13 current chief marketer nightmares

by Tom Kaneshige. For CMOs, these may be the best of times or the worst of times, but most certainly they’re the most stressful of times.

by Tom Kaneshige.  As leaders of digital transformation and the customer experience, CMOs have a lot on their minds. Marketing decisions need to be made that impact revenue growth in the increasingly digitalised customer journey. Growing ranks of self-serve consumers put a spotlight on marketing’s activities at the top of the funnel. For CMOs, these may be the best of times or the worst of times, but most certainly they’re the most stressful of times.

Brand engagement and customer loyalty research consultancy Brand Keys asked 407 CMOs what keeps them up at night and found a litany of bad dreams. Covid continues to be a big reason for insomnia, as CMOs grapple with supply chain woes. Managing a work-from-home workforce presents new challenges. There’s inflation, competition and innovation pressure underscored by the constant need to prove marketing’s value to the C-suite.

Oh, we can’t forget the fickle customer. Through the rise of e-commerce, consumers readily abandon brands with the click of a button. “The nightmare that has taken on ‘monster-in-the-closet’ status is ‘keeping consumers engaged with my brand’,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys. Here are Brand Key’s top 13 nightmares, along with CMO Council’s commentary:

1. ROI and ROMI (return on marketing investment)

CMO Council’s Take: CMOs should reimagine the venerable marketing metric customer lifetime value (LTV) to show marketing’s value to business leaders. We found that the majority of CEOs (53%), as well as heads of sales (49%), line-of-business leaders (44%), heads of business development (38%), chief financial officers (35%) and chief revenue officers (35%), leverage LTV to drive strategic decisions. Check out our report, Humanizing + Analyzing Relationships To Drive Revenue, Retention and Returns.

2. COVID and related employee management issues

CMO Council’s Take: What COVID lessons have you learned about a remote workforce? “Because we’re all virtual now, communication has gotten so much better,” says CMO Sonia Sahney of MI and CT at GE Healthcare, in our report. “I can let global colleagues, different businesses and regional teams know I’m doing an event on a specific date and see if anyone else is doing something similar.” Check out our report, NextGen Events: Optimized for Outcomes.

3. Supply chain snafus & 4. Inflation

CMO Council’s Take: In a connected, global economy, the CMO’s leadership role and responsibilities go well beyond marketing and into operations and revenue growth, supply chain and inflation. CMOs are now CEOs-in-waiting who need the right networks behind them. Check out our blog, The Value of Peer-Powered Executive Affinity Groups.

5. Competition from new brands

CMO Council’s Take: National brands compete with emerging competitors at the local level. In fact, the local partner channel can account for up to 80% of a national brand’s sales. It’s a good idea to to deploy digital marketing tactics such as search, social and online review management to local business partners in order to compete with new brands. Check out our strategic brief, Revenue Gain From the Local Demand Chain.

6. Addressing innovation, AI, metaverse, marketing automation

CMO Council’s Take: We all know AI is marching toward the enterprise, bringing massive disruption and promising outcomes to marketing operations. While marketers were slowly adopting AI prior to the pandemic, there’s no question it’s surging now. Check out our blog, AI Advances Toward Marketing

7. Optimising and owning CX and the customer journey

CMO Council’s Take: Nearly seven out of 10 marketing leaders are still developing or defining their CX strategy, while a sobering 40% believe it will take well over a year to deliver ideal CX. Challenges lie in both technology and talent. What steps should you take to overcome them? Check out our report, Data-Driven Decisioning Powers CX Forward.

8. Establishing trust between brand and consumer

CMO Council’s Take: Three out of four consumers are more likely to consider purchasing from brands that personalise and reflect their values and interests. People want to feel special and will click away if they receive boneheaded marketing messages that expose a brand’s cluelessness about them. Check out our blog, Business Is Personal.

9. Consumer expectations regarding privacy, transparency and corporate social responsibility (CSR)

CMO Council’s Take: We’re seeing an unprecedented number of global brands expressing their affinity with the Ukrainian people and denouncing the Russian invasion in many material ways. It’s the power of brand purpose and CSR to repulse Russia’s offensive. Check out our blog, Brands Bucking Russia and our List of Brands Taking a Stand.

10. Deployment of predictive consumer behaviour analytics

CMO Council’s Take: When customers receive outdated, irrelevant or mismatched marketing messages, the brand looks inept at best and uncaring at worst. The culprit is often an AI engine that fails to recommend an appropriate next-best action. Check out our webinar,  Why Marketing Messages Succeed and Fail.

11. Proliferation of digital channels

CMO Council’s Take: Consumers across generations and geographies are moving to digital channels, and running into all sorts of problems. Nearly three out of four frustrated consumers consider spending their dollars elsewhere. Check out our report, How Covid Has Changed the Channels of Engagement.

12. Developing long-term/new strategies that align with corporate growth goals

CMO Council’s Take: We found that CMOs who work well with IT get the most out of MarTech and are also more likely to be responsible for digital transformation, customer experience and revenue generation— i.e., the “big three.” These CMOs play a leadership role in the future of the company. Check out our report, CMOs Lead Into the Light.

13. Keeping customers engaged with the brand

CMO Council’s Take: There’s no question customer engagement suffered with the loss of in-person events. But now they’re coming back. Brands need to make sure NexGen events lead to better brand awareness, lead generation, retention and loyalty. Check out our report, NextGen Events: Optimized for Outcomes.


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Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles.


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