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Chief Revenue Officer vs Chief Marketing Officer: Navigating The Dilemma

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Navigating the CRO vs. CMO Dilemma

In the dynamic world of business growth, companies often grapple with the decision of whether to appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) or a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Both roles are crucial for driving revenue generation, but they come with distinct responsibilities and areas of focus. Understanding the difference between a CRO and a CMO, and knowing which role is more suited to your company’s needs, can be a complex challenge.

The Consequences of Choosing the Wrong Role

Selecting the wrong role can lead to several issues that negatively impact your business's revenue growth and overall success:

  • Misaligned Goals: When marketing strategies and sales processes are not aligned, it creates silos that hinder cohesive efforts towards revenue targets.
  • Ineffective Revenue Generation: Without a clear focus on the entire customer journey, from acquisition to retention, your revenue generation processes may become disjointed, leading to missed opportunities.
  • Confused Decision-Making: Overlapping responsibilities and unclear KPIs can cause confusion in the c-suite, particularly between the CRO, CMO, and CFO, resulting in inefficient decision-making.
  • Stunted Growth: An inappropriate choice between a CRO and a CMO can slow down your company’s growth by not fully leveraging the potential of your marketing and sales teams.
Understanding the CRO and CMO Roles

To address these challenges, it’s essential to understand the distinct roles and contributions of a Chief Revenue Officer and a Chief Marketing Officer. This blog post will provide clarity on the differences between the CRO and CMO roles, helping you make an informed decision that aligns with your company's specific needs and revenue goals.

Defining the Roles

Understanding the distinct roles of a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is crucial for determining which position aligns best with your company's objectives. Here’s a detailed look at each role and their primary responsibilities.

Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)

The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is a relatively new addition to the c-suite, but the role has quickly become vital for many companies aiming for comprehensive revenue management. The CRO is responsible for overseeing all revenue-generating processes, ensuring that sales, marketing, customer success, and product development efforts are aligned to maximize revenue growth.

Primary Responsibilities of a CRO:

  • Revenue Generation: The CRO's core focus is on increasing the company’s revenue by optimizing and integrating sales, marketing, and customer success efforts.
  • Sales Strategies: Developing and implementing effective sales strategies to drive growth and achieve revenue targets.
  • Customer Success: Ensuring customer satisfaction and retention through cohesive customer success initiatives, thereby enhancing long-term profitability.
  • Revenue Streams: Identifying and developing new revenue streams while optimizing existing ones to ensure sustainable growth.
  • Cross-Departmental Alignment: Bridging gaps between departments, ensuring that marketing efforts and sales strategies are closely aligned to drive cohesive revenue generation.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) plays a crucial role in shaping and communicating the company’s brand and messaging. The CMO is primarily responsible for overseeing the marketing department and developing strategies that drive brand awareness, lead generation, and customer engagement.

Primary Responsibilities of a CMO:

  • Marketing Initiatives: Leading the development and execution of marketing campaigns, including digital marketing, social media, and content marketing, to promote the company’s products or services.
  • Brand Awareness: Building and maintaining a strong brand presence to attract and retain customers.
  • Lead Generation: Developing and implementing strategies to generate qualified leads for the sales team.
  • Market Research: Conducting market research to understand customer needs, market trends, and competitive landscape, informing marketing strategies and product development.
  • Customer Acquisition: Focusing on acquiring new customers through targeted marketing efforts, improving the company’s market share.

By clearly defining the roles of a CRO and a CMO, businesses can better understand which position aligns with their strategic goals. This foundational knowledge sets the stage for deciding whether to hire a CRO, a CMO, or both, depending on the company's specific needs and growth objectives.

Key Responsibilities and Focus Areas

To further differentiate the roles of a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), it is essential to delve into their key responsibilities and focus areas. Understanding these specifics can help you determine which role is best suited for your business needs.

