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CMOs win their seat at the leadership table as marketing takes strategic role
01 September 2014
The evolved chief marketing officer is the new technology buyer, writes Janet Roberts. The CMO is second only to the CFO in influence on chief executives
Janet Roberts: CMOs are all about the customer, focusing
constantly on how to acquire, nurture, and retain
| To reach a CMO, think like a
• Be data-driven: Know your customer
• Treat her as a market-of-one; speak his
• Define value in her terms
• Differentiate your offer; help him differentiate
his customer experience
• Demonstrate measureable ROI
• Apply relevancy and context
• Be your own best case study — use the
technology you are selling
• Engage and mobilise
• Measure and improve
• Make this a win-win: keep this customer
• Refine and repeat
The past few years have seen transformative advancements
building to the emergence of today’s
hyper-connected, always-on, uber-social mobile lifestyle.
We’ve moved from the first camera phones to the
debate about selfies and safety emerging from the Tour de
France this year. We moved from wondering what the heck is
MySpace to expecting friends, family and companies alike to
interact with us via social media — an expectation
illustrated by the fact that 93% of marketers use social media
for business, according to Fast Company.
We’ve moved from accessing the internet only from
our desktops to taking it everywhere with us in our pockets or
And all of these advancements have led to a transformation
among those who lead marketing for companies around the globe.
They’re overwhelmed with opportunities to engage
with ever more demanding customers via myriads of channels,
devices, and context-aware scenarios. Opportunity is
everywhere, and the key to unlocking it is to understand how to
engage with audiences how they want, when the want, where they
want, treating each consumer as a market of one.
The expanding role of marketing
The last few years have seen a sea change in the role of the
marketing. Gone are the days when marketing was narrowly
confined to advertising and tradeshows or even considered as an
optional budgetary line item buried within the sales
Today’s marketing executives lead teams of
specialised professionals engaged in diverse functions with a
unified focus on acquiring and keeping customers. They oversee
multifunctional teams with a wide array of responsibilities,
• Detecting and defining market opportunities;
• Addressing market requirements with relevant
• Sourcing partners to augment technology and distribution
• Developing content that communicates relevancy and value
to prospects often through quantitative business cases;
• Measuring programme effectiveness and customer
• Consistently engaging customers, prospects and
influencers with meaningful timely content.
Consequently, marketing leaders in the mobile age need to
understand emerging communications channels and digital
capabilities in an application-oriented world. They must
increasingly rely on technology tools and capabilities to
successfully execute their programmes and deliver results
important to the bottom line in ways that are strategic and
measurable for their businesses while ultimately contextual for
their target audiences.
Mumbai-based Roger Periera, whose career has included
introducing major global brands to India while serving as CEO
of divisions of Burson Marsteller as well as Edelman, has seen
first-hand the evolution of the marketing over the years.
"Over the last 25 years, those of us in the Indian market have
had the unique opportunity of experiencing a whole series of
successive — but not necessarily successful —
marketing case studies of Indian and transnational companies,"
"In telecoms, for example, almost every global manufacturer
came to India to launch their brand of mobile phones —
American, Asian, European. The successful players focused their
strategies around tried and true channels, especially
television and print advertising.
"Almost as quickly as their handsets evolved so too did the
media landscape. What TV advertising was 25 years ago in India,
social media is today, significantly fuelled by the growing
mobile lifestyle, much like the rest of the world."
Marketing organisations’ responsibilities vary
greatly from company to company and can include everything from
the traditional marketing functions of communications,
event/experiential marketing, product marketing and analytics
to media relations, employee communications, social media
marketing, product management, strategic planning, customer
operations, partner and alliance management and even sales,
among numerous other functions not listed here.
Why such a diverse list? In December 2013, the authors of the
Korn/Ferry Institute CMO Pulse Survey concluded that the role
of marketing is increasing, centred on creating tangible
business results to the top and bottom lines.
Thus, marketing has a huge influence on diverse functions
throughout an organisation. It’s ultimately
responsible for the customer experience and must reach across
varied functions to successfully execute its mandate.
