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Top CMO Pain Points of 2024 

by Matt Oxley

From the very beginning, Opal was purpose-built for marketers and communicators. We had a distinct POV on what could help marketing professionals work better everyday – and we built exclusive features to solve their challenges.

Opal is the marketing platform of choice for a huge variety of organizations – from rapidly-rising mid-sized brands like Madhappy, to juggernauts like Target

One of our key difference makers has always been listening to real marketers and communicators. Over the past year, we’ve been paying special attention to what executive marketing leaders (like CMOs and SVPs) are experiencing

I’m sharing the top CMO pain points we’ve heard time-and-time again – and recapping the journey that brought us to this understanding. 

The Top CMO Challenges Summarized 

All of the top CMO challenges we’re recognizing here stem from conversations we’ve had and research we’ve done. 

If you’re a marketing leader, chances are a lot of these CMO challenges won’t surprise you – although some still may. More than anything, I expect you’ll find this to be confirmation that you’re experiencing the same thing that A LOT of other marketing leaders are…

The relationship between the CFO & CMO – While the relationship between a CFO and CMO should be mutually beneficial, there is also potential for friction. We’ve heard some CFOs view marketing as a sunk cost and always operate with the perspective of reducing that cost whenever possible. This can lead to marketing leaders needing to fight for their ad budget and tech stack every year. 

Needing to do more with less – Typically, this CMO pain point is a directive that comes down from the very top. Increasingly, marketing leadership is needing to find a way to do more with less. Since, for example, ad spend is often a fixed cost, this often means maximizing the output of people and teams. 

Setting a strategy for AI – While AI may have been the hottest industry news topic of 2023, now it’s up to CMOs to decide their organizations’ actual strategy for how to use AI. There’s no clear-cut answer. Some leaders are excited at the time-saving potential of effective generative AI use. However, other CMOs are wary about what it means for their brand and their employees. 

Deciding on spaces where your brand should and shouldn’t be – One of the hardest calls a marketing leader needs to make (or advise on) is where your brand should be active. Sometimes brands leave platforms when they become not safe for the brand – ala Twitter/X. Other times, brands leave a platform in reaction to their core audience leaving. Of course, it can also be a financial decision stemming from no potential for ROI on the platform. 

Organizational marketing alignment – By far the most important pain point that CMOs are experiencing – whether it’s individual social posts, email copy, or any other example, CMOs often have little-to-no understanding of how their big-picture plan is being executed. It’s not uncommon for these leaders to only see how their brand is going to market at the same time as their public audience.  

That was our list of the top CMO challenges that we’ve learned about from executive marketing leadership. If you were just looking for a quick top-five hit list – you’ve got it! 

Of course, the full story of how we learned all of this is just as interesting as what we discovered. Here’s how we listened to all of the right people – and did the research – to understand these top CMO challenges…   

One-on-One Conversations 

Picking the brains of our customers (and other marketing leaders we know) is one of the best ways that we continue to refine and develop our platform. 

In researching a new Opal feature that would expand visibility for marketing leadership, we realized what a key problem misalignment was for CMOs. We kept hearing that they had no way to connect their big-picture plans to what was being done in the market

Not only did we know that the alignment challenge was one of the most important CMO pain points, but we also knew just how impactful this new feature we were building truly was. 

Inspired by product insight from marketing leaders at Nespresso, UHG, SAP, Boeing, Harley-Davidson, and countless other brands, we’re close to releasing a platform feature that the market has never seen before!

Partnering with Forrester Research 

Opal and Forrester Retail marketing research

While we understood the challenges our customers (and other marketing leaders) faced, we also wanted to get external, objective validation of what mattered to marketing leaders that we didn’t know. 

After careful consideration, Opal commissioned Forrester Research to survey marketing leadership about a series of relevant topics. 

Forrester surveyed 151 CMOs, VPs, and Senior Directors from the technology and retail sectors. Since marketing alignment was such a key point for many one-on-one conversations, we ensured it was a focal point of our Forrester research. 

Download the original research report here.

While the entire study and report were fascinating, these are the five standout points of the research (from my POV anyway):

  • 89% of the surveyed marketing leaders rated that organizational alignment was critical to the success of their marketing.
  • Only 1% of marketing leaders said they were fully satisfied with their level of alignment and visibility into their organization.
  • 87% reported that their organizations needed better software to solve the alignment problem.
  • 77% of marketers said that organizational silos make aligning on strategy difficult.
  • 32% say increasing content creation while decreasing marketing team size is a top priority. 

For me, the biggest takeaway was that we had unbiased confirmation that marketing leaders outside of our network were experiencing alignment challenges, that they knew they needed a solution, and – best of all – that they expected to invest in software to solve it.

Roundtable Discussion with CMOs  

Our journey of listening to and learning from exceptional marketing leaders brought us to the Millennium Alliance CMO Assembly in Austin.

We met with leaders on a one-on-one basis, but we also presented a roundtable called “Stepping Out of the Silos that Hold Back Marketing Impact” to a room of CMOs.

While the entire hour was packed with insights, these were my favorite conversation points:

  • The time you spend finding out what’s going on in the org can be debilitating to your productivity. We named that time spent “The Alignment Tax”. 
  • There are classes on marketing now – but there’s no instruction on how to get aligned.
  • Making an ally out of your CFO is extremely beneficial to clear the way for marketing initiatives. 
  • That the more systems and processes there are, the more roadblocks there are to alignment happening naturally.
  • That fire drills and emergency initiatives feel like a constant in marketing.
  • That there are source-of-truth-platforms for sales people (e.g., Salesforce) and developers (e.g., Github) – but nothing universal for marketers…

Once again, alignment was a key conversation point along with some really interesting discussion about the CMO/CFO relationship.

We followed up with every CMO we met and asked if they wanted a tour of a prototype built to solve marketing alignment challenges – specifically from a leadership lens. 

85% of the CMOs we met said yes, they wanted to have conversations with us…

Join Us on Our Journey to Discuss CMO Pain Points & More

Listening to incredible marketers and communicators is the secret sauce that makes Opal so powerful. If you’re a marketing leader reading this blog – I’d love to learn from you, too. 

If this has resonated with you the way it has with so many other marketing leaders, I’d love to talk. Seriously, just reach out to me, and I’ll share more about this journey we’re on and preview our first-of-its-kind feature built for CMO alignment!

The best way to get in touch with me is to connect on LinkedIn and send me a message!

About the Author

Matt Oxley

Co-founder and President

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