CRO Responsibilities

The Chief Revenue Officer is primarily focused on driving revenue growth by aligning sales, marketing, and customer success initiatives. Here are the key responsibilities of a CRO:

  • Sales Pipeline Management: Overseeing the entire sales pipeline to ensure a steady flow of opportunities and conversions. This involves managing sales processes, forecasting revenue, and optimizing the sales funnel for efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Revenue Targets: Setting and achieving revenue targets. The CRO is accountable for the company's overall revenue performance and works closely with the sales team to meet these goals.
  • Sales Operations: Streamlining sales operations to enhance productivity and performance. This includes implementing CRM systems, refining sales processes, and ensuring the sales team has the tools and resources needed to succeed.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Identifying and fostering strategic partnerships that can drive new revenue streams and expand the company's reach.
  • Customer Success: Ensuring a seamless customer journey from acquisition to retention. The CRO focuses on maximizing customer satisfaction and loyalty, which directly impacts revenue growth.
CMO Responsibilities

The Chief Marketing Officer is dedicated to building and promoting the company's brand, driving marketing initiatives, and generating leads. Here are the key responsibilities of a CMO:

  • Marketing Campaigns: Developing and executing comprehensive marketing campaigns that span various channels, including digital marketing, social media, content marketing, and more. These campaigns aim to increase brand awareness and attract new customers.
  • Go-to-Market Strategies: Crafting go-to-market strategies for new product launches or market expansions. This involves market research, competitive analysis, and positioning the product effectively to the target audience.
  • Lead Generation: Creating and implementing lead generation strategies to provide the sales team with a steady stream of qualified leads. This includes optimizing SEO, running email marketing campaigns, and leveraging content marketing.
  • Brand Awareness: Building and maintaining a strong brand identity. The CMO ensures that the company's messaging is consistent and resonates with the target market, enhancing brand loyalty and recognition.
  • Customer Acquisition: Developing strategies to acquire new customers. This includes understanding the customer journey, creating compelling marketing messages, and optimizing customer acquisition channels.

By understanding these key responsibilities and focus areas, businesses can better assess the strengths and strategic fit of a CRO versus a CMO. This clarity helps in making an informed decision on which role to prioritize or whether to integrate both roles for a comprehensive approach to driving revenue and growth.

Unsure if you need a CRO, CMO, or both? Schedule a free consultation with our experts to discuss the best strategy for your business.

When to Choose a CRO

Selecting the right executive role is crucial for your company's growth and success. The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is ideal for businesses that need a unified approach to revenue generation, aligning sales, marketing, and customer success to drive sustainable growth. Here are scenarios where choosing a CRO would be more beneficial:

Situations Where a CRO is Beneficial

  • Holistic Revenue Management: If your company needs a comprehensive strategy to manage all revenue-generating activities, a CRO can provide the necessary oversight. They ensure that sales, marketing, and customer success efforts are aligned towards common revenue targets.
  • Alignment of Sales and Marketing: When there is a need to break down silos between sales and marketing teams, a CRO can bridge the gap. They can develop integrated strategies that optimize the sales pipeline and enhance collaboration between departments.
  • Customer-Centric Focus: Companies aiming to improve the entire customer journey—from acquisition to retention—can benefit from a CRO’s holistic approach. By focusing on customer success and satisfaction, a CRO ensures long-term profitability and customer loyalty.
  • Revenue Optimization: If your business requires a detailed focus on optimizing existing revenue streams and identifying new ones, a CRO can spearhead these initiatives. They implement data-driven strategies to maximize revenue opportunities.
  • Scalable Sales Operations: For businesses looking to scale their sales operations, a CRO can streamline processes and introduce scalable systems. This ensures the sales team is equipped to handle increased demand and drive growth efficiently.

Examples of Businesses or Scenarios for a CRO

  • Startups Seeking Growth: Startups in their growth phase often require a CRO to establish a robust revenue strategy. The CRO can align all revenue-related functions, driving cohesive efforts towards achieving rapid growth.
  • SaaS Companies: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, which rely heavily on subscription models, can benefit from a CRO's focus on customer success and retention. Ensuring customer satisfaction and minimizing churn are critical for these businesses.
  • Companies with Complex Sales Processes: Businesses with intricate sales cycles and multiple touchpoints can utilize a CRO to streamline processes and enhance efficiency. The CRO’s strategic oversight ensures every step in the sales process contributes to overall revenue goals.

