“The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders” – What’s Missing?

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What’s missing in “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders” is a top down discussion of the role Marketing needs to play within an organization.  Specifically, how Marketing aligns and integrates to support an organizations goals in a comprehensive go-to-market plan.

An Image Depicting - While the New CMO Guide does a good job describing executional elements, a prerequisite is to surface what the organization needs from Marketing, what success will look like and how to know when it has been attained. While it’s unlikely that functional heads within the organization will be in total agreement on exactly what is needed from Marketing, it is critical that there is no “violent disagreement” on what marketing should and should not be focused on, to effectively support the organization’s go-to-market efforts.

Steve Jobs said it best, explaining that he did not ask customers what they wanted because they did not know. It’s the same with understanding the marketing function within an organization. Executives of an organization often do not know what they need from Marketing nor what Marketing is capable of providing to them – they are not marketing experts and are not expected to be.  It’s the CMO’s job to educate the organization on the value that marketing can bring to an organization.

Marketing does not make, sell or support anything. However, Marketing can help:

  • build, maintain and expand a brand
  • harness information and insights to create customer-focused or market-driven products
  • the sales team get to more opportunity and close it more quickly

It’s a best practice to rank and prioritize the marketing needs of the organization and the three macro categories above (brand, making products and building pipeline) can serve as a starting point.  It’s best to focus on fewer things and to do them well (one is ideal).  And, it’s typically more beneficial to move the needle to the point of diminishing returns as the cost of additional resources required to get to perfect will usually outweigh the benefits.

CMO Guide – The Characteristics of a Seasoned CMO

A seasoned CMO will ask the right question upfront in the go-to-market process.  He or she needs to uncover the fundamental issues that could be producing the symptoms that are visible and causing pain in the organization. The seasoned CMO knows that the average life of a CMO is plus or minus 24 months—although this can vary based upon industry, size of company and other factors. This short CMO lifespan is somewhat correlated  to the fact that most organizations do not understand Marketing.  Typically, an organization responds to a perceived immediate, tactical need or pain without understanding the fundamental or root cause. Once that initial need is solved, all remains calm until the next issue arises.  An organization’s next step is usually deciding whether the current CMO has the skill-set solve the next challenge — or whether it’s time for a change.

The savvy CMO can paint a long-term picture of where the organization is, where it needs to get to and what the incremental steps will be over the next several years to get there. Successful CMOs develop a long-term plan and effectively guide the organization towards the desired state.  Versus constantly fire-fighting perceived problems voiced from around the organization that result in primer and paint on dry rot–it will look good for a while but the underlying problem has not been resolved and will reappear.

CMO Guide – The Importance of Defining the Organization’s Objectives

Before a discussion of what Marketing should or should not do, it’s imperative to review the objectives for the organization. It is at this point in time that the direct correlation between the organization’s success and the value of Marketing will be cemented. It’s true that Marketing will not be able to support everything that the organization wants to accomplish nor should that be the goal. But, the annual plan or operational plan should document and clearly articulate the goals of the organization. The CMO then needs to identify what organizational goals marketing can support and how Marketing will set objectives, strategies, tactics, budget, a timeline and organize resources to accomplish the organization’s goals.

Objectives should be outlined in an organizational chart format with the organizations’ needs at the top. Objectives then cascade down the organizational chart to the functional areas that will own or contribute to attaining those objectives. Cascading should not only spread across the organization (Sales, Marketing, Development, Finance, etc.) but also down the organization (from CMO, to direct reports, and so on).  By assigning objectives, strategies and tactics in a cascading manner, it will not only provide direction for employees but will ensure accountability.

CMO Guide – An Effective Marketing Plan Format

The following is an outline of the key sections in a Marketing plan.

Executive Summary

The executive summary should present an abbreviated overview of the proposed plan. This should be a one or two paragraphs including 3-5 bullets.

Current Marketing Situation

This section should include relevant background information on the market, technology, solution, geography, distribution, resources, systems and processes.

Opportunity and Issue Analysis

This section should summarize the main opportunities, threats, strengths, weaknesses and issues facing the business.


This section defines the goals of the Marketing plan (down to the individual employee level) and shows how these goals cascade down from the corporate objectives.


The specific strategies developed to achieve the objectives are documented.


This section includes the operational aspects of what will be done, when and by whom.

Financial Impact

This documents the financial impact to the business in terms of increased revenue, profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and or decreased costs.


This describes how the plan will be tracked, managed and improved.

The 9 Box Model for Classifying People in Organizations

Once a Marketing Plan is finalized, the focus should then be on putting the team in place to execute the plan together and that may An Image Depicting The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders – 9 Box Modelrequire adding, removing or developing personnel.

The 9 Box Model is a pragmatic tool that assesses people on two dimensions: an employee’s current contribution to the organization and his or her potential level of contribution to the organization.  The output of the 9 Box Model is a matrix that can be used to crisply summarize and categorize an organization’s talent pool based on two factors – performance and potential.  Typically on the horizontal axis is “performance” – measured by performance reviews.  The three categories within performance are typically below average, average/good and outstanding. On the vertical axis is typically “potential” – referring to an individual’s potential to grow one or more levels in a managerial or professional capacity. The ratings available in the potential dimension include limited, moderate and high.

Go-to-Market success requires a solid business model but it also depends upon flawless execution and execution is typically dependent upon people.  It is a best practice to leverage systems and processes to automate as much as possible as the economies of a one to many model are obvious.  However, people are the only real asset that any organization has and it is typically the most expensive line item in any organizations budget.  Take the time to assess, develop, add and replace personnel to execute your organization’s go-to-market plan.

What’s Missing in “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders”

While the “The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders” contains lots of useful information for a head of marketing, there are some fundamental strategic questions that need to be asked and answered as a prerequisite to implementing the guide. Be sure to ask the right questions upfront to build and efficient and effective go-to-market plan.  Doing so will provide a pragmatic framework for what Marketing resource are being asked to do, why it is important and how it contributes to the organization’s success.  A tactical advantage to this approach is that it creates a laser focus for scarce resources to rally around and that will result in a substantial decrease in wasted cycles (time and money).


One Response to ““The New CMO Guide: A Handbook for Marketing Leaders” – What’s Missing?”

  1. Peter,

    Very well written. This better represents the key role of the CMO at a strategic level. Even though today’s CMO has an average tenure of 45 months (, this is still less than half of other key executives. I really liked your three areas of focus – brand, product and pipeline. I also think today’s CMO – especially a B2B CMO – should also be the driver of customer experience which in turn should help a company compete based on the strength and understanding of the customer. Loads and loads of digital data helps this understanding.

    Thank you for this blog. I really enjoyed reading it.


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