A Forbes blogger posted an article called, "Is the CMO Role Dying or Thriving?" Here is how it starts:
What’s happening to the CMO role? This question has been hot for a couple of years. Some suggest the role is nominal and “dying” while others suggest it is bigger, more complex, and more important than ever before.
I would love to know who claims it's dying. According to executive search firms that serve the legal industry, there have been more law firms seeking highly qualified CMOs in 2012 (and now in Q1 2013) than there were in the previous three years combined.
Blogger Kimberly Whitler conducted a quick survey of CMOs before she appeared on a panel at the CMO Exchange conference. She admits that the survey was more directionally interesting than methodologically sound – and it turns out that what she found in this survey is consistent with what I believe is happening. Her panel was called "The Evolving Role of the CMO."
Whitler's survey respondents described their CMO world as "moving" and "changing" (not "shifting" – which seems a little hair-splitty to me) in tsunami-like proportion. She says, "Consumer beliefs have radically changed with 76% of consumers not believing that companies tell the truth in advertising (Yankelovich 2005)."
She's talking about consumer skepticism here – but what do we know about the beliefs held by clients of law firms and how they've changed the last few years? We've read the stories, conducted the satisfaction/loyalty interviews, and understand fundamentally that there is less work to go around and less across-the-board loyalty awarded by clients to their law firms. And our law firm CMOs are the ones on the front lines figuring this out.
Whitler says, "CMOs have often been the leaders who harness this understanding and lead the requisite internal change to adapt to the market. If the market, consumer, and environment are changing dramatically, it’s a foregone conclusion that the CMO’s role is as well." Amen.
So – what are some of the changes that Whitler and her CMO respondents predict?
1. "The technology revolution has led to the CMO role revolution. Gartner, in fact, recently suggested that by 2017, the CMO will manage more of the IS spend than the CIO will." Proving Whitler's statement about Gartner, I found this written by a Gartner researcher, "Marketing is purchasing significant marketing-related technology and services from their own capital and expense budgets – both outside the control of the internal IT organization and in conjunction with them."
As the CEO of a company that sells marketing and business development technologies for professional services firms (websites, mobile sites and apps, experience databases, proposal systems), we are on the front lines of this trend. The law firm CMO is leading these initiatives with very specific and measureable goals in mind — to save time and grow revenue. There is no other administrative or functional role in the law firm – outside of the lawyers – who has responsibility for client retention, expansion and revenue growth as does the CMO. A deep understanding of technology processes and tools is critical.
2. Whitler states that "If current CMOs don't change, a new breed will surpass them." She continues, "Radical change requires significant growth in knowledge, skill, and competency. Big data requires math, stats, and problem solving skills. A technology revolution requires an appreciation for systems, technology, and process. Consumer belief and behavior change requires a thirst for – and knowledge of – stats, research, and deep, unique insight. Significant integration between technology, finance, and marketing requires superior leadership and strategy skills."
Smart law firm leaders are seeking CMOs who can rise to this level, who can effectively manage teams that cover the broad gamut of historical marketing communications and business development initiatives, and who can find, understand and synthesize financial and other data that gives the firm a competitive advantage.
Whitler concludes by suggesting that the people who predict that CMOs are "dying" are those that are trying to cash-in on their demise in some way — consultants and vendors perhaps.
I see 2013 and the next two – three years as the most exciting for our industry's smartest CMOs. Enormous amounts of work to do, but the possibilities for success will be tangible and measureable – more than ever before.