By understanding the scenarios where a CRO is most effective, businesses can make an informed decision to appoint a Chief Revenue Officer. This strategic choice ensures a unified approach to revenue generation, aligning various functions to drive sustainable business growth.

When to Choose a CMO

While the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) focuses on the holistic approach to revenue generation, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) plays a vital role in developing and executing marketing strategies that build the brand, generate leads, and drive customer engagement. Here are scenarios where choosing a CMO would be more beneficial:

Situations Where a CMO is Beneficial
  • Brand Building and Awareness: If your primary goal is to establish and strengthen your brand in the market, a CMO can develop comprehensive marketing initiatives that enhance brand visibility and reputation. They craft compelling messaging that resonates with your target audience and differentiates your company from competitors.
  • Sophisticated Marketing Strategies: When there is a need for advanced marketing strategies, such as content marketing, social media campaigns, and SEO optimization, a CMO can provide the expertise required. They ensure that your marketing efforts are data-driven and aligned with current market trends.
  • Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition: Companies looking to generate a steady flow of qualified leads and acquire new customers can benefit from a CMO's focus on lead generation. They develop targeted campaigns that attract potential customers and nurture them through the sales funnel.
  • Go-to-Market Execution: For businesses launching new products or entering new markets, a CMO can develop and execute effective go-to-market strategies. They conduct market research, identify opportunities, and create marketing plans that ensure a successful launch.
  • Customer Engagement and Retention: If maintaining strong customer relationships and ensuring long-term engagement is a priority, a CMO can lead initiatives that enhance customer experience. They focus on creating valuable content, personalized marketing, and loyalty programs that foster customer retention.
Examples of Businesses or Scenarios for a CMO
  • Consumer-Focused Brands: Businesses that rely heavily on consumer engagement and brand loyalty, such as retail or FMCG companies, can benefit significantly from a CMO’s expertise in brand building and customer-centric marketing.
  • Companies with Diverse Marketing Needs: Organizations with a broad range of marketing activities, from digital marketing to traditional advertising, need a CMO to orchestrate these efforts. The CMO ensures that all marketing channels are effectively utilized and integrated.
  • Established Companies Expanding Reach: Established businesses looking to expand their market presence or enter new markets can leverage a CMO's strategic vision. The CMO’s focus on market research and competitive analysis helps in identifying growth opportunities and executing successful market entry strategies.

By understanding when to choose a CMO, businesses can ensure that their marketing efforts are expertly managed and aligned with their growth objectives. Appointing a CMO is a strategic decision that drives brand awareness, customer acquisition, and overall marketing success.

Fractional Marketing Teams: An Alternative for Budget-Conscious Companies

For many companies, especially startups and small to medium-sized enterprises, the budget constraints and resource limitations can make hiring a full-time Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) challenging. In such cases, a fractional CMO or a fractional marketing team can be an excellent substitute, providing the expertise and strategic guidance needed without the high costs associated with full-time executive roles.

What is a Fractional Marketing Team?

A fractional marketing team consists of part-time marketing professionals who work with multiple companies, offering specialized skills and strategic insights on a flexible, as-needed basis. This service model allows businesses to access top-tier marketing talent without committing to the expenses of full-time salaries and benefits.

