What Are the Core Operating Principles of a Chief Growth Officer?

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ANNUITAS has recently covered the increasing shift we are witnessing within best-in-class go-to-market organizations from organizational silos and ‘random acts’ among marketing, sales and customer success teams to a true, Converged Growth organizational model.

Research overwhelmingly supports this approach.  “B2B organizations that unify commercial strategies and leverage multithreaded commercial engagements will realize revenue growth that outperforms their competition by 50%,” predicts Gartner.

We also have discussed the importance of having a Chief Growth Officer at the helm of this organization. To guide organizations as they think through the implications of this approach – either as an individual Chief Growth Officer or as a hybrid Office of the Chief Growth Officer – ANNUITAS has put together a Work-in-progress (WIP) Position Description for the Chief Growth Officer.

Our WIP Position Description covers the ‘shifts’ that are required both in thinking about the design of the go-to-market organization and in thinking about what it means to ensure continuous organizational stewardship of customer journey.

What does it mean to ‘operationalize’ around customer journey?  We have identified six pillars that define this shift:

  • Unified team
  • Customer lifecycle aligned
  • Operationalized go-to-market
  • Sustainable programs
  • Optimizable architecture
  • Delivering net lift

So how does this translate into the day-to-day operations of a Chief Growth Officer? Let’s discuss the new operating principles for a successful CGO across three dimensions — Mindset, Approach and Execution.

The CGO Mindset

Having the right mindset is probably the most abstract of the three dimensions, but it is perhaps the most important.  After all, if the CGO is not focused each day on the right high-level strategic goals – approached with the right context – then the returns down the line can be diminished.

Below are seven factors, integral to building the right Mindset for a CGO.

1. Stop “random acts – instead, driving a repeatable, scalable Growth Engine 

The table stakes within a Converged Growth go-to-market organization CGOs must drive towards a strategic, encompassing and sustainable go-to-market vision, and they must lean on marketing teams to stop producing disjointed, haphazard marketing actions that decrease overall go-to-market effectiveness.  Every go-to-market element must play a role in supporting a company’s perpetual Growth Engine. 

2. Engage (customers) right place, right time 

The CGO must oversee the construction of a cohesive and orchestrated engagement model – centered around what we refer to at ANNUITAS as a Conversation Track Architecture that spans multiple departments, stakeholders and channels This includes aligning digital and in-person and integrates an understanding of how different personas across the buying committee consume and get value from different information and experiences Engaging right place, right time requires understanding how the combination of these modalities drives a customer’s critical pathAnd a CGO must consider this not only for pre-sale, but also for post-sale cross and upsell, as well as retention.  

3. Outside in vs. inside out GTM 

The notion of “outside in” means formulating go-to-market strategy and execution that is founded primarily in a customer’s needs, not the organization’s needs Collecting, and acting on, customer feedback is key And that feedback must not simply be about the product itself, but about the buying process; as well as the who and not just the what buyer’s need when making a decision A CGO must implement and enforce a culture of listening to the customer and guide the translation of this listening into operationalization of go-to-market programs around the customer’s journey. 

4. Build a pull vs. push Demand Process 

Marketing teams should be evolving to “pull” models through aligning the customer experience closely with the buyer journeyIn many instances this means building go-to-market in an anticipatory fashion – i.e., attempting to ‘get found,’ instead of trying to always engage a prospective customer head-on.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is more likely to drive a successful and organic customer outcome.  Moreover, the CGO must extend this notion to the entire lifecycle.  

5. Shift from data-driven approach to insight-driven approach 

CGOs need to evolve the use of analytics from dated concepts like attribution, and build a more holistic view around the key levers in the customer journey and those levers can be optimized to drive repeatable, optimized customer critical paths CGOs should strive for more granular insights into which activities are driving demand lift, versus those that are merely contributing to activity-based and static attribution dataThe goal is to ensure go-to-market programs are ultimately driving net lift in the business and to understand the portfolio of activities that can optimize this lift. 

6. Optimization over “testing” 

Regardless of content type, channel or stage in the journey – CGOs must continually optimize the experience for each customer CGOs should understand the critical path of the buyer, and simply be tuning, rather than introducing and discarding lots of new elements Think of it more about dialing up and dialing down critical path analysis and tuning for optimal results vs. generating net new ‘campaigns.  

7. Continuously raising maturity  

Like other CxOs, the CGO needs to constantly revisit the overall strategy and find methods for improving the maturity and efficiency of each revenue-driving department under the CGO’s purview While we are early in the concept of a CGO, maturity models exist and can be followed/measured against.  

The Approach of a CGO

How does a CGO build a world class Converged Growth organization? It all starts with analyzing (or re-analyzing) the customer journey, end-to-end, and thinking through how to operationalize all go-to-market elements around this journey.  It also requires thinking about traditionally “non-revenue” types of journey milestones as opportunities to directly or indirectly foster growth.

