The traditional expectations for chief marketing officers (CMOs) are out of date for today’s growth-oriented companies.

"CMOs are struggling with seismic market shifts that threaten their careers," says Lisa Nirell, president of Va.-based EnergizeGrowth LLC, who consults with such B2B market leaders as BMC Software, Adobe, Sony, and IBM. She cites these reasons:

>> Budgets are shifting. Gartner Group predicts CIOs will spend more on IT than they will on CMOs during the next five years. Lines of responsibility have blurred across these organizations, and CMOs no longer can rely solely on their creative and business-generalist abilities.

>> Social media exacerbates cross-departmental and customer tensions. Changing cultural and B2B buying norms, fueled by social media and democratized information, have caused unprecedented departmental tensions and trust issues. They are driving CMOs to shift from pushing their ideas to listening more proactively to their ever-expanding communities.

>> Pressure to demonstrate a return on investment with marketing has reached a fever pitch. During Nirell’s recent CMO breakfast in Washington, D.C., the CMO of a large nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., “lamented the cost and challenges associated with measuring marketing ROI.” According to the consultant, “When he needs approval for key initiatives from the CEO, she demands facts and figures. He cannot always prove the return on their marketing investments in the short term. Many new CMO initiatives are entering uncharted territory."

>> Lines of responsibility across marketing sales are disintegrating. While interviewing the CEO of a fast-growing marketing consultancy that boasts 500 clients, Nirell learned that 48 percent of their B2B CMO clients now carry a quota — and that number is growing. IBM and GE Solutions are also starting to assign quotas to marketing, with GE Solutions breaking its marketing team into  “upstream” and “downstream” groups. “The upstream group focuses on product development, and the downstream group focuses on working with the sales teams," the company explains.

During the past few months, Nirell says she’s met privately with dozens of CMOs to learn how they are addressing these major shifts.

"Their biggest frustration is their inability to win the hearts and minds of the C-suite. I believe their current perceived role is limiting them from reaching their true potential,” she notes. “When I reflect on the traditionally sought-after competencies for a CMO, an image of ‘order taker and service provider’ emerges. Unfortunately, that perception has three limitations: it has become outdated, if not extinct; it restricts marketing’s true potential; and, finally, it perpetuates the belief that anyone can be a marketing expert.”

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