Here’s How CMOs Can Define Their Role

Here's How CMOs Can Define Their Role

The job of the CMO has been undergoing seismic changes in role and responsibility due to advancements in marketing technology (martech), data and social media. No longer is content production enough. The chief marketing officer (CMO) must be able to “market with purpose,” with a direct, measurable impact on the business.

Clearly, the transition is not going well.

The CMO is the C-suite role with the shortest tenure, and 2019 has seen a high number of departures and hirings of CMOs at notable brands. Is it any wonder CMOs are undergoing an identity crisis, unsure of their place in the organization?

The role of a CMO touches on a range of different competencies. Like the chief financial officer (CFO), a CMO needs to be comfortable with numbers. They must establish upfront financial goals and return on investment (ROI) targets and then monitor and measure the results. Like the chief technology officer (CTO), a CMO must be comfortable with technology. Marketing now comprises technology platforms and tools for targeting content to specific audiences in real time, across all devices and channels. Data is now the lifeblood of marketing, so like the chief information officer (CIO), a CMO must understand how to use data effectively and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to engage target audiences and nurture prospects.

Here’s my advice to CMOs looking to define their role proactively:

Become a technology leader.

Marketing now has its own data and technology ecosystem, one that is independent of the main information technology (IT) organization. Marketing, perhaps for the first time, is not beholden to the IT organization. Yet, marketing often lacks the technical skills to implement such technologies. The CMO must take the opportunity to lead the implementation of marketing technology to achieve the business goals and ROI expected.

I learned this as an early enterprise-level adopter of Adobe Experience Manager. The technology was powerful, but it took a great deal of work, programming and retraining to take full advantage of it. Finding the talent to implement such cutting-edge technology was a major hurdle. An approach that worked well for us was to engage in the Adobe network ecosystem to find the skilled talent we were looking for.

Become data-driven.

Customer centricity starts with understanding what customers want and need. As marketers, we now have the tools to collect and analyze vast amounts of critical data.

The data includes a combination of internal, external (e.g., credit bureaus, partners) and third-party or open-source (e.g., social media) data sources. It’s no surprise that recent research by Salesforce points to a drastic increase in the number of data sources used by marketers. According to the company’s “State of Marketing” report, the number of data sources is predicted to increase from 10 in 2017 to 15 this year. Social media is a key part of this, providing critical insights on what customers do, think and share. It also offers new opportunities, from targeted ads to finding lookalikes.

Focus on the customer experience.

Marketing is an integral part of the customer journey, and it should be plugged into the activities of sales and customer service. Targeted marketing, where you advertise to a person based on attributes, and retargeting, where you serve ads on other websites to someone who has recently visited your own site, can be great tools to engage likely prospects.

Your data may show that 40% of the people who bought a pair of your shoes will buy a second pair within a month, but don’t annoy the 60% of the customers who aren’t going to buy. Instead, think about using a range of data sources to deliver other offers that might complement recent purchases by that other 60% of people. That is just simple, smart marketing.

Beyond this, behavioral marketing is opening new ways to connect with target groups because it is based on their behavior and implied intent, not simply on the content they view.

Connect marketing to the larger corporate strategy.

Marketing exists to support the growth and financial health of the company as a whole. Every decision and every activity should connect directly back to company goals. There should also be a clearly defined ROI to prove business value, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to serve as both leading and trailing indicators of the success or failure of an activity.

Much is made of the digital transformation of today’s business. Companies such as Amazon, Uber and Airbnb are redefining whole industries. Companies that fail to reinvent their business models, processes and underlying technology infrastructure will be at a disadvantage. The same holds true of marketing, which must undergo its own digital transformation, using data and technology to drive better marketing decisions and ultimately deliver greater value for the business. And it is the job of the CMO to lead this transformation.

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