Why CMOs Should Drive Product Strategy

When my company reorganized several years ago, we went from a business unit structure to a functional organization, and I was considered for a position that would run marketing as a member of the executive team.

As part of those discussions, I negotiated to have the role include both traditional marketing functions, such as advertising, PR, events, and sales tool development, but also product strategy in the form of product management and road map planning. Why? I had three reasons:  

1. MarCom Is A Pink Ghetto
As a female executive, I was sensitive--sensitive to my observations and the reputation that marketing (and human resources, by the way) had of being places where women got stuck in their careers. Careers focused in these areas resulted in professionals who were often pigeon-holed and excluded from real participation in the business strategy.

I am not sure who coined the phrase, but I had heard it applies here: the pink ghetto. It's a place where women are seen as a support function for other more “important” roles, such as sales, finance, or R&D--roles typically held by men, at least in the technology industry. I didn’t want to get stuck and had worked throughout my career to gain broad experience that made me a better business person, not just a better marketer.

In my role, which combines both go-to-market and market requirements, I have broad impact on the company, and my team is able to impact the direction of the business overall.

2. Marketing Is The Center Of The Hub
Being responsible for products, I am at the center of creative ideas and cleverness. I get to work closely with R&D to determine what can be done and the relevant and high-value applications of technology. I get to work closely with the sales team to determine how to aim them and equip them to capture the market potential of new offerings. My team and I get to be in the center of the hub and are tasked with combining what can be done with what should be done to create new possibilities for the company.

3. Customer Empathy Runs Deep
True innovations are grounded in customer empathy. Understanding the customer problems is the foundation of “solutions,” which companies are so anxious to talk about but execute so poorly. And that customer understanding not only affects the products we bring to market, but how we market them.

This may involve creating sales tools that require a deep understanding of the product in order to simplify the customer experience and accelerate the buying process. Without responsibility for both the product road map and marketing communications, this connection would be more difficult to make and would cause “marketing” to be less strategic and more reactive, instead of leading the charge of innovation in the marketplace.

This article was posted on CMO.com.