Why Companies Need a Second “CEO” – A Chief Engagement Officer

Customer Marketing


I read a fascinating piece in Campaign US recently about the rise of the hybrid CMO, and why some of world’s largest brands are redefining and realigning the CMO role. Authored by Kathryn Luttner, and entitled Why Coke, Citi, Mars and J. Crew are Placing Bets on Hybrid CMOs, it is a must-read article for any marketing leader.

For me, the standout example of a corporation embracing a hybrid CMO model is Coca-Cola, which has replaced its CMO role with that of a chief growth officer overseeing marketing, customer and sales strategies. Another prime example cited in the article is Mars, which last year moved its chief customer officer into the CMO position with responsibility for both roles.

According to Luttner, “The companies creating these positions—call them “hybrid CMOs”—say they are trying to provide a more seamless customer journey in an increasingly digital world. By giving marketing chiefs more power to shape those aspects of the brand previously beyond their control, the hope is that a company can speak with one voice, from its advertising to sales to customer support.”

So far, so good. More brand control across the customer experience is hugely desirable, and a company speaking with one voice across the customer journey is essential. But there are two words I want to add to this argument: engagement and advocacy. Here’s why.

Engagement begets advocacy and lifetime value

At the end of the day, successful marketing comes down to understanding and inspiring your customer. The best way to do this as a CMO – hybrid, or otherwise – is to focus on engagement and advocacy.

At Marketo, the formula for engagement is: Listen. Learn. Inspire. Every day. Everywhere. In every single interaction. Do this well and you create advocacy, along with higher lifetime customer value across your revenue base.

A brand advocate takes the customer relationship thing and knocks it out of the park. Advocates are so engaged with you that they become life-long customers and endorsers. They tell everyone they know how great your company is, and how wonderful your products are.

Advocacy is the best thing to happen to a brand

As avid “voices of the customer,” advocates are the best thing that can happen to your brand. They put themselves out there for you, amplify your messages, and help increase brand strength and credibility. In the B2C world, you usually do not even have to ask them to do it. In the B2B world, you only need to curate their efforts and intelligently channel their enthusiasm.

I’ve seen this in action at Marketo, through our Marketing Nation Community, and with our customer advocacy hub, Purple Select. Through these and other programs, we engage meaningfully with our advocates across every touchpoint and make certain to leverage their voices judiciously for campaigns and reviews.

Engagement is much bigger than marketing

But while advocates are the best thing that can happen to a brand, the worst thing is to lose a customer or advocate (or fail to win one) due to disengagement somewhere along the customer journey. This can happen due to a bad experience with just about any customer-facing company function, from finance and fulfillment to product management and customer support.

That is why engagement is so much larger than traditional marketing, and why there is a strong case for a hybrid CMO who owns all things related to customer engagement, from pre- to post-sales.

Back to the formula for engagement. Listening, learning, and inspiring must happen every day, everywhere and in every single interaction. This means in-store and online, and in all sales calls, email exchanges, telephone and in-person interactions, text conversations, tweets, posts, “attention shoppers” intercom announcements, and so on. These are all points of engagement, and there are many more. Together they literally define the brand, and any one of them can build it up… or chip away at it. Consequently, they all need to be subject to marketing’s oversight.

Do not be daunted… be ready

CMOs are right to feel both excited and daunted by this prospect. The thought of extending brand control over previously disconnected functional areas is exhilarating. But the reality of managing omnipresent engagement and building advocacy across so many more touchpoints is intimidating. Yet it is entirely doable with an intelligent marketing platform built for scale.

So be exhilarated, and start thinking about the title you want. A company does not necessarily have to call its hybrid CMO the chief engagement officer, however well that moniker telegraphs the functional scope of the job. Call it what you will.

But, as they say in Hollywood, prepare for the role.

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