Demand Gen Report

The B2B CMO Balancing Act

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Derek Slayton

Derek Slayton


Demand Gen Report: How has the B2B CMO role changed and evolved over the last year or two?

Derek Slayton: I think recently, and prior to recently, it has changed dramatically from the arts and crafts department to being inside revenue and more measurable things. I think in the last year and a half that it’s swung back a bit in B2B — less focused on marketing metrics and more focused on two things. One is getting marketing even more aligned with sales around real business outcomes like revenue as opposed to leads or MQLs, or email and database growth that we were measuring five to six years ago. Also, refocusing on the customer experience and brand, and mapping the companies brand promise to how it gets fulfilled in the minds of the customer through the subscription lifecycle. I think it’s evolved away from marketing metrics and gone back to what marketing used to be — which is about evolving brands and the customer experience, and pushing even further on the business side around aligning marketing even closer to revenue versus marketing metrics.

DGR: As expectations for driving revenue and growth increase, does that put CMOs at risk as potential scapegoats for failing to hit sales milestones?

Slayton: Absolutely — in a good way though. What I’ve seen in my career, as well as the people that we service at Terminus, is that the CMO is more part of the inner circle of the executive team than I’ve seen previously. It used to be an important role, but when two or three of individuals were going to get in a room and talk strategy for the company,  it was usually the finance officer, the CEO and many times the sales head. Now, we’re seeing marketing be part of the mix and marketing is more focused on bringing leverage and scale to the company in a more profitable and efficient way. In that role, yes, you’re absolutely part of the solution and part of the problem if it’s not going well.

DGR: In addition to increased pressure to drive revenue and show ROI, what are some of the other top challenges that CMOs are facing?

Slayton: Team is a big one and continuing to evolve the structure of marketing to best fit what the company is asking marketing to do. When marketing had a narrower charter around product positioning, company positioning and lead gen, you could organize the marketing team around product marketing, communications and lead gen. Now, as marketing has taken on more of a broader role — everything from customer experience or customer success rolled into marketing and sometimes sales development can be rolled into marketing — marketing is now supporting sales in new ways. So, how do you hire talent that can interact and talk with sales, that can interact and talk with customers, that can create advocacy and whatnot out in the market? Continuing to find people who are creative, process-oriented and analytical, and building teams around those skills sets is difficult. As marketing gets continually pushed to be more measurable by things like revenue, it’s important for us to also take a longer term view than just this month, this quarter, this year — to how are we going to set this company up for success in years two through five and be more focused on the market and where the market is evolving? How do you make sure your company is skating to where the puck is in terms of what’s happening in the market? Sometimes marketers get too focused on the measurement around qualified leads or even revenue and miss the opportunity to be the representor of the market for the company, which is where the term marketing I think originated from.

DGR: In the coming years, what do you see as the top priorities for B2B CMOs?

Slayton: Ensuring that the companies brand promise is understood and aligned with what the company is delivering to the customers at the end of the day – so that whole customer experience to brand connection is a big piece. Also that there’s a unit economic model for creating business in the company that’s profitable, so that the company understands how to attract and retain their best customers at a price point that makes the expense worthwhile. I think those are the two of the big areas where most of your marketers are focusing on — customer experience, brand, unit economics, predictable revenue and increasing lifetime value to customer ratios.

DGR: With incorporating tech and aligning it with strategy becoming a bigger imperative for marketers, has the approach to technology changed for CMOs?

Slayton: I think we geeked out on technology too much and we’re paying the price for it now in B2B marketing especially. Now, most marketers that I talk to are trying to get back to basics on what the needs are, what technology is needed to fulfill those and getting more away from buying technology for technology sake. I do think that getting more out of fewer applications and understanding more of what needs to be done versus what sounds interesting to do is where marketers are with assessing their tech stacks.

DGR: What technologies do you see as the top priorities for B2B CMOs over the next year or two? 

Slayton: I think continuing to make sure the technology they’re using is oriented around how they’re going to business and making sure that if they’re selling to complicated accounts that they have technology that aligns to understanding those customers and those accounts at an account level is incredibly critical. There’s some new stuff that we’re seeing in the market around AI and machine learning and I think that’s coming. I think the technology needs to allow the marketing teams to be both creative and also apply their own judgement based on what they’re hearing and learning from their customers as opposed to thinking technology can find the answer.

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