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Why a chief growth officer can deliver faster, clearer and better marketing

By Chris Jefford | founding partner

September 20, 2018 | 4 min read

I heard a great phrase the other day: the CMO is only a guest in the boardroom.

chris jefford

Armed with growing budgets and new technologies, you’d think chief marketing officers would have a much more influential role when it comes to the boardroom but that often doesn’t seem to be the case. Recent research suggests that CMO tenures now last an average of only 42 months, and that number declines every year.

This short-termism is akin to being a manager in the Premier League – it’s a must-win results business. Forget about the long term, or the ‘project’ as many managers like to call it. If you’ve not nailed it in 10 matches you’re out.

There’s no time to invest in talent. There’s no time to place bets on things working. There’s no time to see-out the long-term creative benefit of a crafted brand. And it’s this culture, this data-driven, one-campaign-at-a-time culture, that needs to change.

And indeed, it is changing, with instances of business having a CGO in place becoming more commonplace.

The chief growth officer title is nothing new; I think I first saw it back in the mid-2000s, but it re-emerged in late 2015 along with raft of other c-suite roles. In particular, we’re seeing many startups embracing the role, new business leaders with a fresh approach to what growth needs to look like from the inside of their business.

Akin to other C-level roles, a successful chief growth officer must play across many key areas that drive growth and bust through the silo walls which divide marketing, sales, R&D, and finance to create and implement a longer term, braver and perhaps more risky vision. The CMO has often fought and failed to achieve this, it’s just not the traditional role they are being asked to play. The manager, rather than the director of football.

What has become clear these days is that challenging strategies have to be put in place right across the organisation. For this to happen, the CGO has to question how things are typically done in the business, alter corporate culture, and drive innovation for best growth-based results.

And they need to move fast. Not just to meet growth and profitability goals, or even customer needs. It’s about momentum, being one step ahead. It’s about understanding what will surprise and delight customers with products and services before they ask.

In short, they have to be brave and believe in their mission. They need to bring everybody from the chief executive downwards with them. And that includes their agencies.

Recently at Truant we have focused a lot of our attention on organisations who have a CGO. In our opinion, companies who employ a CGO move faster, think clearer and make better and braver decisions.

This structure enables businesses to move at speed, while also investing in longer term strategies for the growth of the organisation, with a focus on long-term profit growth rather than short term ROI.

In my view, this is a key component for a future model of business and brand growth. And in the spirit of putting our money where our mouth is, we’re betting on it by pointing our new business efforts at those brands that have a CGO in place, rather than a more traditional, often siloed, marketing function.

We think we need to enter an era of braver thinking, of real creative change, of a return to long-term thinking and long-term investment.

And we think a more widespread adopting of the CGO role might be a signal of that happening.

Chris Jefford is a founding partner at Truant London

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