The Changing Role of the CMO: A new B2B marketing framework

The recent alignment between sales and marketing should have CMOs addressing what their roles really should be.

Last year was the year when two B2B marketing developments transitioned into the mainstream: The rise of inbound marketing and the corresponding channels (e.g. blogs, social media), and the maturation of marketing automation software.

For businesses, the primary consequence of these developments was the clear alignment between sales and marketing. As a CEO, but also a CSO- and CMO-by-default of a software startup, I have tried to translate that alignment into coherent processes for our company. It is difficult work, but this experience gave me two ideas that I will explore further: how CMOs should really be addressed and what their roles should be.

1. CMOs should be renamed CRCOs (Chief Reach and Conversion Officers): For B2B marketing people, reach and conversion are all that matter. Everything they do should either increase the reach of their companies, or convert visitors, followers or prospects into qualified leads. Every marketing channel, including traditional ones such as events or PR can and should be reviewed in terms of reach and conversion. Traditional marketing goals such as brand awareness or press coverage mean very little if they don't translate measurably into increased reach and conversion. So for simplicity's sake (especially when recruiting), let's call CMOs "CRCOs."

2. Their role should not be restricted to the marketing funnel: Reach and conversion will always be meaningful goals along the entire sales and marketing cycle and beyond. The techniques and support materials that generate prospective clients and convert them into leads are very relevant to sales and client management processes. For example:

  • The case study that convinced a visitor to fill out a form on your website will also help convince the decision-maker to trust the influencer you have been speaking to.
  • The lead nurturing campaign you are using with prospects will become an effective sales acceleration tool when directed to new contacts within a target organization.
  • Any materials you created for marketing will become useful for onboarding new clients.

A new B2B marketing framework
These ideas are the basis for the following framework, which classifies reach and conversion activities by phases of the sales and marketing cycle:

Marketing funnel

Sales funnel


Existing clients


Attract visitors
Encourage visitors to engage and share content
Go viral

Reach out to and engage with all stakeholders within target company

Reach out to and engage with all stakeholders within target company

Gain social media followers
Obtain reviews and case studies
Encourage users to share content


Ensure visitors fill out forms
Increase prospect engagement

Send relevant content (pipeline stage/personal)
Accelerate the process with event-triggered offers

Explain existing features
Maintain engagement and share news

Advertise new features
Explain existing features
Maintain engagement

This outline is by no means new but it brings clarity to the sales and marketing alignment debate for two reasons:

  • It's vital to understand that reach and conversion are two sides of a single coin. Packaging reach and conversion functionalities in a single tool was the intuition behind the success of HubSpot, and I don't see how other marketing automation players can remain focused on reach or conversion alone.
  • People rarely realize that B2B marketing responsibilities extend to onboarding new clients and nurturing existing ones. While existing marketing automation tools help you manage client nurturing campaigns easily, they currently lack onboarding functionalities, which seems like a logical development area.

Strategically, this framework has two implications.

1. Analytics for the entire sales and marketing cycle: Since CRCO responsibilities extend further than the traditional frontier between the marketing and the sales funnels it makes sense to track marketing ROI throughout the sales and marketing cycle. Best-of-breed marketing automation tools offer some analytics and feedback, but they're limited to traditional marketing funnel stages, and they're quite unsophisticated, especially regarding forecasting.

The legitimate goal is to infer future sales (amount and timing) from current marketing expenses. This goal will drive increased integration between marketing automation software and sales analysis and forecasting software like SalesClic this year.

2. Back office and front office players: Marketing automation processes may have become mainstream, but automating them remains far too complicated for most traditional CRM tools. This should accelerate the consolidation of the CRM software market into two segments:

  • Back-office software - CRM-optimized databases and middleware, handling data management and standard CRM workflows.
  • Front-office software - specialized applications providing the role/sector expertise that back-office software lacks

There can only be a finite number of back-office platforms, so I doubt the dozens of "small business CRMs" that exist today will survive, especially if Google takes the simple step of adding "account" and "opportunity" objects to Google Apps for Business.

I also doubt that many large players in the CRM market will be successful in maintaining both a quality back-office platform and best-of-breed front-office modules. For example, can Salesforce be as good as Zendesk in customer support, in file management or Zuora in subscription management while also remaining the best back-office platform around? Such an achievement has rarely been seen in other software markets with a similar back office/front office structure (e.g. financial software).