Why you should hire a Chief Growth Officer Building bridges between marketing, sales, and IT

It's no secret that organizations have to adapt constantly to changing customer needs & consumer behavior. This means (slowly) changing the 'old ways of doing things' and learning new skills. Let's dive in and see why a 'chief growth officer' can help your company thrive in an age of disruption.

Chief Growth Officer, qué?!

You may have heard the title ‘growth hacker’ and probably you frowned and moved on. The term ‘Growth hacker’ originated in start-ups and scale-ups. Most times it’s used to identify cross-functional profiles who work across departments to boost growth for the whole organization. Growing fast was (and is) very important for most start-ups, who sometimes operate in a winner-takes-all environment. The breakout success of many startups lead to the rise of ‘growth hacking superstars’:

  • Brian Balfour (ex-VP Growth at Hubspot):
  • Sean Ellis (Coined the term “growth hacking” after using it to ignite breakout growth for Dropbox, Eventbrite, etc. )
  • Andrew Chen (ex-Head of Growth at Uber)

Meanwhile incumbents, under siege by an array of startups disrupting their industry, took notice. In all layers of management people started to look closely what these ‘new kids on the block’ were doing. They also looked at their own ongoing digital transformation initiatives. Many large companies see the value delivered by cross-functional roles, such as business-IT alignment leading to higher success rates of IT projects.

Some veterans even looked back 20 years and remembered that the ‘Chief Growth Officer’ sounded familiar. They remember a time before the specialization in the C-suite into CMO, CRO/CSO, CFO, CIO, etc. Hence the role of ‘Chief Growth Officer’ was (re)born with the aim to break down silos between sales, marketing, IT, and customer service. Of course there are many definitions and every organization fills in the role a bit differently. This great post has the most accurate definition, in our opinion:

A Chief Growth Officer can work across key areas that drive growth, which includes marketing, sales, research & development, finance, or more depending on the organization, to create and implement a longer term vision and enterprise-wide execution of growth-generating strategies. To do so, this role often looks to challenge how things are typically done in the business, alter corporate culture, and drive innovation for best growth-based results.

Actually, that sounds a lot like our ideal version of a ‘growth marketer’!

Alright, so let’s replace the CMO with a CGO?

Well…, not exactly! There are a lot of ways companies try to adapt to the changing nature of the ‘traditional CMO’ profile. A rising number of multinationals have redefined or removed the CMO role, and put a different title on it:

  • Beam Suntory: ‘President of Brands’
  • Taco Bell: ‘Global Chief Brand Officer’
  • Hyatt Hotels: ‘Chief Commercial Officer’
  • Coca Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, CVS, General Electric, Kellogg’s, KraftHeinz:
    ‘Chief Growth Officer’
  • Uber: Senior VP of Communications & Policy took on Marketing after their CMO left
  • Johnson & Johnson: split CMO responsibilities, to Chief Communications Officer and other executives
  • Lyft: split the CMO role in a VP of Marketing Operations and a VP of Brand

Reading articles about these moves (and the responsibilities of these new executives) shows that the common denominator is that these organizations aim to boost growth by improving creating an executive role who has to boost collaboration across sales, marketing, R&D, and other departments. 

Others are creating a Chief Growth Officer role while keeping existing roles in place, to build a bridge between the CMO and CSO/CRO (Chief Sales Officer/Chief Revenue Officer). As discussed during our recent blog, “How to move from checklist marketing to growth marketing”, the last step of transforming your organization is embracing a ‘growth mindset’. So it makes sense to have someone at the board level to safeguard long-term growth targets and have these voices heard.

Looking at the big picture, research shows that around 14% of 700 companies studied have a CGO role. However, throughout these organizations you see a broader adoption in C-1, and middle management, of growth related roles such as VP/Head of Growth (29% of companies), and Growth Marketing Managers (41% of companies surveyed). Most interestingly, it is larger companies who are more likely to have a CGO (or similar function) at the board level.

What could this mean for you?

Looking at the companies mentioned in the articles & research we referenced, you may believe that you don’t need a CGO. This is only useful for big Fortune 500 FMCG companies, or the hipsters in fast-growing tech startups, right?! Well, the companies that have adopted a CGO or a similar role are no fools. They would revert to the CMO role within a few quarters if no positive results came from this, believe me. Here are a few of the benefits of having a CGO::

  1. Adopting a consumer-centric approach that responds speedily to changes increases ROI and revenue sources
  2. Safeguarding the strategic vision for long-term growth and pushing back on actions that may damage the brand in the long run
  3. Having an end-to-end view of the business with a straight line to the CEO, enables organizations to become more ‘agile’

To tackle the disruption facing many industries you need someone at the top who helps break down silos, who challenges counterproductive ways of working, and who has accountability for performance & Return on Investment. We strongly believe the Chief Growth Officer is a key element to increase your organizations’ staying power.

After all, where will you be if you don’t acquire new customers and keep existing ones happy?

#Growth hacking #marketing #marketingorganisation #sales #Strategy