It wasn't long ago that most chief marketing officers were disregarded in C-suites. In fact, 80 percent of chief executives expressed disappointment in their CMO, according to a 2012 study.
Eighty percent. Why? Their CMOs couldn't prove they were, in fact, gaining attractive returns on investments.
Proving that their efforts drive top-line revenue growth is the holy grail for marketers, and the best CMOs now position themselves as revenue marketers. Debbie Qaqish and The Pedowitz Group coined the term "revenue marketing" in 2010. Qaqish later published her acclaimed book, "The Rise of the Revenue Marketer", which instructs B2B marketers how to transform their departments to revenue builders from cost centers. It's a playbook that every CMO should possess.
A couple of years have passed since "The Rise of the Revenue Marketer" gained notice, and marketers have become much more skilled at measuring their contributions to the bottom line. Still, while access to data, analytical tools, and marketing automation technology have helped a growing number of CMOs drive meaningful and sustainable growth, that isn't the case across all industries - including banking.
So, why are revenue marketers lacking in financial services, among other sectors? Those on the banking industry's periphery assume that banks are savvy at growing profitability and driving organic revenue growth. That's just not the situation, and many of the largest institutions have had to rely on cost-cutting measures to achieve financial targets. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the banks this year "again looked for greater profits by trimming expenses."
How can CMOs in challenged industries such as banking achieve their revenue marketing potential? It's easy to get overwhelmed in the sea of articles about the advantages of leveraging big data, creating a culture of content, and harnessing social media. But getting the basics right proves to be a critical step toward driving scalable growth and gaining more respect in the C-suite.
5 Tips for Gaining Respect in the C-Suite:
Know what "great" looks like:
Surprisingly, countless CMOs don't know how to easily calculate the true costs to acquire a customer - or even understand how much that cost can vary with different approaches. It may seem obvious, but it's nearly impossible to drive growth when you don't know where you're starting from. It's even more difficult to succeed when you can't measure your progress. One of the smartest investments you can make is one that helps you map your existing customer and new customer opportunities, understand where you are today, set ambitious but attainable goals, and measure your progress.
Digital is not Optional:
Consumers aren't the only ones who do online research before they buy - businesses do, too. Even in industries where selling happens largely through brick-and-mortar locations, the quality of the website experience that a company delivers is vital. Apart from getting the basics right - like having a site that displays and works well on any device, presents compelling product/service benefits, and makes it easy to buy and do more business with you - marketers should take advantage of analytics that enable them to deliver more relevant and personalized sales experiences. If someone walked into a bank branch wanting a small business loan, the bank wouldn't direct them to information about a student checking account - and its website shouldn't either.
Nurture relationships but automate the work:
Forward-thinking CMOs are using content marketing, lead scoring, and marketing automation tools to deepen their relationships with prospects, increase conversion rates, and accelerate sales cycles. Industry- or segment-specific applications help plan, execute, measure and maximize revenue acquisition programs. These CMOs continue to herald the benefits of automation and lead-nurturing at speaking events and elsewhere. And simply consider this: Forrester Research reports that companies that excel in lead-nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost. The bottom line: Lead-nurturing can pay huge dividends.
Focus on relationships, not channels:
Smart CMOs have figured out how to marry digital technology with the right mix of human interaction. They focus on building relationships, not on making channel distinctions. Customers get confused when companies operate in silos, and they get frustrated when they conclude that brick-and-mortar locations, websites, mobile apps, and call centers are seemingly disjointed. Nowhere is this more evident than in the banking industry where channels often drive organizational structures and customer service design. For banks to succeed, CMOs must take a more holistic approach.
Don't overlook underserved markets:
Sometimes, the biggest revenue opportunities reside in markets that have been underserved for years or outright ignored. One of the most talked about examples of this in banking at the moment is the small- and medium-sized business (SMB) segment.
While the lion's share of bank marketing budgets are invested in consumer-focused programs, business and corporate banking divisions have relied generally on expensive "feet on the street" to grow their customer bases. This means the cost of acquisition is sky-high. To make matters worse, banks have been slow to meet SMBs' needs when it comes to providing tailored digital banking and payments capabilities. The result? Millions of SMBs remain underserved by banks and they are going elsewhere for services.
Non-bank fintech startups want to "eat banks' lunches." They're disrupting an entire industry as banks scramble to save relationships they never spent time cultivating. This scenario isn't limited to the banking sector. CMOs across all industries should evaluate opportunities to better serve historically underserved segments - just think of what Uber did to the taxi industry.
It's increasingly clear that the CMOs who earn their CEOs' respect and gain treasured seats in the C-suite demonstrate their contributions to driving top-line revenue growth. In the process, they're keeping their jobs longer. The average tenure for a CMO rose to 45 months in 2014, nearly double the average tenure as recently as 2006, reports consulting firm Spencer Stuart. Forrester Research expects the average tenure to reach 60 months this year.
So how do CMOs keep this trend on the uptick? Five standard rules: master the basics, take advantage of the data and technology that's available, focus on relationships instead of delivery channels, don't overlook big opportunities in underserved markets, and measure success based on top-line revenue contribution.
Christine Nurnberger is chief marketing officer at Bottomline Technologies, a company that helps customers optimize financially-oriented operations and build deeper customer and partner relationships by providing a trusted and easy-to-use set of cloud-based digital banking, fraud prevention, payment, financial document, insurance, and healthcare solutions.