Is your chief marketing officer ready for the boardroom?

Sales Pitch

Herman Alvaranga

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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“The primary purpose of marketing is to create long-term and mutually beneficial exchange relationships between an entity and the publics (individuals and organisations) with which it interacts.”

— Kerin and Peterson (2014)


Although this primary purpose of marketing is timeless, until recently many organisations treated marketing as a low-level function that had a single focus — promotions. The manner in which organisations undertake marketing, and the scope of marketing has been evolving at a steady pace. No longer do marketing managers function solely to direct day-to-day operations. Now they must make strategic decisions as well.


The transition of the marketing manager from being only an implementer to being a maker of organisation strategy has resulted in the creation of the chief marketing officer (CMO) position in many organisations and the popularity of strategic marketing management as a course of study and practice.

One of the most important skills for marketers looking to advance up the career ladder is critical thinking, because a common expectation is that a CMO will assume a major role in strategic management.


“Today, more than ever, marketing managers need to be able to differentiate between gimmicks and those tools that could offer a competitive edge.”

-Chartered Institute of Marketing (December 2017)

The following three responsibilities are at the heart of today's chief marketing officer 's functions as organisations strive for a competitive advantage as a market-led company:

1. Identification of customer requirements.

The first critical task of marketing is to identify the requirements of customers and to communicate them effectively throughout the organisation. This involves conducting or commissioning relevant customer research to uncover, first, who the customers are and, second, what will give them satisfaction.

Customer expectations, wants and needs must all be understood and clearly communicated to those responsible for designing the product or service, those responsible for creating or producing it, and those responsible for delivering it. But you can't rely only on customers' perception of future needs. The best companies are way ahead of their customers and deliver revolutionary products like the Sony Walkman which ultimately gave way to the iPod, etc.

2. Deciding on the competitive positioning to be adopted.

Recognising that markets are heterogeneous and typically made up of various market segments, each having different requirements from essentially similar offerings, leads to the need to decide clearly which target market or markets the organisation will seek to serve. That decision is made on the basis of two main sets of factors: first, how attractive the alternative potential targets are; and second, how well the company can hope to serve each potential target relative to the competition – in other words, the relative strengths or competencies it can bring into play in serving the market.

3. Implementing the marketing strategy.

The third, and arguably the most difficult key task of marketing, is to marshal all the relevant organisational resources to plan and execute the delivery of customer satisfaction. This involves ensuring that all members of the organisation are aware of what is expected of them and are coordinated in their efforts to satisfy customers, and that no actual or potential gaps exist between design, production and delivery.


The skill set required of CMOs includes an analytical ability to interpret extensive market and operational information, an intuitive sense of customer and competitor motivations, and creativity in framing strategic marketing initiatives in light of implementation considerations and financial targets and results.


Most marketers are used to thinking in terms of sales metrics such as customer acquisition cost, return on investment and social reach. But the board uses a lexicon all of its own that relates to financial goals with an emphasis on profit and loss.

If marketers can adjust their language — as well as the text on their presentations — to match this, it's much more likely that their voices will be heard. This ability to be 'bilingual' is a vital skill for marketers looking to advance their careers, and earn their place in the boardroom.

Herman Alvaranga FCIM, MBA, is president of the Caribbean School of Sales & Marketing (CSSM), the region's only CIM-accredited study centre. For more insights on sales and marketing please go to his blog at




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