Are you among the marketing execs and CMOs that believe visioning and strategic thinking are most critical to your personal success? If so, you aren’t alone. In a recent survey, 89% of CMOs shared this conviction. The report published by Forrester Research found that when CMOs want to increase their influence across the enterprise, they attribute their personal success in this area to their capacity to think strategically about how to support the business goals of the enterprise — and not just in marketing terms and metrics.

I think any marketing executive can agree, the Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) of today and tomorrow have their work cut out for them. Not only do they have to focus their attention on digital and technical marketing advancements, but they also are seeing a greater demand from C-level counterparts for more customer data and insights, accountability, collaboration and decision-making based on facts.

In “The Evolved CMO, 2012,” a joint research project by Forrester Research and Heidrick & Struggles, survey results show that CMOs need to master a new marketing universe, build business leadership skills, drive revenue, and become advocates for the technologies they need to make their connection with the customer seamless. The study reports, “But these are the right challenges for leading marketing and strategy professionals in the coming years. CMOs who are up to the challenge can consider themselves candidates for general management, all the way up to CEO.”

The research project makes these recommendations to help CMOs drive growth initiatives and employ a renewed focus on the customer across the organization:

Be the link between business and marketing strategy. To do this, the CMO must gain buy-in from executive peers to shift budget and resources toward building an organizationwide strategy that makes superior commitment to the customer a competitive advantage.”

According to Lisa Robbins, vice president of client services, Responsory, for some organizations struggling with budget and staffing resources, this task can seem impossible and overwhelming. She explains, “This is where a strategic partner can come in with an objective eye to audit how intimate the organization is with its customers and prospects, identify customer data gaps and needs, and create a roadmap to help the CMO fully embrace the opportunities available to shift to a customer-centric marketing approach.”

Prioritize retention and loyalty before acquisition. Learning about your customers and how they perceive their relationship with your company to be is a well of insight that will add value and improve on your company’s products or services. Enriching an existing pool of customers is a better long-term strategy than seeking new ones all the time.

Heavily investing into acquisition campaigns before you truly understand what makes your customer base tick is akin to sending potential customers to a store that’s under construction. Your marketing dollars wasted on lists that could be off-base, your messaging likely out-of-tune and your offers unappealing.

Understanding who your customers are is critical to the marketing planning process,” explains Laura Rodriguez, account supervisor, Responsory. “To start this process, Responsory recommends completing a customer profile and model. By identifying shared and unique characteristics, a profile and model allows us to make educated recommendations regarding specific marketing tactics and makes us well-positioned to search lists sources, create appropriate segmentation and customize messaging.”

What this report solidified in my mind is that at the end of the day, marketing leaders — who come from all areas of business including sales, technology, communications, finance and product development — must play an integral role in the overall organization’s direction and directly contribute to helping it achieve its business goals. Where a partner like Responsory comes in to support this role may surprise some CMOs. Our strategists conduct audits and develop strategic plans to help our clients establish a fact-based roadmap that overwhelmingly wins buy-in from the C-level suite. From there, our creative and account service teams support clients to execute marketing, advertising, public relations and multichannel strategies, track and then measure each initiative.

The bottom line: we’re vested from beginning to end in our clients’ personal and professional success.