How CMOs can top the new marketing league table

I find this time of year conducive to taking a pause, reflecting on what’s gone before, and then turning my attention to the year ahead.

It may seem like a cliché, but I always make New Year’s Resolutions. And mine are anchored to my four personal values – values that shape my decisions at home and at work. A classic resolution at this time of year is to be physically fitter, whether that’s getting out for a run every week or setting an achievement challenge to aim for, like a marathon. For many marketing professionals, our work goals for 2022 also include becoming ‘fitter’ and more agile!

Talking to our clients and those who join our regular CMO Community roundtable discussions, I know that the past 20 months have been particularly challenging for marketing leaders. Customers have radically altered their buying behaviours against a backdrop of shrinking budgets and increased pressure from the business to take the lead on customer experience and drive growth. Widespread digital transformation has made the marketing landscape more complex, with many new technologies and tools to explore. And the explosion in channels has massively increased the number of touchpoints and the volume of data that needs to be analysed. To put it simply, CMOs are dealing with a huge amount of clutter today.

As CMOs, how can you cut through this clutter? First, it’s helpful to understand what the global picture tells us about how marketing is changing and what leaders can expect from the future. Our latest CMO research, which involved 1,000 senior marketing executives across multiple industries and countries, reveals the emergence of a new marketing league table made up of three distinct profiles: Survivors at the bottom, then Strivers and – topping the table – Thrivers.

These groups were determined based on specific aspects of how they treat their customer relationships, including how energised they are to serve changing customer needs, how close they are to customers in understanding their values and motivations for purchase, and how quickly they’ve been able to pivot – bringing the entire organisation with them – to continue to create customer value and drive growth during the pandemic. To help you work out where you sit in the league table today, and what you can do to move up the table over the coming months, I wanted to share some insights with you about these distinct groups:

Survivors are burned out

Making up 17% of those we surveyed, Survivors are struggling. Clinging on to the belief that the world will go back to how it was pre-pandemic, they’ve lost sight of their customers’ changing needs, desires and expectations. Sadly, Survivors don’t have either the mindsets or methods to adapt, and their teams are at breaking point as a result.

Strivers are persevering

The largest group by far (66% of those surveyed), Strivers are working hard and doing their best to make an impact. They have some autonomy to meet customer needs but limited awareness of customer changes. They’re not yet in a position to fully embrace the benefits of digital transformation and create value in new ways. Put simply, they have the will but not always the way to do what needs to be done.

Thrivers are fired up

For Thrivers, who make up 17% of global marketing leaders, it’s very much a case of out with the old and in with the (streamlined) new. Interestingly, our research reveals that UK marketers are a third more likely to be Thrivers than their international counterparts. They know there’s no going back to how things used to be and are boldly redefining how marketing gets done. With a laser focus on customers, they’re able to serve them in smarter, better ways. As a result, they’re not only doing more rewarding work; customer satisfaction and lifetime value have increased, and the business is enjoying a significant performance premium too!  

The brilliant news is that there’s no ‘end of season’ deadline. This is a rolling marketing league table and even if you’re not yet a Thriver, you can still make it to the top! And while some of the CMOs I’ve spoken to recently are clearly thriving, others are still on the journey. For me, what stands out amongst the Thrivers is their mindset, their creativity, the way they’ve seized the opportunity to do things difficulty – to do things better – during this crisis that we’ve all been living and working through.

I’m keen to delve deeper into what it takes to be a Thriver, so watch this space for more thoughts from me soon!


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