Why CEO and CMO Alignment Is Needed for Success

By Aimee Meester
March 31, 2023
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In today’s fast-paced consumer market, few things are more imperative than alignment between CMOs and CEOs. This alignment, however, has historically been challenging to achieve.

A 2021 study by Boathouse revealed that while most CEOs believe that their CMOs can influence key decisions and strategies, only 32% report that they trust their CMO’s judgment. Moreover, of the 150 CEOs surveyed, the majority (55%) reported they would give their CMOs a B for their performance, with only 16% saying they would give them an A. This survey data suggests that despite the widespread belief among C-suite executives that CMOs are vital team members, there remains a disconnect between levels of perceived trust and effectiveness. This disconnect has made it difficult for CEOs and CMOs to partner effectively with one another.

In 2023, however, CEOs and CMOs have an opportunity to change this narrative.

Strategic Marketing Drives Future Growth

With companies continuing to recover from the pandemic, brands everywhere have gained a newfound appreciation for marketing efforts. When COVID-19 first hit, many companies slashed their marketing budgets to reduce spending. However, about 34% of CMOs increased their marketing investments to better connect with their customers during the pandemic. Of this group, over 70% experienced growth over the next year.

The lesson here is: Strategically investing in marketing spend pays dividends in future growth.

Heading into 2023, most CEOs and C-suite executives agree on the importance of marketing efforts. In fact, most CEOs and CFOs report being willing to fund marketing if it can prove to be a growth engine for the company. The challenge here will be creating strategic alignment between marketing and growth strategies. Traditionally, marketing has been viewed as a separate and only somewhat necessary C-suite function. However, to truly develop marketing campaigns and strategies that drive growth, this mindset needs to shift toward viewing marketing as an integrated and valuable strategic thought partner. In other words, CEOs and CMOs must redefine their relationship to promote trust, alignment, and innovation.

Here are five steps companies can take to increase alignment between their CEOs and CMOs.

5 Steps for Increased CMO and CEO Alignment

Step 1: Lay the foundation

To create alignment, CMOs and CEOs must establish norms that foster trust, empowerment, and teamwork. To do this, C-suite executives must reframe their mindsets about CMOs. For example, rather than viewing marketing as a separate business function, C-suite members must view it as a critical aspect of cross-functional business strategies. Additionally, the C-suite must emphasize developing strong, trusting partnerships with one another. From here, CEOs and CMOs should set their sights on working together to develop business strategies and overcome future challenges.

Step 2: Understand the brand’s why, what, and how

The next step is to make sure that CEOs and CMOs are on the same page about the brand’s larger purpose (the why), its capabilities and value drivers (the what), and its key differentiating strategies (the how). Taking time to review these aspects of a brand collaboratively will ensure that CEOs and CMOs operate on the same playing field as they collaborate to develop future strategies.

Step 3: Have a pulse on the present while planning for the future

Both the CEO and the CMO must balance their efforts between understanding the current state of affairs and strategizing future initiatives. To do this, they must keep a pulse on recent market updates, customer insights, and industry trends. However, they must simultaneously develop strategies and goals while identifying the challenges and opportunities ahead. Essentially, CEOs and CMOs must have one foot in the present and one foot in the future while making a concerted effort to ensure they don’t lose balance on either side.

Step 4: Clarify roles, responsibilities, and resources

To create a trusting partnership, both CEOs and CMOs must be on the same page about their roles, responsibilities, and resources. While CEOs and CMOs have different experiences and expertise, both perspectives are valuable when developing organizational strategies. For example, CMOs have a deep understanding of branding, marketing, and strategic positioning, but they need to be able to connect these strategies to larger organizational goals and initiatives. Similarly, corporate objectives and resource allocations should be developed in collaboration with CMOs, who require adequate resources to develop comprehensive marketing strategies that drive growth.

Step 5: Execute, evaluate, and update the plan – together.

When developing and executing business strategies, CEOs and CMOs must understand that partnership and collaboration are long-term commitments. For example, after developing a plan, CEOs and CMOs must collaboratively establish KPIs and review them regularly to make necessary revisions and adjustments. They must also create ongoing meeting cadences that enable them to check in with each other and gain cross-functional visibility into organizational initiatives. Simply put, CMO and CEO alignment must be an ongoing aspect of C-suite collaboration u002du002d before, during, and after strategy creation.

Making Alignment a Top Priority for CEOs and CMOs

In years past, CMO and CEO alignment has been difficult to achieve. However, as brands recover from the pandemic and prepare for a somewhat unpredictable year in 2023, marketing efforts will continue to differentiate companies from their competition. Strategic investment in marketing spend will enable brands to expand market share and drive business growth – so long as CMOs and CEOs prioritize alignment and partnership.

For more information about developing and executing collaborative, innovative marketing strategies, check out the Madison Taylor Marketing library.