Demand Gen Report

The B2B CMO Balancing Act

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Michelle Huff

Michelle Huff


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

Michelle Huff: I have seen the role of the CMO start to take on more representation of who the buyers and the customers are — and trying to represent the customer as part of that whole brand experience. We’ve seen it not only in my role at UserTesting, but I’ve seen it just in talking to other CMOs.

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

Huff: I’d argue owning a number puts everyone at risk of being blamed with just the risk of owning one. But I guess how I might flip it is, if it’s really about the sales number, like a revenue goal, I think what it’s doing is having the CMO and the Head of Sales be more responsible to work on those numbers together. Once you start thinking of it as your own number, and Head of Sales thinks of it as a joint number, in many ways you start working on more things together.

Obviously, you’ll be bringing to the table a lot of experience and thought of how we should spend [budget], but you’re letting [sales] bring in their perspectives of what they’re seeing, so there’s an incentive to making sure that we’re spending the dollars and that we’re both hitting the goals.

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

Huff: What I’ve been seeing a lot over the years is that marketing has become much more data-driven and we’ve focused a lot on how we experiment. How do we get more data to show what’s happening within all our systems? We’re experimenting a lot and creating all these different applications. We’re starting to see this disconnect a lot of times between what we’re putting out — our messages , our content, etc. — and the buyer, because I think there’s so much more digital technology in the way. So, there’s now an empathy gap, and part of it is about connecting with our customers even though we’ve never really spoken with the buyers or seen what that experience looks like.

I’d say probably the increased pressure is that we’ve got all the data and we’re starting to see trends and patterns, and people start asking why — and we don’t have that connection all the time with the customers to explain why. I think there’s this pressure to make sure that marketing teams and the head of marketing really starts talking with and having more exposure with dealing with customers, whether from their prospects all the way through actual customers that are using your system.

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


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

Huff: What’s interesting is that I’ve been in this business for more than 20 years and at the beginning I’d say that marketing didn’t have a lot of developer skill sets. When we were working, we oftentimes had to rely on IT teams, and this moment happened where there was a roadblock. So, a lot of things started happening in marketing, where we were taking a lot of the [development] on. What I’ve started to see more often nowadays is CMOs sometimes see  bigger budgets than IT does because we’re spending a lot on technology. What you don’t want to do is spend all your dollars and have overlap across all these systems. You start wanting to see some form of centralization over time because you wanted to have this great customer experience, and you don’t want all these disjointed systems. It’s all the things that in yesteryear were a little bit more of what IT focused on and you’re starting to see that a lot more in marketing teams.

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

Huff: Account-based marketing is one for B2B that is huge. I think we’re still scratching the surface there. I’d say that a lot of the different tools, as mentioned, that help you get closer to the customer experience I think testing tools, where you can reach out and connect with different customers, and I think AI is going to be continue to be huge. I know it’s been more of a talking point, but you can start seeing some of the technologies over time add a bit more and more. I do think that that’s going to be a way for us to continue to scale.

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