How to Integrate Marketing Officers into Your Top Team

For every Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) who helps a company create interdepartmental cohesion, there’s a CEO who has no idea what to do with their CMO. A troubling 2012 survey from Fournaise Marketing Group confirms the latter: 80% of CEOs don’t trust or are unimpressed by their marketing officers. The same is not the case for CEOs’ perceptions of CIOs and CFOs.

So, what exactly is going on?

A complex mix of factors plays into this situation. Marketing’s scope has transformed immensely over the last ten years. Social media is the most obvious example. The abundance of startups, disruptors, and technological advances that have touched nearly every industry have put younger, more agile companies on the offensive, and established organizations on the defensive.

In a bid to be relevant or (dare we say it?) go “viral” in this landscape, marketing has been forced to spread itself thin across the company to make the most out of every new product development and customer interaction.

Marketing officers, more than others, are susceptible to these forces. As the world turns, so turns the CMO. In a recent article, we addressed how CMOs can better prepare themselves for their role as a strategic advisor in this shifting landscape.

But the CMO isn’t the only one who must change. CEOs need to understand the value CMOs bring to the company. A critical first step is ensuring that the CMO is a full member of the C-Suite.

Marketing Officers Belong in the C-Suite

One thing that company executives often get wrong is how they view the role of the C-Suite in the first place. Senior executives aren’t just at the table as representatives of their respective departments—their role should be much broader and more strategic.

Think of any C-level executive as a de facto board member: your job when you step into a C-Suite meeting is to put on your business hat and contribute to discussions on any topic, whether relevant to your specialty or not, in a way that supports the company as a whole. As a senior executive, you’re at the table to act as a business advisor first and a specialist second. If every member of the C-Suite enters the room with this mentality, not only are you on a level playing field, but you’re all there with the same purpose: to serve the greater good of the organization.

A marketing officer and two other executives sit at a table talking

Marketing’s place in the C-Suite is just as essential as any other member. As B2B companies adopt customer-centric policies, it’s more important than ever to include CMOs in senior executive meetings—from monthly meetings to quarterly and yearly planning sessions. Marketing activities touch every department: R&D, Sales, Customer Service, Operations, HR, Communications, and Finance. The insight that a marketing officer brings to business strategy and operations makes them an invaluable C-Suite participant.

Leaving the CMO out of senior executive meetings is detrimental to the entire company. These regular C-Suite sessions set the future of the company. Without the CMO’s voice represented, that point of view is not only diminished, but the long-term success of the Marketing department is actually threatened. In these cases, the CMO and their team are often forced into a reactionary—instead of proactive—approach to their efforts and internal collaborations.

Why is this so important?

Take for example last week, when we were in a monthly senior executive meeting. Had our Acting CMO for the company not been in the meeting, we would have missed out on the Sales VP’s six-month plan and ensuing discussion—and we would have been less equipped to provide messaging to support Sales in achieving their goals, and develop a game plan for how Marketing would develop market research for effective territory choices for new reps.

These benefits, of course, aren’t just limited to the Sales–Marketing relationship. By participating in these meetings, Marketing can adjust monthly efforts based on the financial prospects of each quarter, matching spending to cash flow more proactively to keep things running smoothly. The same rings true for every department marketing touches, which is to say all of them.

Whether you already have a CMO or not, the time to bring them into the C-Suite is now.

How to Incorporate Existing Marketing Officers

If you have a marketing officer who has yet to join senior executive meetings, the CEO needs to bring them in—with buy-in from the other execs—to ensure the company is getting the most value from the CMO.

Conference table and chairs in foreground with a marketing officer and other executive blurred in backgroundAdding in another voice to an already crowded C-Suite meeting may sound difficult, but the key is equipping your marketing officer with the knowledge they need before they walk into the conference room. Take the time to get them up to speed on current executive team initiatives and discussions. This may mean giving them access to recent meeting minutes, walking them through the annual strategic plan, or facilitating 1:1 meetings with other executives to help give them the lay of the land.

Once they’re in the room, make sure the CMO is given equal footing as the rest of the team—and make the expectations for their participation clear. It’s not just about showing up, it’s about bringing your brain to the table and fully participating, both as a business advisor and a marketing specialist.

Through years of work in a multitude of companies, we’ve picked up a few techniques to improve workflow and transparency at senior executive meetings.

1. The Red, Yellow, Green (RYG) Report

Some of the companies we work with approach executive meetings by color-coding the status of their initiatives with red, yellow, or green—an age-old tactic often employed in business reporting. That way, the information can be easily conveyed and there’s enough time to get through everyone’s concerns.

