How B2B CMOs Can Reply To Their CEOs’ Want For Certainty


In the past year we have all seen an unprecedented change, and scenarios that we have only seen in movies before became reality and affected all aspects of our professional and personal lives. In business terms, markets that used to be attractive may have disappeared, companies that used to be strong competitors may have decided to join forces, and the way we work and how we interact has changed – for many – changed dramatically.

With uncertainty still high, many B2B marketing directors are narrowing their planning horizons to ensure marketing plans are reviewed and adjusted as needed so their teams can continue to demonstrate agility and resilience. As these principles of agility and adaptability have grown across key boards, CEOs and leadership teams are all interested in moving forward and making decisions that shape the future of their business and drive incremental change in performance and value.

Hence, marketing directors need to avoid the trap of focusing only on short-term efforts. More than ever, it is important to create the bandwidth needed to look ahead and advance your organizations’ longer term growth agenda. To do this, B2B marketing directors need to not only manage external realities and uncertainties, but also navigate their own organizational structures and internal complexities so they can deliver a precise yet actionable marketing strategy.

It is not always easy to develop a clear vision for the future – and given the ongoing uncertainty, such an endeavor may seem even more complex and daunting. Where do you start How do you ensure that you coordinate with your colleagues in sales and product functions at all levels of the company? How do you ensure that decisions at the highest level of strategy cascade and drive the operational efforts of all marketing subteams to avoid inefficiencies and waste?

We have broken this complexity and the formulation of the marketing strategy into three successive levels. Specifically:

  • Level 1: This is known as the common goal and captures decisions that sales, marketing, and product leaders must make together to provide clarity about where and how future revenue will be generated. When the sales engine leaders agree on the future common goal, they must also examine the strategic alignment of all sales engine functions, identify areas where change is needed, and commit to driving those changes forward so that future market advantage is attainable.
  • Level 2: At this level, B2B marketing directors need to make decisions that define how marketing aligns with its approach to support the common goal and maximizes its effectiveness. The first decisions made at this level are external – in terms of brand, audience, go-to-market routes, and value creation. Here CMOs have the unique opportunity to bring their deep understanding of the evolving behavior and expectations of buyers and customers to the table, so that those responsible for the sales drivers can jointly make decisions that maximize business results in existing and new or untapped market areas. CMOs then turn to internal decisions that provide clarity about the operating model, marketing skills, and milestones marketing must achieve in support of the common goal.
  • Level 3: The decisions made on the previous levels cascade down to the individual marketing sub-functions (e.g. marketing operations, portfolio marketing, demand marketing) and offer the strategic clarity that these executives often lack. With this clarity, they can define what they need to deliver within their own sub-functions to support the long-term marketing strategy.

Together, these three levels form the Marketing Strategy Compass – a best practice model that Forrester uses with B2B CMOs to help them navigate uncertainty and noise and provide a clear strategic vision that drives their company’s growth agenda . Developing this future outlook is key to ensuring that B2B marketing leaders continue to act as confident agents of change – especially during these times when their business needs the most clarity.

To learn more about how CMOs can use this approach in their own organizations based on their business context, attend Forrester at the B2B Summit North America.

Download Forrester’s free 2021 Predictions Guide here to understand business and technology trends for 2021.

This post was written by VP and Research Director Meta Karagianni and originally appeared here.