Agency Reaction to CMO Stress

Lately, I’ve found myself in a position where I’m advising more and more marketing agencies. Each agency has its unique set of services and offerings, but one common thread unites them all: the impact of marketing budget cuts over the past year. Particularly, agencies serving the technology and finance sectors have felt the pinch. As I delve deeper into their challenges, one significant trend stands out—the evolving role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and their increasing responsibility for proving the ROI of every marketing dollar spent.

The journey for many of these agencies has been a roller coaster. I’ve heard a familiar story, one that began with 2020 being a year of uncertainty, followed by a surprising and robust 2021. The momentum continued into the first quarter of 2022, with impressive growth. As the year progressed, agencies faced a different challenge—not revenue, but rather the struggle to allocate resources to meet the opportunities knocking at their doors.

Around mid-year, a change in the winds became palpable. Some things started to slow down, and a few marketers even requested to “pre-pay” for services to secure their budgets. Layoffs within the industry began, and talk of a looming recession intensified, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease. As we entered 2023, the ax fell on budgets, projects were canceled, and investment in third-party services dropped.

For many agencies, the journey has been challenging, and some continue to grapple with the fallout. Among those who are weathering the storm, a common thread emerges—they quickly adapted. These resilient agencies took a deep dive into understanding the challenges their clients, especially the CMOs, were facing. They redefined their offerings with a singular focus: addressing the CMO’s greatest challenge of demonstrating a clear ROI for every marketing dollar spent.


Let’s delve into the changing landscape and explore how your agency can not only adapt but thrive by aligning with the evolving pressure of the CMO role.

Beyond MQLs: Embracing Revenue Generation

Gone are the days when CMOs were solely responsible for brand promotion and lead generation. Today, they’re expected to be revenue drivers. Your agency needs to understand that CMOs are not just looking for leads; they want customers who convert and contribute to the bottom line.

  • Segmentation is Key: Assist CMOs in segmenting their audience effectively. Create tailored campaigns for different customer segments, ensuring the right message reaches the right people.
  • Conversion-Centric Content: Develop content that guides potential customers through the decision-making process. Think about the questions they might have at each stage of their journey and address them through your content.
  • Marketing Automation: Implement marketing automation tools that help nurture leads efficiently. Automated email workflows, personalized recommendations, and drip campaigns can make a big difference in lead conversion.
  • Multi-Channel Strategies: Explore multi-channel marketing strategies that align with customer preferences. Whether it’s social media, email, content marketing, or paid advertising, a coordinated approach can maximize ROI.

Budget Constraints and ROI Demands

CMOs now operate under tighter budgets, with every marketing dollar expected to demonstrate a clear ROI. The pressure is on to deliver results that directly contribute to the sales funnel.

  • Data-Driven Budget Allocation: Leverage data analytics to identify high-impact marketing channels and allocate budgets accordingly. Focus your spending where it matters most.
  • Leaner Marketing: Streamline processes and optimize campaigns for cost-efficiency. Automated reporting tools can help you track ROI in real-time, allowing for swift adjustments.
  • Performance-Based Pricing: Consider offering performance-based pricing models where your agency’s compensation is directly tied to the results you deliver. This aligns your incentives with ROI.
  • Value-Added Services: Offer value-added services that enhance ROI, such as SEO audits, conversion rate optimization, and marketing technology audits.

Embracing a Customer-Centric Approach

CMOs must ensure that leads progress through every stage of the customer journey successfully. Your agency needs to help them align marketing efforts with customer expectations to avoid high dropout rates.

  • Customer Journey Mapping: Create detailed customer journey maps that highlight pain points and opportunities for engagement. Use this to guide campaign strategy.
  • Personalization at Scale: Implement personalization strategies using marketing automation tools. Tailor content and messages based on individual customer behavior and preferences.
  • Feedback Loops: Set up feedback loops to gather insights directly from customers. Use surveys, social listening, and customer support interactions to uncover pain points and improve the customer experience.
  • Content That Resonates: Develop content that speaks directly to customer needs and pain points at each stage of the journey. Use storytelling techniques to engage and connect emotionally.

