Chief Revenue Officer: holding out for a hero?

There are some conflicts that are legendary. Montagues versus Capulets. Ali versus Frazier. Cowboys versus Indians. Cain versus Abel. United versus...

There are some conflicts that are legendary. Montagues versus Capulets. Ali versus Frazier. Cowboys versus Indians. Cain versus Abel. United versus City. And, of course, there’s marketing versus sales.

These two departments have been fighting one another for as long as the disciplines have been recognised, and no amount of organisational restructuring or lead handover criteria agreements appear to influence this. Their differences are insurmountable, irreconcilable… not to say insufferable.

But apparently there is a solution: bring in someone objective and non-aligned to head up both departments and ensure they co-operate and get their priorities straight (in the eyes of the board, at least). That role, it is increasingly being suggested, is the chief revenue officer (CRO).

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? A new position that will magically solve all your sales/marketing alignment challenges, and under whose enlightened stewardship you can live happily ever after. If you’re like me, about now, you’re probably thinking it’s all too good to be true. And if so, the fact the concept’s most passionate advocates are marketing automation vendors (who have an obvious vested interest) will probably do very little to convince you.

So is the CRO a load of vendor hype, designed to sell solutions? Possibly… but I’m reluctant to write it off just yet. The fact is there simply aren’t many CROs out there (particularly on this side of the pond) and consequently we simply can’t see if it works yet, or if it’s just a fad.

As marketers, you may also be thinking ‘what about me?’ Could I be a CRO? More importantly, should I want to be a CRO? It’s a potential route to the board, and for that reason alone it should not be dismissed out of hand. However, the weight of hopes and expectations that may come with the CRO role could be a poisoned chalice. Without a clear mandate and supportive CEO, it would take a brave marketer to step into this role, and until the concept is widely established and understood, I would urge caution.

For more on the CRO, see the cover story from our Februrary 2012 issue.