All in a Day's Work: the Ever-Changing Role of the CMO

As the pressures for financial accountability continue to increase, the CMO's relationship with the rest of the C-suite will only become more important.
Customer Experience

No longer relegated to branding and advertising, the involvement of chief marketing officers in high-level decisions continues to expand as data analytics becomes crucial to corporate strategy.

Marketing has radically changed over the last decade. Once regarded as more art than science, it is now a technology intensive field in which marketers must understand how to use Big Data and analytics to improve customer experiences. Marketing executives today are both business savvy and technically inclined and their involvement in major strategic decisions continues to grow.

According to a new IBM Institute for Business Value study based on more than 500 in-person interviews with CMOs from around the world, 63 percent of CEOs involve the CMO in formulating the organization's overall business strategy-second only to the CFO.

As a CMO myself, it's very encouraging to see validation of the increasing influence of CMOs. Marketers have been working for a long time to prove their value and measure their effectiveness as well as demonstrate marketing as a discipline that delivers strategies for business growth and innovation. As the CMO increases in strategic importance, the pressure and need for financial accountability continues and our relationship with the rest of the C-suite will only become more important.

Success of the CMO/CIO relationship

CMOs should all start thinking about how they can build a strong relationship with their CIO if it doesn't already exist. IBM's study finds that better performing companies have a strong liaison between the CMO and CIO.

A sound CMO/CIO relationship is the best way to manage the complexities of building real, organization-wide capabilities and infrastructure to support advanced analytics. The relationship is a two-way street and requires a few critical things:

  • A vision created and shared by the CMO and CIO to help an organization build capabilities to develop real insight versus just gathering and reporting data.
  • A strong customer-focused CIO who sees beyond the technology all the way to the customer experience.
  • A tech savvy CMO who can clearly articulate business needs to the CIO in a language that is clear and concise.

Data deluge

For many businesses, use of data analytics won't just be an option-it will be a competitive necessity. Although marketers have worked hard on ways to harness and utilize insight from data for better campaigns and customer engagement, we still have a win-lose relationship with data.

The IBM study found that 94 percent of CMOs believe that advanced data analytics will play a significant role in helping their organizations reach their goals. However, an increased number of CMOs-82 percent, up from 71 percent three years ago-say their organizations are underprepared to take advantage of the data explosion.

To help focus on this area, marketers need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Identify the right skillsets needed and find the right talent. CMOs will be challenged to find the right digital and analytical resources to keep their initiatives moving at a fast pace, in a marketplace that is moving even faster.
  • Customer experience tracking and management is no easy task. Marketers need to do their best to stay on top of critical factors to managing this process: engaging customers at every aspect of their lifecycle, staying relevant, and understanding their channel preferences.
  • Data is useless without a story. Marketers need to use analytics to derive insights from data, uncover the story from that data and articulate it in a compelling way to anyone in the enterprise who touches customers. CMOs play a critical role in storytelling as well as democratizing data so it can inform all aspects of the business.

Where do we stand?

To me, IBM's research on the CMO confirms that marketers really need to be orchestrators within their organization. As their role continues to evolve, today's marketers need to be doing all of the following:

  • Driving collaboration with the C-suite
  • Championing the customer
  • Managing and understanding the customer journey through data
  • Helping the organization develop and understand a culture of analytics and measurement
  • Collaborating with major stakeholders to drive value and growth.

All in a day's work.