Maximizing Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and Upsell Opportunities

CMOs now focus on maximizing LTV and ARPU (average revenue per user) of customers, making upsell and cross-sell opportunities imperative.

  • Behavior-Driven Upselling: Analyze customer behavior and purchase history to identify ideal moments for upselling or cross-selling. Craft targeted offers based on these insights.
  • Loyalty Programs: Create and manage loyalty programs that reward repeat customers. Offer exclusive deals, early access, or special promotions to encourage loyalty and higher spending.
  • Predictive Analytics: Implement predictive analytics models that forecast customer behaviors, enabling proactive upsell strategies.
  • Feedback-Driven Improvements: Collect and act on customer feedback to enhance products or services, making upselling opportunities more appealing.

Prioritizing Customer Retention and Brand Experience

Retention and engagement are critical for CMOs, as they are responsible for the entire customer lifecycle. Your agency can help by crafting customer-centric strategies.

  • Customer Surveys: Conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys to gauge sentiment and identify areas for improvement. Use the feedback to drive positive changes.
  • Omnichannel Support: Provide support across multiple channels (e.g., chat, email, phone) to ensure customers can reach out and receive assistance conveniently.
  • Content Strategy for Retention: Develop content that supports existing customers—such as guides, tutorials, and advanced usage tips—to help them make the most of their purchase.
  • Engagement Campaigns: Run targeted engagement campaigns aimed at existing customers. These can include special offers, loyalty rewards, and personalized content.

Overcoming Measurement Challenges

CMOs face difficulties in accurately measuring results, particularly in attributing leads to specific initiatives.

  • Customized Attribution Models: Create customized attribution models tailored to each client’s specific goals and customer journey. This ensures more accurate ROI measurements.
  • Data-Driven Dashboards: Develop customized dashboards that provide real-time data on key metrics. These dashboards should be easily accessible for CMOs to track performance.
  • A/B Testing: Continuously conduct A/B testing to understand which marketing efforts are driving results. Use these insights to refine campaigns and improve ROI.
  • Advanced Analytics Tools: Invest in advanced analytics tools that offer granular insights into campaign performance. Machine learning and AI can help identify trends and opportunities.

Seamless Integration of Technology

CMOs seek integrated solutions for a holistic view of the customer journey, but many available tools lack integration.

  • Integration Specialists: Employ integration specialists who can connect various marketing tools and platforms to create a cohesive tech ecosystem.
  • Technology Audits: Conduct technology audits to identify redundancies and inefficiencies in the tech stack. Streamline and optimize to reduce costs and improve performance.
  • Unified Data Management: Implement a centralized data management system that allows CMOs to access and analyze customer data from multiple sources in one place.
  • Custom Tech Solutions: Explore the development of custom tech solutions or applications that address specific integration challenges unique to your client’s industry or niche.

By taking these concrete steps to address the evolving challenges faced by CMOs, your agency can not only meet their expectations but also position itself as a valuable partner in driving marketing success and achieving a clear ROI.

For additional insight on the evolving role of CMO check out this article, 2024 CMO Priorities: Top Insight from 75 SaaS Leaders, by RevSure.


Linda Ruffenach

Founder / Chief Strategic Officer at Execuity. Linda is an experienced entrepreneur, skilled facilitator, and bourbon badass. Her 20+ years of C-level experience enables her to relate to the challenges business owners face every day. As the former CEO of a $100 million international enterprise, she has been through almost every stage a company can experience from fast growth, rapid decline, to complete transformation. In addition to running multiple businesses, Linda is Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Louisville's School of Business, leading and mentoring undergrad and graduate students on their path to business ownership Linda’s superpower is turning strategy into results.