The Transition of the Chief Marketing Officer to the Chief Growth Officer-It’s the Real Thing

The Transition of the Chief Marketing Officer to the Chief Growth Officer-It’s the Real Thing

Last year brought about many major shifts and conversations in the healthcare industry; from new national health plans to ongoing debates of repeal or reform of the Affordable Care Act. All of these have had an impact on healthcare marketing and most organizations are holding tight on any specific directions until policies are determined. Another trend that healthcare marketers have to watch, based on what has occurred in the land of big brands, is the shift from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to Chief Growth Officer (CGO). Leave it to Coca-Cola, one of the best known and most valuable brands on the globe to lead the way.

When its CMO resigned in 2017, Coca-Cola didn’t replace his position, the first time it was without a CMO in a couple of decades. Rather, it hired a CGO and now other big brands have followed suit. This trend will certainly lead to some alterations in hospital marketing departments, too. The rationale for this change at Coke was that it was part of a restructuring to turn the company into a “growth oriented, and consumer-centered   organization.”

Wait, what? Coca-Cola replaced its top­ ranked marketing executive with another position that will generate growth and provide a consumer focus. Isn’t that marketing’s job? Shouldn’t a top marketer be doing that?

Bottom-line, marketing at Coke and at many global brands, is not seen as a “growth” department; one that adds revenue, new operations, and new customers to the organization. Startling, yes-and here are some supportive statistics:

  • Nearly one-third of CEO’s considered firing their CMO in 2017 according to Forrester Research
  • The average tenure of CMO’s in the US is four years, the shortest in the C-Suite
  • CMO’s are first in the line of fire if growth targets are not met, according to an Accenture Strategy Study
  • Only 21 percent of companies are able to fully measure marketing’s contribution to revenue (Allocadia)
  • 30 percent of all C-Suite dissatisfaction occurs by incorrectly setting expectations and failing to onboard customers
  • 61 percent of CMO’s cite pressure from CEO’s to provide results; 58 percent say that pressure is increasing (Deloitte)

What’s a CMO to Do?

The first change that CMO’s need to make is to shift their own perception of their job function and those of marketing professionals in their departments. Too many still think of their role as traditional marketing; conducting research, determining product position and the other P’s, devising target audience plans, and creating integrated communications to reach, motivate, and shift attitudes of prospective customers. And this is not wrong-but it is not the focus for the top-ranked marketing executive in their respective organization.

CMO’s have to take a higher view, and make broader, more disruptive decisions that impact the growth of the organization, not just its perception. These individuals and departments need to:

  • Focus on brand-growing, and not just brand building. Marketers need to shift their attention to the complete brand experience, not just brand promotions. This is especially true for those in healthcare systems where patient experience is having a direct impact on the bottom-line.
  • Develop plans that demonstrate real value to the core growth goals of the organization, not marketing plans that extend what was done in the past. CMO’s and other top marketing executives have to scrap marketing plans and begin to submit market growth plans to their CEO’s.
  • Make monumental shifts in the organization’s marketing DNA, not slight changes that will go unnoticed internally. CMO’s have to be seen as disruptive and taking new paths within their organizations, shaking it up.
  • Shift from the discipline of marketing to the business of marketing operations that directly impacts revenue operations.
  • Develop business solutions, not creative solutions. There are still too many top marketing executives who are in the weeds in terms of creative messaging and executions. Once you’ve weighed in with strategy, it’s time to move out and let your internal team and outside resources run with it.
  • Translate their role into money and growth as the “only language” that truly matters to businesses. Share-of-voice, even share-of­ market, is not in today’s CMO vernacular. Revenue, growth, and income are keywords being searched by CEO’s and boards.
  • Move quickly from “doing” digital to being digital. Today’s CMO’s and tomorrow’s CGO’s are focusing on transitioning their organization into the digital age. Not search terms, social platforms, and SEO-but the entire enterprise. Can you say ”Amazon.”

Transformation in the Healthcare Industry

Not only do top marketers in hospitals and health systems share the same pressures as their counterparts at big brands, but they also have unique ones. As value-based replaces volume­ based revenue, marketers will have accountability in both patient experience and satisfaction in order to contribute to organizational growth. In addition, health system top marketing executives have to find a role to play in outcomes.

Candace Quinn, of Candace Quinn Consulting, believes this shift will occur at the service line delivery level. According to Quinn, “many organizations have morphed to incorporating Chief roles around their Pillar structure, as popularized in the Studer teachings. Chief Quality Officer, Chief People! Talent Officer, Chief Finance Officer, as well as Chief Growth Officer. What we haven’t really started seeing yet is what makes the Chief Growth Officer’s role as powerful and as influential as it might be. How many organizations put more than Strategic Planning, Marketing, PR, Fundraising and Physician Relations within the scope of this role, like including service line leadership? Growth happens at the service line delivery level…linking these key leaders even in a matrix relationship would truly give bigger meaning to the ‘growth’ part of the Chief Growth Officer.”

Paul Szablowski, Senior Vice President and Experience Officer for Texas Health Resources in Dallas, the organization’s top-ranked marketing executive, supports this shift toward growth and has witnessed it take place among his peers in hospital systems. He offers this advice.

“Today, more than ever, CMO’s need to be submerged in the continuous nature of learning, observation and discovery-leading your organization through the consumer driven economy. Not as much on the product, but the space where it exists, the experience it creates and the opportunity it exposes.”

Szablowski spends his time observing the entire experiential journey, not just tactical touch points. He believes to be successful, top marketers must operate at the speed of their customers and shift from Customer Relationship Management (CAM) to CMR, or Customer Managed Relationships.

“The health and well-being of consumers are already living, purchasing and searching in a space of exploding choices and digital channels where uncommon and innovative operations are the norm. The current state of the empowered consumer is firmly planted in the health and well being space and marketing and communications professionals must engage them and build brand relevance.

There are few disciplines that have felt the pressure to evolve more quickly than marketing and communications.”

The Rise of Big Data, Digital Enterprises, and Personalized Media

Having attended the most recent SHSMD conference, several of the more interesting sessions were held on the rise in hospitals and health systems of the role, impact, and necessity of data analytics. In addition, there were quite a few discussions on organizations becoming digital enterprises, accommodating technologies in mobile, wearable technology, and augmented reality.

All of these areas, if not already, will touch the CMO as a “have to have” in terms of expertise and results, not a “nice to have,” as they are presently. These will be the disruptive, growth-oriented, results-driven directions that CEO’s are looking for from their top hospital marketing executives.

According to Szablewski, “All of these new areas are so important to brands in the healthcare space today, and it shouldn’t be an on/off switch. It’s a dial and needs to be turned way up.”

As this New Year unfolds, it will be an important time for top marketing executives in healthcare organizations to step up, or risk being asked to step aside. Growth is the number one goal of your organization and the strategies you bring to the C-table must be focused on this core value. In healthcare, it’s tricky because “growth” can mean so many different things to an organization and, in some, a higher volume is not a desired outcome. Bottom-line, you’ll need to develop disruptive strategies that take the organization and your team in new directions and create growth opportunities. For many, this means leaving traditional marketing disciplines behind and expanding into new areas such as patient experience, data analytics, and digital enterprises. There’s still plenty of value in being Chief Marketing Officer, but priority one is growth.

Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy specializes in multi-channel marketing campaigns for health systems, hospitals and health-related associations. If you’re looking for digital and direct strategies to elevate your brand, be sure to contact us for more information today!

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