What is a Chief Growth Officer (CGO)?

by Debra Andrews | July 16, 2015

The “C” Suite – CEO, CFO, COO, CMO and CGO.

CGO, is that a typo?

Nope. Not only is this position real, it may be the most important “C” of them all. It stands for “Chief Growth Officer,” and it’s rising in popularity. In particular, firms that understand the importance of focusing on customer needs have embraced the role to achieve long-term revenue growth and company success.

Chief Executive published ‘Chief Growth Officer’ Title Catches On as a Way to Battle Growth Challenges back in August 2014. The article reported that a LinkedIn search for CGOs generated over 2,000 results. But considering that LinkedIn had 277 million members at the beginning of 2015, the number of CGOs reported isn’t tremendously impressive… But it’s just a matter of time!

What is a Chief Growth Officer?

The Chief Growth Officer is a hybrid position that bridges the traditional departmental silos in B2B organizations such as business development, sales, marketing, operations, and information technology. CGOs work on internal alignment as it applies to targeted revenue growth, starting with external market dynamics, customer needs and preferences, and buyer behavior.

Here’s another Chief Growth Officer description: CGOs are leaders who help reshape their organizations to stay ahead of and engage with potential buyers wherever they are in the purchase cycle.

Why does my company need a Chief Growth Officer (CGO)?

Why can’t organizations just stick with what has worked for decades? Answer: The Internet.

Prior to the Internet and the world of digital content, B2B buyers had to rely on marketing departments to buy ad space and share information about companies and their products and services. They also depended on sales professionals to convince them why they should choose one organization over another. Companies, as opposed to buyers, controlled communications. It was generally a one-way outward push.

Today, B2B buyers are likely more than halfway down the purchase funnel before engaging with a particular company. They do research and read reviews online. Buyers typically have identified their challenge or opportunity, evaluated potential solutions, and even narrowed the field of potential vendors before ever talking to sales professionals.

CGOs are needed to help companies streamline their red carpet for potential customers, and they also help align the organization to improve experiences and grow new business.

download the guide: the best way to structure your marketing department for B2B growth

Who will assume the CGO role?

This modern era of endless, free, and available digital information has necessitated a shift in how companies approach the market. Organizations that operate in silos will likely let customer needs and preferences slip as employees work with a task-focused, as opposed to goal-oriented, mindset.

Unless a company has a product or service unlike any other – which is pretty hard to achieve – it will see market share dwindle as it struggles to fully understand and engage with today’s buyers.

Pennoni Associates, a multidiscipline engineering and design consulting firm headquartered in Philadelphia, recognized the need to put the customer front and center by appointing Joseph Viscuso as its Director of Strategic Growth. He facilitates communications between sales, marketing and client service professionals across all of Pennoni’s geographic locations. According to Viscuso, “If you have top-line growth, it’s much easier to manage the bottom line.” But Pennoni appears to be the exception and not the rule. According to a survey of senior executives across a wide range of industries by The Growth Strategy Company, 90% rated generating strategic business growth outside of the existing customer base as “urgent” on their agenda. Of the same executives, 95% reported not having a CGO.

This begs the question: Who will assume the role of CGO and be the customer’s champion?

CMOs Will Expand Marketing’s Territory

A recent article, “CMOs’ Next Role: Chief Growth Officer,” hints that marketing needs to grow up and must expand beyond branding efforts and awareness campaigns. It needs to become a broader discipline that influences every aspect of a business including sales, operations, customer support and IT.

Gartner has predicted that by 2017, CMOs will have larger IT budgets than IT in order to capture relevant customer data, develop a greater understanding of the customer, and act on insights that propel their companies forward. McKinsey & Company echoes this sentiment: The expansion (of the role of the CMO) will encompass both a redefinition of the way the marketing function performs its critical tasks and the CMO’s assumption of a larger role as the “voice of the customer” across the company as it responds to significant changes in the marketplace.

And so it would seem that CGOs of the future are likely to be CMOs whose roles are repositioned and supported across their entire organizations to embrace a laser-like focus on the end goal – strategic growth. This means that strategic marketing consulting firms and senior marketing strategists are likely to take on this role.

One of the ways that companies can achieve their growth goals is by leveraging fractional CGO services. This option allows companies to have all the benefits of having a CGO without bringing on a full-time executive.

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