With the speed and complexity of business operations, executive collaboration is an underutilized strategy. In fact, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, collaboration and trust were cited as two critical criteria for hiring new executives and making executive promotions. This is why trusted executive partnerships, such as the CMO relationship with other executives, have shifted from “important” to “essential” for businesses.
These research findings got me thinking about the most critical CMO-CXO relationships. To be clear, all relationships are important. However, in today’s digital- and buyer-driven world, I would argue that the three most urgent CMO partnerships are:
- Human Resources (CHRO)
- Finance (CFO)
- Technology (CIO)
Let’s explore these CMO-CXO relationships and where executives can focus to create more value together.
The CMO-CHRO Relationship
The relationship between the CMO and the CHRO enables them to team up to find talent and create productive organizations. Marketing talent is hard to find. Today, Marketing’s organizational design is not set up for success. Unfortunately, the CMO-CHRO partnership is inconsistent and often tactical.
Human Resources and Marketing can change this quickly by collaborating and focusing on the gaps. For instance, there are approximately one million B2B Marketing jobs openings at any given time. CMOs need experienced Marketing pros to develop and deliver digital strategies and experiences that their buyers expect.
Companies are lacking Marketers with a deep understanding of how to use customer data and apply advanced analytics to make smarter investments. So, in order to fill these gaps, effective CMO-CHRO partnerships are rethinking how they identify, hire, and inspire the right mix of Marketing pros. The innovation examples are plentiful. New talent strategies range from partnering with or creating in-house digital universities to recruiting data quants from other professions and market sectors.
Even with strong talent, Marketing’s organizational design is not optimized to meet current digital business requirements. Too many internal silos exist within the Marketing organization. For example, CMOs typically organize their digital and demand generation talent around a single buyer channel. This includes events, advertising, social media, and more. This organizational design has these siloed teams spending precious budgets going after the same buyers.
Unintentionally, marketers are competing for buyer attention and likely pushing buyers away. By integrating these specialty roles into collaborative units – such as “digital,” “operational,” “delivery” and “field” teams – Marketing holistically captures buyer preferences. Furthermore, it can tailor cross-channel buyer engagement.
The CMO-CFO Relationship
The partnership between the CMO and the CFO focuses on growth strategies and ROI. Marketing is facing a credibility challenge. Also, Marketing is often viewed as a cost center with an inability to measure and demonstrate business value. By partnering with the CFO, CMOs can quickly gain allies to help Marketing optimize business impact.
Heads up: Because of the left-brain, right-brain differences of the two teams, this is rarely a natural relationship. Once you establish the partnership and trust, the rewards are big. The CMO-CFO collaboration can focus on high-impact work. For example, they can focus on developing growth strategies. Together, they can also shift Marketing from a support function to a high-value business contributor.
Growth strategies are game-changing initiatives. This can involve identifying new markets, evaluating strategic acquisitions, and creating smarter business models. The key is to utilize the strengths of each team. CMOs are skilled at creating new market opportunities as well as understanding customer priorities. However, they’re not always skilled at executing across the organization. On the other hand, Finance leaders have the tools and know-how to analyze and quantify business models. They make data-driven business cases and operationalize important growth strategies.
Addressing the credibility challenge, CMOs can lock arms with the CFO to operationalize and measure Marketing’s impact. This collaboration starts with setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that directly link to company objectives. It involves creating shared dashboards to measure Marketing’s results and improving performance.
Next-level impact happens when the CFO and CMO team up to develop data-driven processes. For example, the “lead-to-revenue” process defines Marketing’s role in revenue generation. In many companies, CMOs default to Sales for revenue generation, missing valuable counsel from the office of the CFO. Ultimately, the CMO-CFO collaboration creates organizational transparency and accountability for all stakeholders.
The CMO-CIO Relationship
The collaboration of the CMO and the CIO leads to a data- and digital-driven business. CMOs and CIOs traditionally haven’t worked together as closely as other executive teams. However, this is changing. Why? As prospects and customers increasingly research, buy, and interact with your business digitally, this executive collaboration is essential to modernizing how companies do business.
The CMO-CIO partnership combines CMO prospect, customer, and market knowledge with CIO tech and data experience to lead digital transformation. Improving experiences through mobile apps and integrating customer and prospect data across channels as well as applying machine learning to better serve audiences are just a few examples of what’s needed and possible.
Three areas that CMOs and CIOs can master driving digital business include:
- A company-wide strategy to empower digital business – Craft a digital-first approach and vocally lead and advocate across the company and key stakeholders.
- An agile, real-time, and secure infrastructure to deliver business with confidence – Plot and blueprint how to migrate your apps and infrastructure to the cloud, focusing on balancing frictionless access with data privacy.
- An intelligent data strategy with intuitive, accessible dashboards – Assign ownership and accountability to CXO and Board-level leaders, ensure funding. Staff with talent that includes data strategists, data architects, and data administrators.
CXO Partnerships: Think Water Polo Match vs Swim Competition
Too many business leaders apply “stay in your swim lane” organizational and operational thinking. I see business leadership as a “water polo” match that puts the right players in the best positions to capitalize on an opportunity, regardless of the department. The markets we compete in and buyers we serve move too fast to narrowly define lanes based on departments. By the time we figure out what lanes we need to be in, our market opportunity vanishes.
To underline the executive water polo thinking for CMOs, partnering with the office of the CFO delivers growth strategies and ROI models. Locking arms with CHRO can ensure you have the right organizational design and team to deliver on accelerating your business. And finally, an effective CIO-CMO partnership can modernize your business.