Broader role for the new CMO
Clearly, senior marketing roles are broader than ever, and key
requirements for success reach well beyond proven marketing
Today’s CMOs are expected to have a broad business
mindset and financial acumen. They’re required to
demonstrate strategic agility and critical-thinking skills.
Their marketing strategy has to be developed in lock step with
the company’s business strategy.
The CMO now has a seat at the leadership table alongside the
CEO, CFO and COO.
IBM’s 2014 global C-suite study indicated that
CEOs rely on CMOs for strategic input, and the CMO is second
only to the CFO in influence on chief executives.
As their leadership value grows, CMOs increasingly have more
visibility with boards of directors so it’s not
surprising that more and more CMOs see their next move to a
corner office as CEO. In fact, a joint survey of CMOs conducted
by Forrester Research and Heidrick & Struggles published in
February revealed that 40% of business-to-business CMOs aim to
become a CEO in their next role.
The CMO as technology buyer
CMOs are all about the customer, focusing constantly on how to
acquire, nurture, and retain clients. In last
year’s Accenture Interactive CMO insights survey,
65% of the CMOs surveyed indicated that customer expectations
for relevant experiences has the longest term impact on
Morag Lucey, CMO at UK-based BAE Systems Applied Intelligence,
understands first-hand that in a hyper-connected world that has
heralded an era of real-time engagement, it is crucial for the
CMO to have the best technology and tools available for
reaching prospects and engaging customers.
"Marketers today, more than ever, must expand their
understanding of the opportunities technology affords them,"
she says. "It is now key to employ not just the very latest
marketing techniques, but also to deploy the very latest
cutting-edge technologies that can deliver relevant information
into the hands of customers when they need it.
"This includes, for example, content curation software and
technologies that can measure the return on marketing
investment such as pipeline management tools. Today
it’s about getting the right information to the
right customer at the right time."
Today’s consumers expect relevant content and
value when and where they need it. The explosion of technology
and applications present CMOs with multiple channels for
engagement, but navigating this sea of choices can be daunting.
What keeps a CMO up at night? Worrying about being left in the
dust because the competition is better at using technology to
understand and engage with customers.
The CMO respondents in that Forrester/Heidrick & Struggles
study emphasised the need to have a say on marketing technology
decisions. This is hardly surprising, given
Gartner’s prediction that the CMO will spend more
on IT than the CIO by 2017.
The growing influence of the CMO and corresponding role in
technology purchasing decisions has significant implications
for any company that sells technology products and services.
Prior success within the CTO or CIO organisations
won’t guarantee success with this type of
customer. Technology is important to them only in terms of how
it benefits their customers. When selling to a CMO, value must
be defined to address end-customers’ expectations.
Mobile: Tailor-made for CMOs
The good news is that companies selling a mobile device, app or
service have something to offer that any marketer values: the
ability to enable real-time, relevant engagement with both
potential buyers and loyal customers.
"Mobile represents real time instant access and the ability to
reach anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world," says Keith
Turco, president of the New York office of Gyro, which this
year won the International Business Marketing
Association’s award as the global
business-to-business agency of the year. There is an
increasingly dependent relationship between marketing and
technology leaders, he says.
"We will soon see the disparity between the time consumers
spend on mobile media and marketers’ spend on
mobile media advertising disappear. This will necessitate the
alignment of marketers and technologists to more effectively
engage their customers."
In the 2014 Accenture Interactive CMO insights survey, the CMOs
surveyed predict mobile will account for 50% of their marketing
budgets — but only 21% surveyed believe their company
will be known as a digital business in five years.
This sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship
between the CMO and the experts who can help these marketers
bridge the technology divide.
And remember, the CMOs who succeed today will be
tomorrow’s tech savvy, customer-focused CEOs.
Janet Roberts was CMO of Syniverse for eight years until
early 2014. She has previously worked in marketing and
communications roles in Telcordia, AT&T and other companies