Benefits of Fractional Marketing Teams
  • Cost-Effective Expertise: Hiring a fractional marketing team can significantly reduce costs compared to bringing on full-time executives. You pay only for the services you need, allowing for better budget management while still accessing high-level expertise.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: Fractional teams offer the flexibility to scale services up or down based on your company’s evolving needs. Whether you require intensive support during a product launch or ongoing marketing efforts, fractional teams can adapt to meet your requirements.
  • Diverse Skill Sets: A fractional marketing team brings a diverse range of skills and experiences. From strategic planning and lead generation to content creation and social media management, you get access to a broad spectrum of expertise tailored to your specific goals.
  • Immediate Impact: With seasoned professionals on board, fractional marketing teams can make an immediate impact. They quickly assess your needs, implement effective strategies, and drive results, helping your company achieve its marketing and revenue objectives more swiftly.
  • Focus on Core Business Activities: By outsourcing marketing functions to a fractional team, your internal staff can focus on core business activities. This ensures that all aspects of your company are running smoothly while marketing experts handle growth initiatives.
How Fractional Marketing Teams Address Key Roles
  1. Strategic Guidance
    • Fractional teams often include senior-level strategists who can provide the same strategic direction as a CRO or CMO. They develop comprehensive marketing plans, align marketing and sales efforts, and ensure all initiatives support overall business goals.
  2. Integrated Marketing Efforts
    • These teams can manage and integrate various marketing efforts, from digital marketing and SEO to content marketing and social media. This holistic approach ensures consistency and maximizes the impact of your marketing campaigns.
  3. Data-Driven Decisions
    • Leveraging analytics and metrics, fractional marketing teams make data-driven decisions to optimize marketing strategies. They track KPIs, measure performance, and adjust tactics to ensure continuous improvement and success.
  4. Customer-Centric Approach
    • Just like a full-time CMO or CRO, fractional teams prioritize the customer journey. They implement strategies to enhance customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, ensuring a positive experience that drives loyalty and revenue growth.
A Smart Choice for Growing Companies

For companies without the budget or resources to hire full-time CROs or CMOs, fractional marketing teams offer a practical and effective solution. They provide access to high-level expertise, flexibility, and a wide range of skills, ensuring your marketing efforts are strategically guided and well-executed. By choosing a fractional marketing team, you can drive growth, optimize revenue generation, and achieve your business objectives without the financial burden of full-time executive roles.

Unsure if you need a CRO, CMO, or both? Schedule a free consultation with our experts to discuss the best strategy for your business.

Combining CRO and CMO Roles

In some cases, having both a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can provide a comprehensive approach to driving business growth. While the CRO focuses on overall revenue generation and sales strategy, the CMO hones in on marketing initiatives and brand development. Here’s how combining these roles can benefit your organization:

Benefits of Having Both Roles in the C-Suite
  • Holistic Revenue Strategy: By having both a CRO and a CMO, your company can develop a holistic revenue strategy that integrates sales and marketing efforts. This ensures that all revenue-generating activities are aligned and working towards common goals.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: The collaboration between a CRO and a CMO can bridge gaps between sales and marketing teams. This synergy helps in creating cohesive strategies that optimize the entire customer journey, from lead generation to customer retention.
  • Specialized Focus Areas: While the CRO concentrates on sales strategies, revenue targets, and customer success, the CMO can dedicate their efforts to brand awareness, lead generation, and marketing campaigns. This division of labor allows for specialized focus and expertise in each area.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Both the CRO and CMO rely on metrics and data to guide their strategies. Together, they can make more informed decisions that drive growth and profitability. The CRO can provide insights into sales performance and revenue trends, while the CMO can offer data on market trends and customer behavior.
  • Shared KPIs and Goals: Having both roles allows for the creation of shared KPIs and goals that align sales and marketing objectives. This ensures that both teams are working towards the same revenue targets and can measure their success using the same metrics.
How CRO and CMO Can Collaborate for Better Results
  • Integrated Sales and Marketing Efforts: By working together, the CRO and CMO can develop integrated sales and marketing plans that ensure a seamless flow of leads through the sales pipeline. This collaboration can improve lead quality, increase conversion rates, and drive revenue growth.
  • Unified Customer Experience: The combined efforts of a CRO and a CMO can create a unified customer experience that enhances satisfaction and loyalty. By aligning marketing messages with sales strategies, they can ensure consistent and compelling interactions with customers.
  • Strategic Alignment: Regular communication and strategic alignment between the CRO and CMO can help in identifying opportunities for growth and addressing any gaps in the revenue generation process. This alignment ensures that both roles are contributing to the company’s overall success.
Examples of Successful CRO and CMO Collaboration
  • Tech Startups: In tech startups, where rapid growth and market penetration are critical, having both a CRO and a CMO can provide the necessary strategic oversight. The CRO can drive sales and revenue growth, while the CMO builds brand awareness and generates leads.
  • Established Enterprises: Larger companies with complex sales and marketing needs can benefit from the combined expertise of a CRO and a CMO. The CRO can optimize sales operations and revenue streams, while the CMO focuses on sophisticated marketing strategies and customer engagement.

