If you want to be truly successful and a true partner to the business, you’ve got to find a way to look beyond maybe what’s traditionally considered the marketing agreement to how you impact the business with the customer experience, with a go to market strategy, and be more of a driver,” she said.