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Embracing the rise of the technical CMO


Marketing is becoming one of the most technically complex functions in business today. So it comes as no surprise the requirements for the role of the CMO are evolving. Being “tech savvy” is no longer enough. The understanding of difficult marketing functions must be part of the CMO’s DNA. Creativity is vital too – but the best CMO’s embody a fusion of artistry and digital mastery.

Redefining the role of the CMO

It’s time to redefine the role of the CMO! The next generation should blur technology, science and art. It’s time for the CMO to become a creative director, a strategist, a teacher and a leader in technology.

Some believe that the role of a CMO is dead in a traditional sense. Brands must view the change in the consumer landscape as an opportunity to invest in engineering minded, data driven individuals. It is time to invest in those who can understand statistics and learnings from any given marketing campaign and turn them into pertinent messaging. It’s about trusting the risk takers. It’s about having faith in those who can act fast with fast data. The luxury of being able to “sit and analyse” is no longer something most brands can rely on. Digital channels enable customers to dictate and drive changes in market places in an instant. The industry needs to be ahead of the curve and it is technology that needs to lead this.

Combine creativity and technology

The role of the CMO attracted creative individuals with a background to match. To date it’s been hard to attract those with a strong suite of digital skills. Anyone with the requisite background edged towards the engineering side of marketing. But now we are seeing the first generation of millennials come to the foreground that will have a real influence on the industry.

To this generation coding is second nature. Businesses have recognized this asset for marketing teams. They understand how to reach customers through multiple platforms, channels, devices, and mediums. They have ambitions to not only create but to innovate.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs. 67% of marketing departments plan to increase their spending on technology-related activities over the next two years. Sixty-one per cent are set to increase capital expenditure on technology. Gartner goes as far as redefining the title of the CMO, declaring the rise of the CMT in its place – the Chief Marketing Technologist. Gartner claims the CMT’s role is to align marketing technology with business goals. Serving as a liaison to IT, evaluating and choosing technology providers, and crafting new digital business models.

Understand data

Data is driving this change. Data is everywhere. In marketing it’s used to determine a range of issues. Knowing how and when brands should speak to customers as well as predicting the outcome of individual campaigns across channels. As Corrine Sklar, Global Chief Marketing Officer at business consulting firm Bluewolf said, ‘Tomorrow’s CMOs are harnessing all available data across digital silos, giving their customers the intimacy they require and maximising each interaction.’

But just having data is not enough. The new generation of CMO's must understand that all data is not created equal. From experience they know which indicators move the needle. Not all numbers matter.

The new CMO knows which tools can best analyze big data. They use this information to give creative ideas a scientific and factual backbone. But some audiences need convincing that marketers understand today’s businesses. According to a survey by The Fournaise Marketing Group in 2013, 80 per cent of CEOs claim they have lost their trust in their marketers. Seventy-three per cent of CEOs think CMOs lack business credibility and are not the business growth generators. It’s now over to the technical CMO to win back trust and prove their worth.

Company cohesion

The technical CMO is tasked with uniting internal departments, including marketing, IT and sales. Thus departments learn, and develop their skills to further generate leads. In many companies IT hasn’t understood marketing. This new approach will make sure both have an appreciation of the other. The CMO must drive marketing obsession with customer interaction across the company to ensure everyone has the same goal.

A technical CMO needs to filter the brand ethos into all departments, and right through the customer journey. One of the toughest challenge is to convince the rest of the company’s executives that digital change is essential to progression. Digital is always evolving. It’s nimble and agile, but often executive teams aren’t. Driving cultural change and helping leadership teams embrace the company’s brand and digital progression are key to success.

Multiple customer strategies

The technical CMO also needs a strong customer focus, understanding each one is different and will respond best to personalised messaging. Having no fear of experimentation and being prepared to take risks is paramount. A digital CMO simply has to take risks in order to know what works and what doesn’t. This should apply to both customer messaging as well as internal practices. Tailoring messaging and understanding a customer’s identity is vital. Knowing when to experiment to build personas, and then relationships, is crucial to achieving this. Marketing teams should use click-through rates along with customer surveys to access when and where their customers are in the purchase lifecycle.

Going a step further, the technical CMO will test which methods are most effective and then build strategies to improve on failures. Omnichannel is the Holy Grail, where a brand can fluently communicate with customers across a host of devices and platforms. The CMO will ensure brands execute this well.

The CMO is under more pressure than ever before to make brand-changing decisions and be the flag bearer for a brand’s technical revolution. The industry must embrace artistry and digital creativeness, and welcome the rise of the technical CMO. Standing still will leave businesses in the dust of their forward thinking competitors.

Tomás Puig, Global CMO at Emarsys

Published on Friday 17 July by Veebs Sabharwal

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