New study: CMOs drive cross-organisational transformation as marketing doubles down on becoming the growth and innovation engine for business

EssenceMediacom, GroupM’s newest and largest media agency, today launches its new report ‘The CMO Coming of Age Story: How digital transformation has elevated marketing to a C-suite growth driver’. The report, based on a global study of 188 senior business-to-business (B2B) marketing leaders in companies with a revenue of at least $250 million, identified an increasingly complex set of requirements for this role.

The CMO role, traditionally an enabler to sales teams in B2B organisations, now spearheads a multi-disciplinary growth-engine within businesses. They are expected to take ownership for driving revenue from multiple sources, including acquisition, retention, renewal, and up and cross selling, while also owning data responsibilities, utilising technology in ever more innovative ways.

In this sense, they are acting as the ‘CEO’ of customer growth. As the requirements of the role expand, so does the necessary skill set: almost 90% of marketing leaders surveyed said their role has become more complex.

Marketing outpaces lagging organisations

The role of the CMO has expanded and they are now responsible for the entire customer journey: nearly two-thirds (62%) said the customer experience has shifted from sales-owned to marketing-owned. Marketing departments need to understand the full picture of the customer at each stage of their lifecycle with the business; doing so requires cross-departmental orchestration for insight and action.

To meet these demands, marketers need more advanced tools for data utilisation and audience segmentation.

Accordingly, 70% reported an increased marketing budget in the last three years, primarily allocated to data and technology. Talent is also critical; half of the marketing leaders expect to expand their teams and 29% will see the most growth in data and technology teams.

However, marketers often face complex barriers to digital transformation within their own businesses, with differing parts of the organisation better prepared than others to enable data sharing and technical coordination.

Customer-centricity: More rhetoric than reality

As in B2C marketing, today’s B2B customer expects experiences tailored to their needs. The vast majority (80%) of respondents stress the growing significance of customer centricity, surpassing ROI. This is in large part due to changes in the buyer profile — who today prefer self-directed research over traditional sales pitches.

With more decision-makers involved, B2B marketers must engage a growing and more diverse set of individuals at buyer organisations, increasing the need for personalised approaches.

While organisations may understand the importance of customer centricity, few are able to support their marketing departments in delivering it. The second biggest global challenge for marketers (number one in the US and APAC) is understanding buyer needs — perhaps because only half say their organisations prioritise sharing audience data, while less than a quarter utilise AI to understand, segment and target buyers.

In fact, with marketers given limited control over the organisation’s tech infrastructure, the majority perceive their tech stacks as not fully mature.

The new B2B marketing playbook

As the role of the CMO expands, their toolkit and skills must evolve. However, many still rely on outdated B2B marketing approaches that don’t align with today’s dynamic market. This challenge limits creative differentiation in a competitive landscape.

Without organisational transformation, departmental silos hinder marketing teams and force them to rely on legacy practices.

The survey results reveal content development and distribution as a core marketing responsibility, second only to measurement. This highlights the increased need for captivating content across the customer journey.

To support this demand, marketers are actively leveraging data and technology, with 60% using generative AI for content development. Many also turn to content development agencies, using them as an extension of the marketing team, to ensure a steady flow of content.

As B2B buyer requirements change, so too must the marketing playbook. Innovation and experimentation with new tactics and tools is key to helping CMOs cut through the noise with impactful, customer-centric content.

Kristin Gower, Global B2B President, EssenceMediacom, said: “Today, CMOs must navigate three core challenges as they become what we’re terming ‘Growth Orchestrators” within their organisations.

These include the reality that marketing departments often outpace their organisations and must use this opportunity to drive cross-organisational innovation; the rising importance of delivering customer-centric experiences to the B2B buyer; and the need to rewrite the rulebook as marketers face increasingly complex ecosystems for gaining buyer attention.

To support the CMO in this effort, organisations must rally behind this vision of marketing-driven growth and lean on the CMOs’ expanding remit and cross-functional influence to unlock new unprecedented business outcomes.”

Nick Lawson, Global CEO, EssenceMediacom, said: “I am extremely proud of our first of its kind CMO survey, which underscores the pivotal role of marketing in driving growth and digital transformation in the B2B landscape.

This work is a testament to our commitment to delivering breakthroughs for brands in the new communications economy. Emphasising our role in reshaping the B2B marketing playbook and supporting all CMOs in their journey to orchestrate a multifunctional growth engine within their organisations.”

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