From CMO to CRO – developing your career to fit the future of business

Ledger Bennett Demand Generation, Insights, Measurable Results, Revenue, Talent & Resourcing

Revenue Responsibility

As business strategy and success rely hugely on effective marketing, a Chief Marketing Officer is an invaluable member of any organisation. But the role is undergoing vast and continual transformation. With the increasing reliance on digital tools and automated processes, this shift has changes what and how businesses sell and has completely altered the traditional customer relationships and prospect nurturing process.

The CMO role has expanded to cover the whole customer lifecycle from top of funnel to loyal customer, and every touch point in between. The CMO is increasingly being held accountable for the sharp end of revenue growth, alongside their peers in sales.

The other significant change is businesses (in particular tech) is an increasing focus on the practice of growth marketing. This data driven growth strategy is giving way to a new role, seen more in US businesses than UK at the moment, but that’s likely to change, and that’s the role of the Chief Revenue Officer.

An effective CRO is expected to deliver revenue growth and predictable sales pipelines. To do this they must identify and exploit all revenue opportunities; streamline sales processes; implement strategies for marketing automation and programmatic activity; take a firm hand in product/service development; deliver best in class customer experience and tie all this together with accurate data drawn from a well planned and integrated technology strategy.

The CRO is a more all encompassing role than the CMO, but it’s looking like that’s the direction CMO’s need to start moving in to stay ahead of the curve.

In an article from Channel Futures, they advise what start-ups should consider when choosing a CRO vs. a CMO. They describe that in the rush to go to market, startups often have to choose between a CRO to drive profitability and scale for sustainable business, or a CMO to gain awareness to broaden the base of available customers. They claim “this battle of CRO vs. CMO can determine a cloud startup’s destiny from the get-go”.

So if you’re a CMO aspiring towards the next stage of your career, what better route than positioning yourself for a revenue driven CRO role. You have the unique opportunity to bring a strong marketing background to a much broader and specifically revenue focused role, making you an invaluable candidate to start-ups described above who can’t afford both.

However, in order to make this lateral move and shape yourself into a strong and effective candidate for the CRO role, there are likely to be some areas you need to learn or improve on. Karrie Sullivan, Chief Digital Officer said “This combined CRO/CMO person will be similar to a black swan—or even a purple cow—in that they are exceedingly rare”.

These are the top 5 areas we think a CMO needs to up-skill in, in order to transition to a CRO role.

Top 5 skills to help a CMO transition to a CRO

  • Connector.

    Build your sales and sales management experience

    The best CROs understand and embrace the differences between marketing and sales to get the best out of both functions. The sales team is at the coal face of new business growth. Coming from a marketing background, you will have dealt with the common silo mentality between marketing and sales, but to be an effective CRO that has to end. It’s important to gain experience in sales and sales team management to really understand its impact on revenue, and how best to unite the sales and marketing teams for the greater good.

  • Connector.

    Develop granular understanding of how to analyse and utilise data for business decision making

    This may sound obvious, but it’s often the case that as a CMO you may well have had expert data analysts on your team collating and analysing data on your behalf, and this data would primarily be marketing data. As a CRO you need a deep understanding of all data available to you. Critically, customer data; IT data and internal financial data which are commonly cited as the most important types of data to a business.

  • Connector.

    Take the time to understand every single part of the business and how they contribute to revenue growth

    A significant part of the CRO role is breaking down silos and getting every single department working together towards a common revenue goal. If you can achieve this it builds an incredibly powerful revenue engine. But, this means taking the time to understand how each team works; who the strongest players are; identifying opportunities for operational efficiencies and strategies to maximize output. This is no mean feat, and requires continuous learning and patience.

  • Connector.

    Really focus on learning how to develop critical thinking

    Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not. This is of utmost importance when trying to insight organizational wide change. You’ll encounter resistance and individuals happy with the status quo, keen to assure you change isn’t necessary. Critical thinking is essential to cut through the noise.

  • Connector.

    Make time to think creatively

    Hopefully as a marketer you’ve been given the space to develop creative ideas throughout your career. But make no mistake, a CRO role is going to present challenges you’ve never faced before. ‘Creative’ in this context goes way beyond the traditional idea of creativity in marketing. There are a couple of reasons for creative thinking that particularly stand out in this context. Creative thinking allows you to spot new opportunities in the marketplace; it gives you a higher tolerance for risk which allows you to work through fear and failure and it helps develop your leadership skills by taking a creative approach to problem solving. To insight the level of behavioural change required to meet your revenue goals, strong leadership is a must.