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Growing pains

Growing pains

Think for a minute about the recent history of growth. In the early 1990s, growth occurred via diversification (à la Disney, GE). The mid-'90s gave birth to the commercialization of the Internet and with it, new distribution channels (Amazon), new technologies (Google), and new access (AOL). Companies such as Dell and Cisco really found their footing. By 2000, we were growing by vertical consolidation and by eating our own (DaimlerChrysler, HP/Compaq). Today, we've bought virtually all our competitors, and those that haven't been bought are either too expensive or too risky. We've outsourced to Mexico, China, India and Latin America. Accounting-based consultancies have shown us how to increase productivity to our highest levels ever. But, although growth continues to be a must-have, and companies are seeking it with the same zeal as their predecessors, many tapped out.

Growth is about selling more stuff to more people more often for more money more efficiently. Isn't that what the CMO was hired to do in the first place? With seemingly nothing left to buy and productivity levels screaming along at record highs, it's time for your chief growth officer to step in. What? Your company doesn't have have a CGO? Of course it does! Your CGO -- the person responsible for producing sustainable and profitable organic growth for your entire company and integrating your growth agenda across all functions of the organization -- is you!

The C in your title requires you to play a critical role for your entire company. But that responsibility is not simply given to you: You have to take it. Other C-level executives are likely to still think of marketing with a small m. But when a CMO functions as a CGO, powerfully positive results become less of a vision and more of a reality.

Marketing is a science, as well as an investment that pays returns. Yet many CMOs still view marketing as simply the sum total of ads, promotions, trade shows, retailer support and so on. And since most CMOs cannot show an ROI, these activities are viewed as an expense instead of an investment -- which is why marketing budgets keep getting cut by finance. The role of marketing is to drive the company ahead. Period. It's hard work that requires commitment, expertise and passion. Any CMO who views it any other way is an overpaid relic of days gone by. The real responsibility of marketing is to grow the company by leveraging existing assets and core competencies and then applying them to new opportunities.

Enlightened companies currently experiencing strong growth expect marketing to exert cross-functional influence across sales, manufacturing, product development, distribution and finance. To do all this, keep this disciplined approach in mind:

-- Apply marketing cross-functionally. Without companywide alignment and adherence to this objective, growth will not occur.

-- Know where you're going. Success doesn't occur by accident, and you can't build luck into your business plan. Have a destination in mind; then set in motion the plans to get there.

-- Get the right people. If you want extraordinary results, you need extraordinary people to help you achieve them.

-- Understand consumer motivations. Market to your consumers' and customers' motivations, not to their consumption patterns.

-- Know that everything communicates. From the copy on the back of your packaging to the way your customer service reps answer the phone, if you are not activating your chosen brand positioning across every facet of your customers' experience, you are at risk.

-- Measure everything. Make sure you invest in those things that are working and eliminate those that are not. Otherwise, you are subject to finance's vision of marketing, not yours.

These may sound easy enough, but they are hard to do (especially at large, process-driven companies). The biggest step you can take is to create a culture that values -- and rabidly pursues -- growth. Unless the entire organization embraces this culture, growth will chug along slowly or grind to a halt altogether. If you're not prepared to think and act differently, you're destined to be dependent on luck and hope for success to occur. And if that's your plan, then good luck to you.

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