The role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) is constantly evolving in the performance marketing landscape. No longer is the role focused solely on advertising and promotion – the rise of digital marketing, the introduction of new tools and technologies, and increased budgets for the marketing department has seen the CMO take on a more diverse position in many companies. They can have a huge influence on a company’s reputation.

While the perception and definition of the CMO has changed – it was historically considered to be a branding and awareness role – there’s still a huge amount of scope for CMOs to better affect company change, improve product design and connect marketing activity with sales and revenue.

A design-led approach

For too long, marketing has been too KPI-driven, with goals centred on product promotion, knowing the target customers and reaching them with the right message at the right time. But this is just downstream promotion; CMOs and their marketing team can offer far more if they are directly connected to the product and customers.

CMOs need to further augment their role within the organisation and adopt a design-led approach to their performance marketing strategy.

Good CMOs know that it’s easier to promote and sell good products, so by bringing the knowledge they have of the customers to the engineering and design teams and getting hands-on experience in the creation and design of the product themselves, it will ultimately result in more innovative, customer-centric products successfully taken to market.

A design-led and customer-centric approach is culturally innovative – it changes the trajectory of sales, company culture and more importantly, the influence of the CMO.

In a survey conducted with the members of the CMO Club (a global organisation of CMOs), it was found that a design-led approach saw a 50% higher success rate than those who don’t. You’re not just enabling sales, but are also becoming a significant part of developing and delivering a product that was created to solely improve the end-user experience.  

Think like a start-up and be agile

Taking a design-led approach isn’t as simple as saying you are going to do it. CMOs need to approach this as if they’re a start-up. They need to be agile and adaptable to the changing environment around them, as well as take the initiative to change company culture beyond their own immediate remit to a design-focused culture.

Collaboration should also not be forgotten. The CMO is perfectly positioned to bring the various parts of the organisation together to work synonymously to think differently about creating the best possible product and connecting the right customers to it.  

Ultimately, the heart of product creation and sales is the customer, so organisations need to collect user stories and put the end-user customer at the core of product development. This way, you’re not only building a tighter connection with the customer but also completely changing how they perceive the product.

Be the best CMO you can be

The role of the CMO is complicated and challenging, particularly when working in environments where you have to fight to demonstrate marketing value to the business, but there are five things you should always remember:

1. Be more declarative – assert your position within your company. Downstream promotion needs to be coupled with upstream activity. While product promotion remains a high priority, you should also be at the forefront of strategising, experimenting, changing company culture and creating a differentiated product.

2. Make the full use of your budget – be deliverable-oriented. Demonstrate to your company that you don’t just think about the numbers but about the wider picture and what you can deliver to your customers.  

3. Be a brand ambassador – whether it’s speaking opportunities or networking events, get out there and share your views. It’s not about representing yourself but representing what your company stands for and believes in, positioning it as a leader in its field.

4. What got you here will not get you there – keep challenging the job. Demonstrate to your board and the rest of your company that you are confident in your role, in your products and always looking for new ways to positively support the business.

5. Most importantly, have fun – it is currently an amazing time to be a CMO. The power of imagination, story and influence precedes history. It will pave the way to better products and services while keeping your company relevant.

An engaged CMO

While there isn’t a prototypical definition of the CMO, a key attribute of one is influence; be at the forefront of product design and creation, change the way your employees think about how they should approach product marketing, and encourage collaboration between different parts of the organisation.

More importantly, you need to think beyond sales and KPIs – think about the wider picture and how you can create and deliver a great product. If you completely own both the product and corporate marketing of your company, then you’re a truly engaged CMO.