Winning Strategies For Scale-up CMOs

August 18, 2023 – “The CMO must be world-class at understanding human motivations, data, and storytelling, “ Jonathan Mildenhall, co-founder and chair of marketing consultancy firm TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, was quoted as saying in a new report from boutique search firm Artico Search. “That’s why I love marketing, it’s a data-inspired storytelling function that engages human beings. It really is a magical discipline.” To the authors of the study, Mr. Mildenhall described the role of chief marketing officer perfectly. “The best scale-up CMOs lead teams that create magic by connecting story, vision, and motivation (and often, emotion) with data-driven methodologies, rigor, and superb execution,” wrote Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor, Julie Herendeen, and Brian Curran. “The ultimate balance of left brain and right brain are required to succeed—and an ability to adapt and pivot to meet the demands of a fast-evolving macro environment. This complexity means that CMOs are often misunderstood by the C-suite leaders and boards with which they partner.”

Businesses today are up against a changing macroeconomic environment, forcing leaders to focus on profitability first, growth second. This is a massive shift from recent years, where it was all about growth, no matter the cost, says Artico Search. “For scale-up CEOs who are seeking to unlock ‘customer aha’ moments and fully engage customers, they should consider this complicated landscape before hiring their next CMO,” said the report. “When CEOs understand the market—and some key strategies for how to navigate it—they can better partner with their CMO and align for success.”

In its study, Artico says its network of hiring companies is employing a range of winning strategies. This is what Artico says is working:

Ruthless prioritization 

“CMOs today must drive ruthless prioritization and alignment across departments (specifically field and product) in a time when they are being asked to increase impact with far fewer resources,” said the report. “They’re working with fewer programs, reduced budgets, and less headcount.”

Scale-up stage companies in particular are vulnerable. For them to truly scale and accelerate their growth, they must innovate beyond their core products. “This may involve targeting net new customer segments,” said the report. “To effectively prioritize, CMOs are doubling down on alignment within their own team, as well as strategic ways to operationalize their focus, including weighing tradeoffs between new priorities and potentially distracting side projects.”

Storytelling, with purpose 

To create a lasting impact, particularly when efficiency is prioritized, CMOs must devise compelling brand stories that shape perceptions and drive actions. “A great example of storytelling with purpose in a global B2B company is Recorded Future,” said Artico Search. “Here CMO Tom Wentworth continues to push their mission of ‘securing our world with intelligence’ by introducing organizations to a new way of thinking about their security program.”

Data-driven strategy

With the rising prominence of data and analytical tools, it’s imperative for a CMO to lead data-driven decision-making. “We’ve seen CMOs at companies use data to understand the dynamics of the business, the market, their customers, and the channels to reach them,” said the Artico report. “This data-centric approach underpins customer segmentation, informs insights, and guides ROI, CAC, and LTV calculations. This capability allows the CMO to make a compelling case for marketing investments and inform resource allocation.”

Related: Artico Search Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Arkose Labs

CMOs also need to translate company goals into marketing objectives that support the CEO’s priorities. “For instance, when a company aims to acquire new customers, expand existing customer product usage, or grow in a new geography, the CMO needs to form a marketing plan that directly supports these goals,” said the report. “This task often involves close collaboration with marketing ops and analytics teams.”

An obsession with the customer experience

In the current business climate, CMOs must transcend their traditional roles to drive exceptional cross-functional customer experiences. “This requires creating a customer-centric cycle that includes the discovery of the customer’s ‘aha moment,’ facilitating purchase decisions, and eventually turning customers into advocates,” said Artico Search.

Artico Search Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Showpad
Mercedes Chatfield-Taylor of Artico Search recently assisted in the recruitment of Jon Borgese as the new chief marketing officer of Showpad. Mr. Borgese most recently served as senior vice president of global marketing for Front. Before that, he was SVP of global marketing role for LivePerson. Prior to this, Mr. Borgese was senior director of marketing at Intermedia Cloud Communications.

Elina Vilk, Hootsuite’s CMO, added: “Deep customer empathy is critical for marketers. Only in gaining insights into needs, wants, pain points, and emotions—not just at the moment of purchase but throughout the customer’s personal journey—can we build authentic relationships. With that deep understanding of the customer, we can then tailor our messages, target media based on where our audience is, influence product design, build stronger connections and make critical pivots when behaviors change,” she said. “To drive shape-shifting growth, marketers must unlock these insights and that is only possible with a true relationship and understanding of the customer.”

AI and Automation Adoption

AI is here to stay. CMOs have an enormous opportunity to embrace AI and automation to streamline marketing processes and enhance customer experiences. “For instance, forward-thinking marketing organizations in the E-commerce sector are using AI-powered chatbots at the point of purchase to deliver personalized customer support, thereby fostering superior customer experiences,” said the report. “By capitalizing on AI and automation, CMOs can focus their teams on high-value activities and deliver stories and content more effectively.”

Holistic leadership

CMOs are expected to be exceptional executives, not just great marketers. This involves ensuring marketing’s efforts align with broader business objectives. “Marketing must effectively partner with other leaders and organizations—in particular the chief revenue officer and chief product officer—and speak the business language, plus deliver tangible results,” said Artico Search. “A good measure of a CMO’s effectiveness can be gauged by their ability to drive executive-level initiatives that involve cross-functional teams. For example, a CMO might spearhead a customer acquisition strategy that involves marketing, product, and sales teams. A successful CMO can command respect and exert influence across these different functions.”

Modern CMOs aren’t afraid to be versatile towards their teams, as well. “For many, that may mean being vulnerable and showing up as their whole selves at work,” said the Artico report. “Family, caregiving, parenthood, and other responsibilities at home came front and center during the pandemic. Forward-thinking CMOs are holding onto these concepts and showing their teams that it’s okay to experience tradeoffs.”

Related: Artico Search Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for parcelLab

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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