Is the CGO the New CMO?

by Jen Marino | May 22, 2024

If you follow the marketing industry news, you might conclude that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role is now extinct. After all, heavy-hitter organizations including UPS, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola have made headlines by eliminating the CMO position over the past couple of years. Though each company used slightly different verbiage to explain the move, a careful read reveals that the reasons boil down to an undeniable fact: In today’s highly competitive, rapidly changing business environment, success is all about growth. And it takes more than marketing to grow the business strategically and profitably.

Does that mean CMOs are no longer of value? Quite the opposite. Top-tier CMOs are finding themselves tapped for the increasingly important Chief Growth Officer (CGO) role. And while middle market businesses might assume they can’t afford a CGO, the Fractional CGO model puts the capabilities of this growth driver within reach for mid-sized companies.

B2B Buying Has Changed Dramatically

As the B2B landscape has evolved, so has the role of marketing in driving the business forward. It’s not that B2B companies don’t need marketing; it’s that they need much more from marketing (and by extension, the CMO role). A myriad of trends lie at the heart of this change, including a fundamental shift in how customers buy B2B products and services.

Now, a B2B buyer completes about 83% of their research independently before they contact a sales representative. By that time, they’ve experienced an average of 62.4 marketing touches across 3.5 channels. Their buying journey has become longer, averaging 56 days from the first touchpoint to the time a demo happens, and sometimes longer for high-ticket sales. The journey also has become much less linear, looking more like a busy swarm of bees than a straight-line process.

Shifting from Face-to-Face to Digital in B2B Sales

Credit (or blame) COVID for accelerating the evolution of the B2B buying experience from mostly face-to-face to mostly digital. Pre-pandemic, the sales process for complex offerings like technology, financial services, and investment banking and many others revolved around in-person interactions. When COVID hit, buyers pivoted their approach out of necessity, adopting consumer buying behaviors like spending much more time conducting online research to assess vendor capabilities. Once travel restrictions lifted, they didn’t revert back to their pre-pandemic ways.

With B2B buyers acting more like consumers—and taking a more circuitous route from the point of awareness to the point of purchase—organizations now realize they need to take a more holistic approach to driving top-line growth.

How B2B Buying is Transforming the Leadership Team

Revenue growth is critical to the success of any B2B company, but historically no single leader has been accountable for growth in most organizations. Perhaps the CMO came the closest, but their domain has always been restricted to marketing. As organizations have begun to appreciate the critical interplay among the many functions that impact growth, especially in a changing landscape, they’ve started to rethink their executive team make-up. In turn, many are opting to replace the CMO role with a CGO who has broader responsibilities and accountability.

Key Responsibilities and Skills of a CGO

The CGO is typically tasked with integrating and aligning all the functions it takes to drive revenue growth by bringing buyers to and through the revenue funnel and retaining them as loyal, profitable customers. Their domain spans functional groups like marketing, sales, customer service, and product, which are typically siloed and rarely set up to work in concert to drive revenue growth. Often, marketing focuses on lead generation, sales closes deals, and customer experience keeps clients happy. As the organizational growth catalyst, the CGO bridges those functions, getting them aligned and collaborating and working toward common revenue goals in a way that the CMO hasn’t been positioned to do traditionally.

The CGO is a multifaceted role: part visionary, strategist, innovator, process improver, bridge builder, orchestrator, and data analyst.

Given that buyers will spend the majority of their journey engaged with marketing, the right leader for the job is someone who is well-versed in modern marketing strategy development and execution. For example, they need to understand the needs and expectations of their customers at a deep level, craft consistent and personalized experiences across every channel the buyer interacts with, and reshape the customer acquisition strategy to reflect a funnel where customers spend much more time engaged with marketing than sales. That’s why many organizations are tapping experienced CMOs for the CGO.

But it also takes an experienced business professional who is skilled in developing and executing corporate-level strategy, leading broad growth initiatives, identifying new revenue streams, and driving customer loyalty, retention, and lifetime value.

Successful CGOs know how to stay alert to changing conditions and help the organization pivot effectively. They know how to break down functional silos, fill process gaps that cause leads to leak out of the pipeline, and manage competing priorities that can threaten growth initiatives. And they’re adept at leveraging data and analytics to make informed decisions that yield a high ROI. Some (but not all) CMOs match up with that broader job description.

How a Fractional CGO Can Drive the Business Forward

Driving revenue growth is just as important for middle market companies as any other organization, but most can’t justify a full-time CGO. In those cases, the Fractional CGO model is ideal.

Hiring a C-suite leader on a fractional basis allows you to get the exact slice of time and expertise you need, without the overhead required for an FTE. A Fractional CGO brings strategic leadership and broad experience across many other companies. Since they’ve already held this post on behalf of other organizations, they know what works best, especially when it comes to holding different functional groups accountable, eliminating friction, and fostering collaboration.

By bringing in a Fractional CGO, you gain an objective point of view and a fresh perspective from an outsider who isn’t trying to build an internal kingdom and doesn’t bring historical baggage or preconceived notions. That can make the change management aspects of adding a CGO role much easier to accomplish.

Marketri understands the importance of charging a single leader with accountability to drive the business’s growth. That’s why we offer Fractional CGO services, through highly experienced professionals who know how to lead and execute an effective, enterprise-wide B2B growth strategy. Our Fractional CGOs have a seat at the executive table, so they’re empowered to set corporate-level growth strategies, break down internal barriers, transform processes, and align the many functions involved in driving revenue.

Schedule a call with our President Deb Andrews to learn more about our fractional services.