The rise of the chief growth officer

The rise of the chief growth officer

Since leaving the agency and consulting world and now focusing once more on my own start-up. Or start-ups this time round. The concept of growth has fascinated me. But really, it always has. Always focussing on the next growth jump and never really enjoying the moment when you achieve a specific milestone long enough before the next one takes focus. However, perhaps that’s the salesperson in me. 

However, the drivers behind growth in most businesses can elude any founder, founding team or leadership function.

Technically you’d expect the CEO to be responsible, with their forward vision for the company, drive and ambition. Or is it the CMO, responsible for driving awareness and results through awareness and marketing expertise. However, in reality, growth requires a very unique blend of skills and a different attitude at the board room table. 

Enter the Chief Growth Officer

A Chief Growth Officer, or CGO, is more than a marketing specialist. They blend expertise in marketing, sales, product development and finance to achieve a business’ strategic objectives.

Using the tools and expertise available to them, a CGO is ideally placed to break through operational silos that naturally exist across a business, acting as a catalyst to drive a cultural and organisational change.

The CGO is a visionary, a natural leader, tasked with moving the entire business forward. Growth is a heavy responsibility; the right person will find the right path to success.

Functions of a Chief Growth officer

Marketing is, of course, the key to any growth role, and the CGO must ensure that the marketing strategy is based upon a unique value proposition. This strategy must be more extensive and reach the whole business, communicating this strategy and insights gained from the process enables a higher conversion rate and can form the basis of new features or products.

Ensuring sales activity maintains the continuity of the value proposition is essential to long-term success. The CGO must take responsibility for analysing customer interactions, monitoring buyer behaviour. Insights that are valuable; but knowing what to do with it is critical. The CGO will take relevant information and create or refine strategies across all the functions they are responsible for, optimising growth.

Understanding the customer is key to the success of a CGO overseeing product development. The CGO must make sure that customers receive the value that they expect from the products delivered to them. Customer expectations and needs are continually shifting, using customer experience insights the CGO creates and implements strategies across the business that maximise customer loyalty, increase retention and ultimately revenue.

To achieve all of this a CGO must have full P&L responsibility for the work they must do. This means being responsible for the finance and budgets of the sales, marketing, and where relevant the product team. Harnessing budget insight across all of the functions allows a level of agility to allocate resources in the best way possible to serve growth. Strategies that are not yielding results can swiftly be replaced while experimenting with product developments that serve future customer needs.

An excellent CGO will utilise all of the insights, from sales, marketing, product and finance to develop strategies that stay ahead of customers’ demands. 

Skills Required by a Chief Growth Officer

To find ways of advancing a business towards their objectives, a well-honed set of skills is required. Your CGO should be able to:

Understand market trends

A CGO needs to be an expert in not only the customer today but where the industry was yesterday and where it is expected to be tomorrow. So finding innovative ways to glean these insights, at scale is imperative to the success of their role. And by staying ahead of emerging market trends, a CGO can optimise internal processes, reduce costs but most importantly keep the needs of the customer at the centre of business activities. So 

They must carry out market research that informs them about their business strengths, weaknesses, any opportunities that present themselves and the threats to future growth. Combined with day to day business analysis, the CGO can then effectively plan long-term business growth.

Communicate the vision

It isn’t enough to have a great vision. Without the entire business working together towards that goal, it will be challenging to achieve success.

When all employees understand and share in the vision of the business, their performance and output are higher. The CGO needs to be able to communicate and share their vision at every level of the company so that each individual understands the value they have and will work in unison towards business growth.

Understand the customer

Companies that focus on customer experience and satisfaction are the ones that win in an increasingly crowded market place.

Having an understanding of what a customer wants, building trust with them and listening to their needs are vital skills of a CGO. Taking this further, a CGO must be able to examine if the business is capable of delivering on the consumer need and if not adjust strategies accordingly. This work helps with both customer acquisition and long-term retention.

Harness Technology

Technology has become central to all business success. A CGO needs to work in partnership with the technology team and their analysts, even working with them to evaluate potential partners. 

By understanding the current technology and its limitations, smart investments can be made to aid growth opportunities of the business. 

Improve internal process

When a business thinks of its customers, it should also consider its employees in this mix. To best serve customers, internal operations should be as simple as possible. A CGO should work to understand all of the needs of the employee and allow them the space to improve their productivity.

Empowering them to create solutions increases motivation and helps to develop processes that truly serve your customers. Ultimately improving long-term retention of employees and customers.

Investigate new developments

Consumer tastes and needs change with time, and product developments must occur in line with this. 

A CGO must stay on top of the need for product developments, conducting market research to discover changing customer attitudes and requirements. Harnessing this information, the CGO must create strategies to improve the product or service to continue creating opportunities for growth.

The future of the CGO

The Chief Growth Officer is rapidly becoming an essential position for businesses of all sizes. We have seen some of the larger companies begin to restructure, adding in a CGO that reports directly to the CEO. Johnson and Johnson have recently announced they will be eradicating the CMO role, Coca-Cola, Hyatt and Lyft have all done the same, putting in place CGO’s to revolutionise their approach to growth. 

Often a CGO can be seen as succession planning for the next CEO, but the role has to be so much more than this. A CEO, while making executive decisions doesn’t always interact with employees or their customers, relying on an executive team to bring them the right information. The CGO fills this position perfectly, working seamlessly across the business, getting to know the customer and understanding the challenges of employees. By creating solutions to the barriers to growth, they find they can help the CEO to propel the company forward, optimising all business activities with a more hands-on approach. 

Business growth is no longer as reliant on traditional marketing activities, so forward-thinking businesses need more than a conventional CMO to drive growth. Principles I will be incredibly mindful of as I embark on my next ventures - welcome the CGO.

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