CMO Leadership Vision for 2023

lightbulb in the middle of a mass of ideas.

2023 presents a distinct challenge for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), who face volatile market conditions caused by the lingering effects of the pandemic, supply chain disruption, inflationary price increases, and geopolitical instability. 

To succeed in the coming year, CMOs must focus on the activities that deliver the biggest impact. To that end, we’ve identified three areas for the attention of CMOs, guided by our attendance at a Gartner webinar on the topic. 

Let’s take a closer look at the lessons for CMOs in 2023. 

Provide Value to Customers 

Environmental factors such as unpredictable digital buying behaviors are changing priorities for CMOs, who are still expected to deliver growth in the face of unprecedented challenges. 

According to Gartner research, there has been a change in shopping routines caused by high inflation, leading to a decrease in in-store shopping and an increase in online shopping. At the same time, the 2021 Gartner Personalization Survey revealed that customers are increasingly savvy about digital privacy, with 81% turning off data tracking on their phones and 75% using ad blockers. 

The increasing movement of customers online, coupled with their reluctance to be tracked, means CMOs must find new ways of interacting with them. One option is to better use customer data to deliver more tailored interactions between brands and customers. Aiming for high-value personalization strategies like triggered delivery (where targeted users only enter a campaign after completing a specific action like completing a purchase), hyper-personalized content, and more inter-connected customer journeys can help win back sceptical consumers. 

According to Gartner, these better-orchestrated customer journeys are the key element to creating customer value. Therefore, CMOs should focus their marketing efforts on genuinely helping customers in their journeys – whether providing personalized recommendations at the time of acquisition or providing a post-purchase help desk to boost customer loyalty.  

Luckily, thanks to modern marketing tools such as audience insight generation and content management platforms that support multiple channels, marketing teams are well-placed to provide help to customers wherever they need it. 

In 2023, marketing teams should start by identifying customer needs and fostering connections with them. CMOs are set to deliver improved value across all their digital channels, provided they focus on customer-led engagement. 

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Improve Cross-Functional Collaboration 

In one of its more surprising findings, Gartner found that 58% of marketers who exceeded their customer acquisition goal last year relied on independent planning—seemingly flying in the face of the modern business impulse to break down silos and collaborate between departments. Indeed, the same survey found that few marketers preferred planning independently, with only 21% believing they should plan that way, compared to 42% collaboratively. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean CMOs should go rogue and stop collaborating with the wider organization. Instead, in 2023, there is an imperative to stop the rot and fix whatever it is that is making cross-functional collaboration ineffective. 

One place to start is restructuring teams for improved organizational alignment, by evolving existing operating models to make cross-functional collaboration easier. Gartner recommended CMOs diagnose whether marketing’s existing operational model supports digital revenue growth by asking questions to identify limitations in the model, including: 

  • Would an in-house agency model align with the broader organization’s structure? 
  • Would a center of excellence improve collaboration across teams? 
  • Would a shared services model improve prioritization and workflow management? 

External agencies can complement internal marketing models by filling gaps in expertise, helping them to create more engaging content, enhance brand awareness, and drive lead generation. Among the benefits of hiring an external agency is access to an outside perspective on turning a potentially complex offering into accessible content and a source of industry knowledge necessary for establishing a reputation as a thought leader. 

By selecting the right blend of external and in-house agencies, centers of excellence, shared services, newsrooms, project pods, and other operating models CMOs can boost collaboration to meet the business challenges of the coming year.  

Optimize Digital Brand Value 

The presence of increasingly disruptive market dynamics in 2023 doesn’t mean that CMOs should go into survival mode and lose sight of building high-value brands. 

Many of the traditional pathways to brand value have been blocked, however. The impact of brand awareness has been lessened by the fact that there are now 60% more companies globally than in the year 2000. Not only that, but the average lifespan of an S&P 500 Index company has decreased by 34% since 1965. Pair that with changing audience expectations post-pandemic and the path to brand value is far from obvious.  

Customers themselves are picking up on these changes. According to the 2022 Gartner Brand Activation Survey, 53% of audiences said it’s less important now to choose a well-known brand than it was three years ago. Not only that, but 55% agreed that big corporations are to blame for many of society’s problems. 

In the face of such hostility, CMOs must make the most of brand-building budgets by focusing on the channels where audiences already have the best interactions with brands. The digital channel particularly stands out in this regard, with 46% of consumers, B2B buyers, and employees identifying it as the place where they have the most meaningful experiences.  

By focusing efforts on the digital arena, where audience-brand interactions are the strongest, CMOs can boost brand health and get the most bang for their buck out of their 2023 investment. 

Lessons for 2023 

It remains to be seen whether CMOs can take the necessary action to succeed in the coming year, which promises to present some powerful headwinds. Achieving efficient growth in 2023 means adapting their strategies for a rapidly changing world, focusing on customer value, evolving the marketing function, and prioritizing digital to optimize brand value.  

Of course, if you’re feeling overawed by the challenges 2023 is set to present, it may be a good idea to take stock of how your marketing efforts currently stack up. Get in touch with our team to identify opportunities for refinement and improvement, helping you to become 2023-ready.

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