How many of us routinely see the CMO or other senior marketing executive in the boardroom? And not just presenting to the board or getting grilled by them before leaving. I’m talking about the CMO actually sitting as part of the board committee.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen this. I bet the answer is similar for most marketers.
It baffles me because the CMO is the person driving growth from a deeper understanding of the customer. So, why aren’t there more CMOs in the boardroom?
What The CMO Can Bring To The Boardroom
Your sales and marketing team members are the people who are closest to your customers. The sales team interacts with retail customers and hears about changing shopper behavior. Marketers stay close to the end consumer through research, data-driven campaigns and trends. Your sales and marketing people can be alerted to behavioral shifts even before you may see it in the numbers.
The only people who might have more contact with customers are those in corporate social responsibility (CSRs). They may predominately hear negative insights, but those consumers cared enough to call in versus outright reject or negatively share online. And CSRs have a direct opportunity to care for an unhappy consumer, ensuring that complaints can shift to new considerations.
So, your CMO understands the needs of your consumer. Their team is interacting directly with people, so they are the best people to measure the customer climate. Every day, their team is analyzing brand health, checking in on brand recognition, gauging customer loyalty and looking into any feedback that would alert them to look into something more deeply.
The bottom line, the CMO is the pulse of your consumer and therefore the voice of the consumer in any boardroom or board-level discussion.
Why Bringing The CMO In Makes Sense
Beyond that, your CMO is the person you’ve put in charge of your brand. They’re strategizing about how to reach your customers. They’re thinking about the messaging. They’re the ones looking at your brand vision and saying, “This is how we execute.”
So why are you not involving them in discussions about where the brand is going? Often a boardroom discussion may be related to operations or structure and never consider that an internal decision will be felt by the end consumer.
Boards are typically filled with operations and finance people who then make decisions related to the brands. This can cause them to vote subjectively without the depth of skills or insights to make the right decisions. Would you go to a lawyer to understand why you have pain? Board members will make decisions from their areas of expertise without consideration to the impact on the end consumer: the most valuable asset inside a business.
Your CMO has the answers — and yet, few of us are asking them. If you’re going to put the CMO in charge of your brand and your consumer, why are you leaving them out of key decision making? Why are you not asking for their insights here?
The very few times I’ve seen marketing execs sitting on boards, they’ve shown how they see the brand vision and the building blocks to get there better than anyone else in the room. The results speak for themselves as that consumer’s voice is considered in all decision making.
In simple terms: Your CMO gets your brand and your consumer. The decisions they help make in the boardroom are going to line up with your brand and your purpose. And that helps release the full sales potential of your brand purpose.
What’s Holding Us Back?
So, if it is so important, why don’t we put more CMOs in the boardroom? The answer has to do with how a lot of us see marketing. Many companies see marketing as a cost center, where the first cuts are made to the budget. Companies invest when times are good, then hit an off switch when they hit a rough patch, which is actually the time when they should keep the investment going. Many brands get lift-off, then invest the money to take to the skies, allowing competitors to come in and take those consumers and market share.
Overall, many companies don’t see marketing as integral to the health of their brand; they don’t see the consumer engine in the organization as marketing. Instead, sales in most companies is seen as the engine. In that climate, it’s easy to see your CMO as less important than some of the other decision-makers in your business.
You can tell the organizations that would have a CMO on the board. You can see the benefit through those brands never taking their eye off their consumer. All decisions internal and external have implications on how the consumer is cared for. Does it make sense that the person with the best understanding of your brand is out in the cold as you make internal decisions that will impact the brand?
It’s easy to see why so many boards come up with a corporate vision and strategies that are completely out of line with the brand’s purpose. It’s not a surprise when the messaging doesn’t work or the vision doesn’t speak to the core of the brand.
The correction for this is simple. Invite your CMO to the boardroom more often. Let them sit on the board. Get their insights and value them for the unique perspective that only they can provide. After all, you’ve charged them with taking care of your brand, so why aren’t you letting them do their jobs?