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5 Qualities of a Great CMO

In days gone by, the main role of the chief marketing officer (CMO) was to oversee and take charge of advertising, brand management, and market research. Today, however – especially since the rise of the internet and the diverse range of new technologies available to both consumers and enterprises alike – everything now revolves around digital, social, mobile and performance marketing. As a result, to put it bluntly, the CMO’s role ain’t what it used to be.

Aside from actual marketing, we have technology, product development, data management and staffing now all falling under the chief marketing officer’s remit. And more change is on its way, as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), and blockchain become more and more mainstream.

But chief marketing officers equally need to ensure they are delivering the “human touch” if they are to build sustainable brands and growth. After all, consumer needs are also changing. Many have come to ignore – or even become blind or impervious to – traditional push marketing techniques. Instead, in the age of the empowered consumer, both B2C and B2B customers alike prefer to use the internet to research and review products – and the companies that sell them – on their own time, without being interrupted by unsolicited marketing messages. In addition, customers – and particularly millennial customers – are seeking emotional engagement from the brands they do business with. Relationships are no longer formed by the transaction alone. Rather, customers crave a story that enables them to better connect with the “personality” of the brand, not just its products.

But what does this all really mean for the chief marketing officers of today and tomorrow dealing with huge technology changes and new consumer demands for multi-channel engagement? What are the most important qualities a CMO needs to have to drive their organizations forward in an ever-changing market? Let’s consider five of the most important.

  1. CMOs Need to Be MarTech Experts and Be Reskilling Their Teams

According to recent research from WiPro, there is a growing need for chief marketing officers to possess MarTech-related skills across both the US and the UK. 81% of those surveyed for the study indicated that it is important for CMOs to have MarTech qualifications and/or skills, with only 1% saying that MarTech proficiency is not as important as other skills for a chief marketing officer.

In addition, the study also revealed that MarTech skills overshadow strategy expertise and other previously high-valued skills. More respondents ranked MarTech (47%) among the top three most important skills for a CMO’s success than both marketing strategy (44%) and business strategy (37%). Brand management (21%), sales (15%) and advertising (13%) have now significantly declined in importance.

However, despite the growing emphasis on MarTech expertise, the study also revealed that many marketing departments are struggling to reap the full potential of their technology investments and deliver expected ROI. While 75% of chief marketing officers felt confident in their own personal MarTech proficiency, only 6% believe that most of their marketing team is equally so. More than one-third of chief marketing officers believe that less than half of their team has the necessary expertise to deploy MarTech effectively, and over half (51%) cited a lack of MarTech competency over the wider team as a barrier to success.

As such, chief marketing officers need to be taking steps to plug the gap, which is in fact what the majority of CMOs are doing, according to the WiPro data. 83% of respondents reported that their company has reskilling programs in place to train marketers at every level to become MarTech proficient, reflecting an industry-wide shift towards a MarTech-dominated marketing world.

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  1. CMOs Need to Have Sharp Eyes for Creating New Roles and Attracting New Talent

Reskilling the existing workforce will get a company so far. But, in order to take marketing truly ahead of competitors, chief marketing officers need to be recognizing that as the marketing landscape changes, new explorers with new skills need to be enlisted to traverse it.

For example, as MarTech investments become more prominent, a top chief marketing officer should know when a new VP of MarTech role needs to be created, or recognize when the department needs a VP of Innovation. CMOs that haven’t been creating new roles to keep pace with new demands and changes over the past few years need to be taking a long hard look in the mirror before revaluating their department to figure out if something’s missing.

Chief marketing officers also need to know how to identify top talent to support their long-term strategy and vision. According to a recent global survey – the Worldcom Confidence Index – CMOs and CEOs around the world believe that attracting, retaining and energizing employees is the key to success in 2018, and has a bigger impact than even the strength of the global economy, changes in the political environment, and global instability. As such, more CMOs and CEOs said they are placing employees at the top of the list of priority audiences in 2018. In fact, employees are the only audience that will receive more CMO and CEO attention in 2018 than 2017. In 2017, 14% of leaders gave employees the most audience attention, only about a third as much as customers and on a par with shareholders. In 2018, 20% of leaders say employees will get the most attention. This is now half the level of customers and almost double the level for shareholders.

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The battle for talent is clearly a high priority for CMOs. As such, chief marketing officers need to be worrying about more than just appealing to customers when marketing their brand, but attracting the best new people also. Especially when it comes to millennials and Gen Z-ers – who have more career options and exciting new startups to choose from than ever before – CMOs need to be focusing on building strong and attractive working environments that support the work-life benefits that so many young professionals now seek. The best people want to work for the best leaders. Chief marketing officers need to be stepping up to ensure that the best candidates are accepting their offers – and they must also have the sharpest eyes to identify the top talent to fill the new seats they are creating.

  1. CMOs Need to Be Data-Driven

Data is the new oil, as the saying goes. Chief marketing officers looking to make significant headway today need to be driven by customer data if they are to succeed in driving company growth. Understanding customer behavior, preferences, and interaction history to inform messaging is key to winning new customers, improving loyalty, and driving higher revenue overall.

To achieve all this, however, chief marketing officers need to be unifying their customer data and ensuring the insights it throws up are pushed to all parts of the organization. Research from DZone finds that 92% of organizations have 16 to 20 customer data sources, with data spread across multiple locations in multiple formats. The result is disconnected data that is often incomplete and inconsistent, preventing brands from engaging customers in their chosen channels, and leading to irrelevant messaging. And there’s a financial impact as well, with Lemonly reporting that disconnected data costs organizations as much as 10% to 25% of their revenue.

