CMO’s Want to Have Their Cake and Eat It Too



AdAge reports the latest Spencer Stuart survey shows 300 CMO’s cake(chief marketing officers) looking to survive the downturn by concentrating on short-term strategies at the expense of mid and long term outlooks. Even with this attitude they are able to say that they can emerge after the clouds break on this recession with the growth they all need. While the article charges these folks as traditionally optimistic this type of thinking appears to be more wishful than anything else.

Another Stuart survey showed that the average tenure of a CMO these days is 28 months so maybe this is why long and mid term growth strategies are more easily shelved. By the time a new CMO in a sizable organization gets their ‘sea legs’ half of that period could well be gone thus not leaving much time to anything but short term survival moves considering the TTL (time to live) these folks have.

Back to the survey

Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said they are measuring success differently in the economic downturn, focusing on controlling expense budgets (60%), retaining high-value customers (49%) and demonstrating positive return on marketing investments (48%). In other words, they are focused on sustaining rather than growing

If we take a look at the chart below however, there is the curious notion that amidst all of this cost cutting and customer retention is the need to gain in market share.

cmo-survey-52009

Gaining market share requires efforts that require budget and that budget is used to attract new customers which is usually a very different tactic than that needed to retain and grow current customers. CMO’s would like to have their cake and eat it too according to this but something needs to give.

This apparent ‘opposite ends of the spectrum’ mentality may explain why so many marketing efforts seem so haphazard. Marketers are always looking for new ways to reach customers and prospects but in today’s rapidly changing marketing world the flexibility required often comes at the expense of longer term efforts. Add to the mix the survival mode that this recession has put everyone in and you have an interesting recipe. Whether it is one for disaster or success will go a long way toward making that average tenure number for CMO’s go up or down.

Lisa Baird, CMO of the US Olympic Committee echoes this dilemma

“I don’t think you can ever give up on the strategic direction of an organization,” she said. “While there’s a need to be responsive in this environment, no doubt … nothing you do in the short term should conflict with or be inconsistent with your long-term strategy.”

So how are you handling the balancing act of keeping costs down, surviving the short-term mess and still keeping the future in sight? Is it possible or are we just being too optimistic?