CMOs win their seat at the leadership table as marketing takes strategic role

Published on:

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 clients 
 To reach a CMO, think like a CMO

• Be data-driven: Know your customer
• Treat her as a market-of-one; speak his language
• 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 handbags.

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 organisation.

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, including:

• Detecting and defining market opportunities;
• Addressing market requirements with relevant differentiated offerings;
• Sourcing partners to augment technology and distribution capabilities;
• Developing content that communicates relevancy and value to prospects often through quantitative business cases;
• Measuring programme effectiveness and customer satisfaction;
• 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,” he says.

“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 expertise.

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 marketing strategy.

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 in telecoms