The basic idea is that for projects that are running as scheduled and on budget, they’re marked in green. Projects that have a few setbacks are coded yellow, and the ones that are in need of assistance because they’ve gone over time or budget are coded red.

This system keeps meetings focused, with the urgent problems clearly defined.

2. Month-to-Month KPIs

Text image that reads 'KPI' with a tape measure

Other companies use a KPI-driven approach. By presenting the Key Performance Indicators for each department—with ROI numbers when appropriate (see our article on tracking returns on KPIs)—the entire executive team has a snapshot of which elements are excelling, and which need help.

The challenge here is making sure the marketing officer knows which KPIs matter to the rest of the C-Suite. CMOs need to be able to distill their massive, sometimes multi-tentacled efforts into numbers that will help paint a picture of the overall health of the company’s initiatives.

How to Incorporate New or Fractional Hires

In some ways, hiring a new, full-time or fractional Marketing Officer can be easier than incorporating existing CMOs—if only because it avoids some awkward politics.

But it does require some smart onboarding. As a CEO, make yourself available to the new marketing officer—and provide full access to any requested materials in order to facilitate their smooth entry. To ensure a new or part-time CMO’s success, they’ll need access to the following resources (at minimum) upon hire:

  1. The 3-5 year strategic plan
  2. The annual business plan
  3. Minutes and presentations from recent executive meetings
  4. Time with the other executives to understand their marketing needs

These foundational pieces, along with regular sessions with the CEO, make for a jam-packed first month for the CMO. But the payoff is worth it.

Once the CMO is up to speed on the company’s short and long-term vision, they can begin allocating marketing resources appropriately. Say, for example, there’s a new product launch in Q3. The CMO can begin gearing up for that launch in Q1 to ensure everything is seamless: from advising the Product Development team on packaging, to training Customer Service, to coordinating new messaging with Sales.

Successful onboarding of a new CMO means that they can hit the ground running to fully support the executive team with current initiatives across the company. As marketing grows in influence in today’s B2B sector, so too must the influence of the CMO—whether it’s a full-time or fractional marketing officer.

Tips for C-Suite Harmony

Hands of two people playing Jenga as metaphor for marketing officer integration in C-Suite

Here are a few (common sense) tips that can help keep the threat of C-Suite infighting and politicking at bay.

1. Trust their Knowledge

As CEO, you hired the CMO because of their knowledge and vision for the department. As money starts flying out the door (as is typically necessary in Marketing) and results are slow to emerge, be patient with this investment. Marketing strategies like rebrands, search engine optimization, or market research can take time to yield results.

There are countless marketing strategies a company could initiate and it can be tempting to scrap it all and try something new, but trust your CMO’s expertise. For your own sanity, and that of your CMO, do your best to adhere to the next two rules.

2. Offer the Right Kind of Support

It may be tempting for many-a-CEO to take one of two detrimental approaches to working with the CMO: micro-managing or not offering sufficient support. The key to the CEO–CMO relationship is striking a balance between the two.

Provide CMOs with the insider knowledge and roadmaps they’ll need to achieve their goals. But don’t throw new strategies into the middle of other plans. Marketing resources are being spent in a multitude of other departments, and the worst thing for morale is a micro-managing CEO who changes the landscape every other week.

On the same note, taking a hands-off approach can be just as damaging. This approach is often the case, especially with fractional CMOs who come in with clear objectives to fix the department. And it’s also why leaving the marketing officer out of the C-Suite is so detrimental—they don’t get the insights or support from other departments that they need to succeed.

3. Embrace an Integrated Approach

C-Suites are most successful these days when they take a collaborative, integrated approach to company leadership. Gone are the days when isolated silos or headstrong executives can get far on their own. As Marketing continues to reach into multiple areas of the business, CMOs that are met with collaborative teammates will be best supported in driving through their multifaceted initiatives. This means open, ongoing communication among the C-Suite between meetings and additional time with different senior executives to work together towards strategic objectives. The more integrated efforts are between departments, the more streamlined things like the customer journey, customer experience, and sales process will be—which all contribute to the bottom line.

The underlying theme here is communication: be open and straightforward with your marketing officer and the rest of the C-Suite. Before you know it, the cohesion between marketing and other senior executives will start to show in ways that you least expected.

Need help bringing marketing into the C-Suite fold? Get in touch for a free consultation to start getting the support you need during this critical process.