What we can learn about sales and marketing from Unilever scrapping its CMO role

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In early April, one of the world’s biggest advertisers announced it was scrapping its chief marketing officer (CMO) role. Instead, Unilever named its first digital and commercial officer to reflect the “blurring” of lines between digital marketing and commerce. 

Unilever’s bombshell came in the wake of B2C brands such as Uber, McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson also shelving CMO roles.

So does this mean the beginning of the end for marketing officers? And how can we use this information as we plan for the next financial year?

Unilever’s decision reflects the trends that I am seeing in the industry as the founder and CEO of Sales Redefined. In B2B, we are seeing the best results with teams that bridge the gap between sales and marketing, preventing a leaky funnel to create a lead generation journey from awareness to conversion to paying client. 

Traditionally, there has been a break in that journey where marketing teams are responsible for the first half and sales are responsible for the second half. We know is that over 50% of sales reps do not respond to marketing leads, and nine out of 10 sales and marketing professionals do not believe there is alignment.

Unilever’s decision is an effort to close this divide between teams and give ownership to the whole journey under one roof.

But I don’t believe we’re seeing the demise of the CMO role just yet. Marketing has become such a broad function, and includes everything from social media and SEO to PR and branding.

There is still an immense skillset that brands and businesses need.

However, what we are seeing is the change of responsibilities and the bridging of the gap where historically there has been a divide.

Not just a divide in culture, but also a divide in targets and how success is measured. 

While the move towards greater alignment and integration has long been coming, COVID-19 sped up this process, accelerating digital transformation by three to five years as consumers demanded greater digital interactions.

The B2C industry adapted quickly to meet these needs, while the Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will be via digital channels.

Time to align sales and marketing

What does all of this mean for the new financial year? It means we must prepare for that change now.

Based on our own research, only 8% of companies have a strong alignment between their sales and marketing teams. Those that do generate 209% more revenue. That’s a huge incentive to get on-board the alignment train. 

As you plan for the 2023 financial year, alignment needs to be a top priority, and it needs to happen from day one. That means getting your sales and marketing teams together for an initial brainstorming and planning session, and asking them the following key questions:

  • Where are you winning?
  • Where are you seeing the greatest demand and what for? 
  • Where are you losing? 
  • What are the top questions are you being asked by prospects? 
  • What are the biggest challenges your clients are facing?

By understanding from the two sides where the greatest opportunities lie and then bringing them together, that’s where you will start to see success.


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