Deloitte's Veronique Filip: CMOs deserve a seat at the boardroom table

Deloitte Africa's marketing leader says CFOs should accept that CMOs can be financial enablers.

Veronique Filip is the customer and marketing leader for Deloitte Africa, a consulting and leadership role that is pushing the redefinition of marketing as a core revenue function. It’s a role perfectly suited for Veronique’s energy and passion – and she brings to it over 25 years of experience.

Veronique hails from France, and has worked in marketing in Europe and the United States, before the opportunity to bring her marketing strategy building expertise to Africa presented itself. Today, she speaks glowingly of not just her adopted home, but the massive potential inherent in Africa.

“I was lucky in my career, in that I often found myself creating a new marketing department for a company, or driving expansion into new markets. And I was able to inform new models, rather than forcing a foreign model on a Middle East and Africa (MEA) market – so it was marketing with a focus on growth and expansion,” she says.

“I was creating not just a campaign strategy, but brand expansion plans, and customer experience plans. So I began to think maybe I should be joining a consulting brand. I approached Deloitte in Luxembourg where I was working at the time, and told them I think chief marketing officers (CMOs) need advice, that they are struggling with their growth ambition, and that marketing agencies are not helping sufficiently with strategy. Deloitte were already consulting to CMOs in London, but not so much Europe and that's how we started nine years ago.”

South Africa beckons
When a major logistics company in South Africa approached Deloitte for a marketing expert five years ago, Veronique got the call to spend three months consulting locally. But before the quarter was up, Deloitte offered her the chance to stay here, and she responded “Why not?”.

“I was excited because in Europe you can help take a company from, say, N to Z. But in Africa many of the opportunities start from the beginning. I began to see the continent as the next China. And I had seen first-hand the mistakes that international companies make when they bring in their strategy wholesale without localising it.”

This positivity extends to the local team she leads. “We have a variety of professional backgrounds in the team and everyone is passionate. I believe that clients can feel that. As a team, we talk about the latest articles together, instead of talking about sport.”

Veronique describes the move as a leap of faith that paid off. “I really love it here. I think the people in this country are fantastic. I'm originally from the south of France and half of my family is Italian, so I have warm blood. Now I am a permanent resident and I'm waiting for my South African ID.”

Customer insight
It is key, Veronique argues, to recognise that marketing is not what it was decades ago. The role has evolved from one of purely communications, and she wants to help or direct CMOs to embrace the evolution towards a growth focus, despite the difficulties of making this change.

“It’s a massive shift for the CMO, many of whom, if they are looking at growth at all, were only looking at lead generation and giving the sales team the best leads possible. For me that's not the best definition of marketing. It costs five to 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep one. And many more great managers of missing the opportunity of that loyalty. If you stop at the lead generation, you are not getting the opportunity to develop that loyalty or reactivate old accounts, or look at the lifecycle of a client and how are we going to grow that.”

This is one of her central calls to action: that as a modern CMO, you need to step out of your comfort zone – not just in creating the brand or campaign strategy, but in moving to orchestrating the brand expansion, and getting to grips with data analytics. With the latter, and the genuine insight into customers it can offer, CMOs can use this to continue to drive growth beyond the acquisition phase.

“What keeps me awake at night is that I believe no one is leveraging customer experience the way they should be. The companies that are doing the best job here are probably e-business because they have less things to change and less touchpoints. Older and established businesses need to transform to be customer centric. And if you change your customer experience, you can make more money.”

Having new ways to mine your data and new market research techniques will help companies not just to know the needs of their clients, but to understand why they have these needs. “Customer insight needs to be situated with the CMO, and our research shows that 50 percent of global CMOs do not have this. Your brand is only as good as your customer experience. You need to understand why people value your brand and what the optimal customer experience is for them. The ‘why’ is very important: you need to know not just that someone will recommend you, but why they will recommend you. It needs to be granular.”

Seat at the table
This, she admits, is a completely different way of thinking about the marketing function, and may involve reinvesting in human resources, reinvesting in how you reward your customer-facing people. It includes a shift from decreasing cost, to increasing revenue. “In this way the CMO becomes a financial enabler, a revenue enabler. Today a lot of CFOs are keen to support the CMO, and see them as an important partner to the CFO and CEO.

“I want to implore companies to give the CMO a chance to be a core driver. Believe in them, give them a little bit of time, but give them a seat at the table – you really can make money from customer experience. A CMO can be that change agent. This is the core message that I would love to give a group of CEOs and CFOs.”

Veronique was a vocal participant in CFO South Africa’s Reimagine the Customer summit in Cape Town in March, where she interacted with CFOs, CHROs and CMOs about this message. 

Read more: Reimagine the Customer summit: Executives agree the best approach is back to basics