By understanding the benefits of combining the CRO and CMO roles, businesses can leverage the strengths of both positions to drive growth and achieve their revenue goals. This strategic approach ensures that all aspects of revenue generation and marketing are effectively managed and aligned.

Making the Decision: CRO vs. CMO or Both?

Determining whether your company needs a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO), a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or both can be a complex decision. It depends on your company’s current structure, goals, and specific needs. Here’s a guide to help you make the best choice.

Assessing Your Company's Needs
  1. Evaluate Your Current Structure: Analyze how your current sales and marketing teams are organized. Identify any gaps or inefficiencies that could be addressed by introducing a CRO, a CMO, or both.
  2. Set Clear Objectives: Define your company’s short-term and long-term goals. If your primary focus is on building brand awareness and generating leads, a CMO may be the right choice. If you need a comprehensive approach to revenue generation that includes optimizing sales and customer success, a CRO could be more beneficial.
  3. Consider Company Size and Stage: Smaller companies or startups might benefit from a dual role where one person manages both sales and marketing efforts until the company grows. Larger, more established companies may need specialized roles to handle the complexity and scale of their operations.
  4. Analyze Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Review your current KPIs related to sales, marketing, and revenue. Determine which areas need the most attention and which role would best address those needs. Shared KPIs for both sales and marketing might indicate a need for both roles.
Guidelines for Making the Right Choice
  1. Choose a CRO if:
    • Your company needs to align and optimize all revenue-generating processes.
    • Sales and customer success are critical to your growth strategy.
    • You want to break down silos between departments and ensure a seamless customer journey.
    • You require a data-driven approach to managing and forecasting revenue.
  2. Choose a CMO if:
    • Your primary focus is on building a strong brand and creating effective marketing campaigns.
    • You need to generate leads and enhance customer engagement through targeted marketing efforts.
    • Market research, competitive analysis, and strategic marketing initiatives are crucial for your growth.
    • Your company’s success relies heavily on sophisticated marketing strategies and digital marketing.
  3. Choose Both if:
    • Your company has complex needs that require specialized focus on both revenue generation and marketing.
    • You need a holistic approach to growth that integrates sales, marketing, and customer success.
    • Strategic alignment and collaboration between sales and marketing teams are essential for achieving your goals.
    • You want to ensure comprehensive oversight and expertise in both areas to drive sustainable growth.
  • Tech Startups: A tech startup aiming for rapid market penetration and growth might start with a combined CRO/CMO role. As the company scales, they can split the role into two separate positions to better manage increasing complexity.
  • Established Enterprises: A large enterprise with diverse product lines and a global market presence might benefit from having both a CRO and a CMO. The CRO can focus on optimizing sales and revenue streams, while the CMO drives brand awareness and marketing initiatives.
  • SaaS Companies: A SaaS company relying on subscription models and customer retention can leverage the combined efforts of a CRO and a CMO. The CRO ensures customer success and renewals, while the CMO builds a strong brand and generates new leads.

By carefully assessing your company’s needs and goals, you can make an informed decision on whether to hire a CRO, a CMO, or both. This strategic choice will help you drive growth, optimize operations, and achieve your revenue and marketing objectives.

Unsure if you need a CRO, CMO, or both? Schedule a free consultation with our experts to discuss the best strategy for your business.

About Seth Viebrock

In no particular order, Seth has built websites for famous artists like Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, led a team as CTO at a social network startup company, co-presented at Stanford and the International Society for Neuronal Regulation Conference on an EEG study in consciousness, traveled to Tokyo for data center network security assessments, worked on world-class e-commerce software as a software engineer, and provided Drupal expertise for Estee Lauder and their many international brands. Seth grew up with the web, starting his first web design company at the age of 16, and this company in...
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