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What’s the Difference Between CGO and CMO?

Comparing a good Chief Growth Officer description against what we know about Chief Marketing Officers is something we’ve been fixated on for some time now. Are Chief Growth Officers (CGOs) simply high-octane Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs)? Or are they run-of-the-mill senior marketers with fancier titles? What’s the real difference between CGO and CMO?

In April 2017, Coca-Cola possibly poured us the answer. The beverage giant’s global CMO retired after 35 years, and instead of appointing a new one, Coca-Cola merged marketing with its customer and commercial teams and created a new CGO position. According to Coca-Cola, the new CGO will spearhead its transformation into a “growth-oriented and consumer-centered” beverage company. Other big brands such as Con Agra, Hershey, Colgate-Palmolive, and Coty are following suit.

Coke image for CGO Blog

CGOs are CMOs with a Twist

CGOs are often CMOs who have evolved to understand and align their organizations with the way modern customers research and buy products. They don’t limit themselves to business as usual, instead opting to look for innovative ways to differentiate their companies and offerings. According to McKinsey & Company’s The Evolving Role of the CMO, “CMOs are assuming a larger role as the ‘voice of the customer’ and transforming not only the marketing function but also everything from corporate affairs and product development to distribution and manufacturing models.”

CGO vs CMO: Silo Smashing

Customers today – both B2B and B2C – have the power when it comes to buying products and services. If they want to solve a problem, they can Google it. When they’re interested in a product, they can Google options and compare prices, features, and benefits.

With this revolutionary change in buyer awareness, companies won’t fare well by keeping sales and marketing operating in silos and ignoring this shift in purchase habits. A CGO recognizes the core challenge of growth and focuses on organizational concerns like culture and structure – including the outdated separation between sales and marketing.

CGOs create revenue teams that strategically nurture leads down the sales funnel, while listening to and respecting customer preferences. The longer-term effects for the customer are no more annoying cold calls. No more mass email blasts. No more out-of-the-blue, unhelpful outreach. If dealing with a growth-minded organization, customers can instead expect high-quality, personal experiences that start when they’re leads and continue throughout their lifetime as customers.

CGOs Do it All

To shine the light on some of the major differences between the role of a CGO vs. CMO, I compared real-world job descriptions for three of each. Here’s what I discovered:

Responsibilities of Both CMOs and CGOs:

  • Marketing Strategies
  • Marketing Planning
  • Marketing Measurement
  • Marketing Training & Development
  • Positioning
  • Branding
  • Multi-Channel Marketing
  • Marketing ROI
  • Niche Marketing
  • Staffing
  • Marketing Analytics
  • Leadership / Team Building
  • Public Relations
  • Content Standard and Creation
  • Marketing Technologies
  • Lead Generation

In addition to the responsibilities above, CGOs are also charged with:

  • Profitable Growth
  • Sales Strategies and Execution
  • Cross-Functional Team Relationships (Including Sales and Marketing Alignment)
  • Product Development and Expansion
  • Strategic Business Planning
  • Current Customer Retention and Growth
  • Understanding Evolving Customer Needs (and Owning the “Voice of the Customer”)
CGO Definition

Are All CGOs Just Promoted CMOs?

Not all CGOs evolve from a CMO position, but many do and need to in order to thrive. According to a recent Marketing Week article, “As long as marketers continue to position themselves as experts in advertising, brand positioning, millennials and the latest digital fads – instead of being growth drivers – we’ll see more CMO positions disappear.”

Whether future CGOs are a derivative of marketing, sales, operations, or some other functional area, The Millennium Alliance believes these leaders will be tasked with “driving measurable, sequential growth in the current-state business and identifying and executing on new opportunities to scale revenue via new channels, new markets, new products, and new business models. They’ll peer around corners and see ahead of the headlights, testing, learning, incubating the product, brand, and customer innovations for the future.”

What Does This Mean for Other Marketers?

We’ve been thinking about what this means for marketers, and we think the signs are clear. To stay relevant, marketers need to be able to collaborate with cross-functional team members, embrace their evolution as part of the revenue team, and focus on how they can leverage their skillsets in the grander context of organizational growth.

We believe growth is an organizational challenge that requires a wide range of skills. While CGOs may own the titles and be the figureheads leading the charge, profitable and sustainable growth will always come down to solid strategic plans and focused tactical execution.

So really, for us, growth is just a matter of expanding our toolkit. And that’s an exciting place to be. To add to your toolkit, consider downloading our free Executive Guide to Strategic Marketing Plans by clicking below:

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