1. Conversation Track Architecture driving segmentation, dialogue 

The CGO must understand the customer and their engagement preferences across touchpoints and channels.  This ‘ethnographic’ journey must be translated into common and scalable tracks of engagement – what we refer to as Conversation TracksThe idea is to build scalable and perpetual segmentation that is meaningful to the customer journey – vs. merely segmenting in the moment on a static, ‘demographic’ factorConversation Tracks are end-to-end amalgamations of buying stages, content interactions, engagement channel experiences and periodic assessments of customer readiness – much more than a point-in-time ‘campaign.’ 

2. Perpetual Demand model 

A CGO must design go-to-market activities across pre-and-post sale experiences that are ‘always on.  At the core is a ‘listening engine’ i.e., leveraging go-to-market technology architecture and process design to understand and then meet the needs of the buyer across various channels and milestones as they proceed through buying phasesThe ideal outcome is total orchestration of engagement channels across the entire customer journey. 

3. End-to-end scope of customer lifecycle  

Rolling up all of the above tenets, the CGO has to be truly focused on driving growth from every facet of the customer lifecycle. They cannot favor marketing or sales as lead revenue drivers, even if their contribution is in the majority All stages of the journey are equally important to drive repeatable, scalable growth. 

4. Customer stewardship orientation to org design 

The CGO needs to build a go-to-market organizational structure that clarifies which roles, processes and technology systems are responsible for each step of the customer journey, and then ensure that no gaps exist and that each role in the process is being done in an optimal fashion – with no gaps in the customer journey 

Execution Factors for CGOs

When it comes to “day-to-day” and creating an end-to-end focused Growth Engine, a CGO needs to keep these items in mind to enable a continuous Demand Process that drives the entire go-to-market organization.

1. Blended teams 

Deeper than the organizational construction mentioned above, CGOs must build truly cross-functional teams that foster collaboration with top line growth in mind, rather than narrow focused departmental goals.  

2. Customer journey rationalized roles, content and channels

The CGO is responsible for having the right people, process, content and channels optimally set for engaging each customer within each stage of his/her journey This includes pre-and-post sale engagement, where many organizations fail to build a proper Conversation Track Architecture that encompasses post-sale milestones from Success to Development to Growth.  

3. Continuous demand programs vs. interruptive ‘campaigns’ 

Execution against a high-level growth plan should be strategic; incorporating an orchestrated engagement model vs. random, disjointed campaigns (which tend to focus only on net new acquisition vs. holistic growth). 

4. Demand Process underpinning for systems and data 

The CGO should see processes as ongoing, encompassing and generating data that is perpetual and variable, versus discreet campaign-oriented processes that are sometimes single use.’  A Demand Process is the operationalizing of the response system necessary to Engage, Nurture and Convert customersIt is about developing a system that is anticipatory and optimizable – even though the exact journey often is unpredictableWithout a Demand Process Architecture, it’s impossible to build content, programs and systems that can support highly-variable customer journeys. 

It’s More Than Just an “Expanded CRO”

It may seem a simple solution is merely to expand the role of your existing Chief Revenue Officer into that of the Chief Growth officer, but ANNUITAS believes that what makes a great CRO does not necessarily make for a great CGO.

Why?  Because often, CROs are laser focused on net new sales, on better operationalizing the sales process (aka RevOps) or on more encompassing, “customer acquisition.”  While this may drive sales to think more about existing customers, it is still different than having a true, holistic ‘growth mindset.’  And it is a decidedly ‘inside-out’ way of thinking.

CROs typically think and act like salespeople.  (They often ‘were’ before they took on the CRO role.)  That is a great thing for acquisition.  But for a growth mindset, the CGO needs to think a bit bigger and instead of thinking about merely consuming and converting leads, or driving ABM campaigns, (as most CROs do) – they need to be thinking about a more constant orchestration of the Demand Process around the entire customer journey.  And building a Growth Engine, vs. simply driving marketing and sales campaigns.

It may seem like we are splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction.

In addition, CROs do not usually ‘own’ customer success. Even though there is a significant revenue connection, often success winds up being owned by executives with a customer support or a professional services delivery background. This is changing and we are seeing more CROs own Customer Success, but we would argue it makes more sense to have a CGO that has an overarching strategic ownership of marketing, sales, success, etc. than simply extending the purview of a CRO.

This is all evolutionary, which is also to say that the CRO role is really transitory … not really the shape of things to come. Think of your typical maturity models for individual departments like sales or marketing.  As these divisions grow in complexity and maturity, they need more strategic leaders.  When you level up this concept into a Converged Growth mindset, it requires a next-level strategic approach led by a Chief Growth officer.  This really ‘is’ the shape of things to come.

Defining the Chief Growth Officer Role Is an Ongoing Dialogue

The concept of a Chief Growth officer is still a fairly new idea – and is an ongoing dialogue in the marketplace.  So, while these are nascent descriptions and definitions, we believe they represent a solid foundation towards transforming your go-to-market organization, driving Converged Growth and establishing an office of the Chief Growth Officer for any organization.

We welcome your feedback here, and on our end, we will continue to hone and tweak how we define and measure success for CGOs as we see more CGOs named, and track their success and learn from their best practices.

As a next step, take a look at our WIP Position Description for a Chief Growth Officer, and let us know your feedback or questions.

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