3 Ways CMOs Can Gain C-Suite Confidence

Thanks to the rise of digital technology and the increasing importance of the customer, today’s CMO is rapidly moving into the spotlight.

Yet CMOs often lack the confidence to realize their full potential and gain the acceptance they deserve in the C-suite, according to our recent survey of Fortune 500 executives. Their lack of participation in C-suite conversations may result in lost opportunities for the business.

Why have CMOs struggled? And as a CMO, how can you elevate your stature to participate in critical discussions? Our research suggests that greater self-awareness may be a first step toward greater influence, but CMOs must also be ready to contribute to strategic discussions.

Here are three ways that CMOs can begin to elevate their influence:

Give yourself permission

Out of all the C-suite executives we surveyed, CMOs were the least likely to perceive themselves as high performers—only 5 percent of CMOs gave themselves high marks even when their C-suite peers thought otherwise. Some CMOs unknowingly relegate themselves to the sidelines of strategic conversations.

CMOs can start to break this pattern by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Don’t just play it safe after achieving a certain amount of career success. Embrace the opportunity to take professional risks and accept a more strategic role.

Part of that is not asking permission before acting. CMOs are respected by the rest of the C-suite for their understanding of the customer. CMOs should recognize this strength and position themselves to drive conversations about the customer, fill knowledge gaps and collaborate with peers.

Own the customer experience

The CMO is often the C-suite executive best placed to champion the customer’s voice, yet they are not seen as leading the customer experience conversation; our study found only 11 percent of peers perceive the CMO as leading the conversation. CMOs alone can help the organization appreciate the experiences their customers have and hold the data to prove how those experiences impact customer behavior.

CMOs should work to understand what the data tells them about keeping current customers and attracting target customers. That understanding positions the CMO to become the C-suite’s go-to person on customer experience, even if direct responsibility may lie in other areas of the organization.

To take ownership of the customer experience, CMOs must piece together the mosaic of the customer journey and use technology to move from isolated marketing campaigns to mapping and owning the entire customer journey. By bringing customer insights and expectations to the C-suite, CMOs become important players in strategic decisions.

CMOs increase their acceptance by other C-suite partners by speaking their language and adding value to their work. Instead of talking about awareness and purchase, talk about customer acquisition and close rate.

CMOs should also strive to never leave the customer out of the conversation. They must keep the voice of the customer central to strategic decisions and help the C-suite see risk factors, such as too much focus on short-term revenue, a failure to anchor efforts around true competitive differentiators, or becoming too far removed from the deep motivators behind customer behaviors.

Be the first to connect

As organizations become more connected with customers, partners and employees, collaboration is necessary for the successful execution of strategy. Still, we see CMOs collaborating at one of the lowest rates in the C-suite; only 17% of C-suite executives in our study reported having collaborated with CMOs over the previous 12 months.

CMOs can work to connect and find opportunities to join forces with their colleagues on issues that are important to each, looking for ways to use customer insight to help each CxO reach his or her goals.

Start by finding problems you can solve together. CMOs are often left out of critical collaborations, and the omission has an impact on CMO confidence. The onus to initiate collaborative efforts is on the CMO. Confident CMOs work as trusted partners, understand their peers’ strategic pressures and propose ways to enable joint success.

CMOs can enhance relationships with peers by being conversant in other areas of business besides marketing. C-suite peers want to hear that the impact of a marketing campaign on the sales force has been thoughtfully considered.

To further their role as collaborators, CMOs should build an external network to bolster the internal one. CMOs have access to external data as well as customer data and their feedback. They can bring in independent research or report on their own experiences to bring a fresh perspective to C-suite conversations.

Confidence leads to more confidence

By bringing a unique perspective to the C-suite, CMOs can empower their fellow leaders to make more informed decisions and elevate the focus on the customer experience.

It’s time for CMOs to give themselves permission to lead with confidence, fill in knowledge gaps in the C-suite, and collaborate with C-suite teammates. By going in strong with their understanding of the customer and their deep domain expertise, CMOs can be a powerful force in the direction of the enterprise and generate tremendous business and customer impact from their place around the C-suite table.