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Chief marketing officers need to be utilizing technology to unify customer data across silos to ensure there is an always-on and always-current record that facilitates a unified and complete view of the customer. For example, customer data platforms (CDPs) – marketer-managed systems that create a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to all teams and other systems – are one such tool that CMOs should be looking into to empower their teams with better customer data management capabilities and enabling them to deliver omnichannel personalization.

Chief marketing officers who leverage updated and consistent customer data benefit. Research from Forbes finds that 75% of companies see an increase in customer engagement with data-driven marketing, and are six times more likely to increase profits. In short, CMOs who are data-driven are in a position to outperform competitors for a larger share of the customer’s wallet.

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  1. CMOs Need Collaboration Skills – Particularly with the CIO

Chief marketing officers work across the organization. They have to work with finance for forecasting and planning. They need to work with product so they can translate what the product does and delivers. They also need to be working with CIOs, who, like CMOs, are heavily invested in customer experience, as technology now defines and informs every customer touchpoint.

CMOs and CIOs in fact share a large variety of complementary objectives when it comes to customer experience strategy. As Gartner Research Director Augie Ray put it to earlier this year: “When CMOs lead customer experience, they need a lot of cooperation across the enterprise, but typically the CIO is the most vital partner they can have. The reason for this is that information and insight are the lifeblood of customer experience. You cannot be customer-centric and make outside-in decisions unless you have the data, analysis and understanding about what customers perceive, want, expect, feel, and do.”

This CMO-CIO alignment is reflected in technology budgets worldwide. According to IDG’s 2018 State of the CIO Survey, 51% of IT leaders report that they share budget ownership with their marketing colleagues for organizational marketing efforts, while 42% of global marketing teams have budgets specifically earmarked for investments in technology products and services. “Neither CMOs nor CIOs can go it alone,” says Ray. “CMOs must be able to define needs and understand the priorities of CIOs to influence and partner with their IT peers, and CIOs must understand marketing’s growing needs for data for real-time personalization, activation, and customer experience.”

This is why it’s critical for chief marketing officers to master cross-department communication and collaboration. It is vital to their productivity level and overall impact on the company. Since marketing touches every department in an organization, it’s essential for CMOs to be able to link everyone together – particularly with IT – to achieve business goals.

  1. CMOs Need a Long-term Strategy that Aligns with the Organization’s Growth Goals

CMOs are required to be revenue leaders who can translate business objectives into actionable plans that drive growth. Success depends on their ability to anticipate what lies ahead and develop a long-term strategy that aligns with the organization’s goals for growth.

SiriusDecisions’ ‘CMO Strategy Planning Assumptions Guide 2019’ outlines five important trends that chief marketing officers should have on their radar for 2019:

  1. Differentiate Strategy and Planning: Marketing strategy concerns the decisions taken to create and sustain a future market advantage, and has a time horizon of three to five years. Planning involves operationalizing the strategy and putting into place the actions that will deliver against the milestones during the next year. The output of the strategy becomes the input to the plan. CMOs should be looking to contribute to the organization’s growth agenda by resisting the tendency to focus only on current-year planning and broaden their scope to incorporate the longer-term growth strategy as well.
  2. Recognize the Pivotal Role of Communication in Business Transformation: The SiriusDecisions 2018 Leadership Study found that poor communication is the top reason that strategic initiatives and business transformations fail, be they the introduction of a new business model, a significant rebranding or repositioning of the business, the implementation of new technologies or anything else. Chief marketing officers must ensure that transformation project teams follow a consistent, comprehensive approach to communication throughout transformation initiatives.
  3. Take a Structured Approach to Business Reviews: CMOs are struggling to change legacy perceptions of the marketing function, with many complaining that there is a lack of understanding or recognition of all the ways in which marketing delivers value to the business. CMOs can begin to change misconceptions by capitalizing on every opportunity to articulate value, starting with scheduled business reviews. However, preparation is required, and success depends on having a systematic approach to preparing the right content, and ensuring the use of relevant metrics that align with business objectives.
  4. Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Solve Data Problems: Most chief marketing officers want to embrace AI, but many are unsure where to start with it. Predictive analytics technologies are often the first step, yet 55% have not even started with this yet. CMOs should begin their AI journey by using predictive analytics to build a master buyer repository.
  5. Redefine Field Marketing: Despite being one of the oldest teams within marketing, field marketing has largely remained a generalist role loosely defined as supporting sales efforts to meet local growth objectives. As local strategies expand, field marketing is expected to support multiple go-to-market approaches (direct, indirect, account-based marketing, post-sale customer engagement, etc.). As such, CMOs must ensure that field marketing evolves from a team of generalists into a team of specialists with roles that align with and provide dedicated support to the go-to-market strategies that are key to achieving local growth objectives.

Final Thoughts

A great chief marketing officer can no longer be just a good leader focused on traditional practices of advertising, market research and brand management, but a true visionary for change. CMOs need to be MarTech experts, eagle-eyed recruiters, data-driven innovators, master collaborators, and long-term strategists. In short, they need to be the best person to identify marketing needs of the organization, find the solutions, and manage the right team to execute and exceed company goals.


Traits of Successful CMOs

Traits of great CMOs: 1. CMOs Need to Be MarTech Experts and Be Reskilling Their Teams. 2. CMOs Need to Have Sharp Eyes for Creating New Roles and Attracting New Talent. 3. CMOs Need to Be Data-Driven. 4. CMOs Need Collaboration Skills – Particularly with the CIO. 5. CMOs Need a Long-term Strategy that Aligns with the Organization’s Growth Goals.

Jason Skidmore
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