Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
There’s no one organisational model every CMO can adopt in order to successfully adjust to the new world of customer-led marketing. But according to The CMO Club, there are four emerging pillars underpinning successful modern marketing leadership.
The CMO Solution Guide for Building a Modern Marketing Organisation report, produced by the member-based organisation in partnership with Oracle Marketing Cloud and marketing agency nFusion, set out to investigate the organisational structure and skillsets needed to transform marketing functions for next-gen marketing. The research was based on interviews of more than 20 leading CMOs in the US.
It found four key themes increasingly informing organisational decisions: Acumen, alignment, agility and accountability. The report provides CMO commentary as well as practical steps and org charts for marketing functions based on these areas.
The first of the four ‘As’, acumen, is about the skillsets required to cope with the rise of digital, data and technology-fuelled marketing. Ten capabilities were identified: Customer insights, digital marketing, social media, integrated engagement planning, content development, evaluative analytics, predictive analytics, customer data management, marketing technology planning and implementation, and innovation planning.
In an exclusive Australian interview with CMO, The CMO Club’s founder and CEO, Peter Krainik, said many of these skillsets wouldn’t have been on marketing’s radar five years ago but have become vital as CMOs strive to understand and influence the whole customer decision journey.
“Things like marketing technology and planning changes are different animals today, and there are so many different tools available. Social media, content and how this has evolved is another area,” he said.
Krainik noted significant growth around analytics skills that help with “quick response, learning and monitoring” of tactical activities, as well as understanding and informing growth strategies and decisions with the customer in mind.
Krainik also agreed that when it comes to organisations harnessing these skillsets, there are gaps everywhere and in every industry.
“An example is the quick responsive aspect versus predictive analytics – you many have people doing interesting things around predictive customer insights, but they’re still struggling with if they have 1-2 people in their organisation or if they outsource to an agency, or a boutique firm,” he said. “Across all these pieces, there are gaps based on industry and individual companies.”
Aligning to the business
Alignment is another core theme for CMOs, and the report suggests it is critical to partner from top to bottom and across every function of your organisation in order to effectively engage customers across all touchpoints.
Kimberly-Clark CMO, Clive Sirkin, who was quoted in the report, said alignment has to happen on multiple levels – from alignment around the business model and brand plan, to alignment on foundational tools and strategic alignment across business units globally.
“The last level of alignment is how our teams are going to work together as one team to execute on that plan,” Sirkin stated. “You can image if you are off at any one of these levels, the further you are into the organisation, the greater the gap is. So we try to talk as an organisation about the impact of what we are doing, even as to how that impacts you four levels into the organisation.”
For Krainik, sales and IT would be the top two areas of alignment CMOs need to tackle cross-functionally.
“Years ago, it was much more about the product group. Now it’s driven by sales delivery, but also access to the customer, listening and responding,” he said.
In terms of agility, the report noted the importance of strong cross-functional teams and the flexibility to pilot, test and pivot through test-and-learn activities.
The fourth theme, accountability, is a reflection of the increased pressure CMOs are under to demonstrate the return on investment in marketing and their effectiveness on customers. To help, the report advises marketing leaders to instil a culture of personal accountability, ensuring the right measures and goals are in place.
A culture of change
Whatever the angle on these four themes, the whole report clearly illustrates is the way in which CMOs are being tasked with leading a culture of change.
“How to create the infrastructure and environment for innovation and change marks a huge difference in the role of marketing leader from five or 10 years ago,” Krainik said. “For many, it’s about creating that ecosystem, which is big piece of their success.
“You need people that think that way [agile], and who are rewarded and incentivised that way. So if those things change in social, in future for instance, it’s not just about what you know today, you’re positioned to bring in those new resources and approaches.
“Because of the changes around customer engagement, CMOs now more than ever are being viewed as the people who can answer questions. CMOs are supposed to understand the customer better than anyone else and they need to be the expert on social, digital and so on. They need to understand the new road to the customer. They’re being asked to do that more so by CEOs than they have before.”
The best CMOs today are also good at affecting change because they have built strong relationships with the board and c-level peers, Krainik said.
“Being trusted and adding value that way is the biggest driver of success,” he continued. “The CMOs driving transformation, and who are taking ownership of growth, are having this kind of success.”
But Krainik warned CMOs not to forget about brand strategy along the way.
“You still need ability to understand the brand and what you stand for. In some ways that’s become more important now you have everyone else out there talking about your brand via social and so on,” he claimed.
The CMO Club was established seven years ago for client-side marketing leaders and now boasts of 800 members in the US.
Content: The rising marketing requirement
Content development and distribution has become an area of significant investment and resource thanks to personalisation and the plethora of channels brands are using to communicate with customers. To cope with the rising volumes of content required, as well as to gain agility and responsiveness, many marketing leaders are building content teams in-house.
However, this rapid scaling of the marketing function isn’t going to be cost effective or possible for everyone, and throwing resource at ever-more content production isn’t necessarily the right answer either, Krainik said.
He claimed the best and brightest CMOs are approaching content by getting customers, partners and key influencers involved.
“Generally, what people are doing is just content tied to their product or service, but it’s about content around the storytelling. How will you tell the story about the brand and think through that – it’s not just features or function,” he said.
Krainik claimed another trend emerging is around CEOs grafting CMOs to help with content for talent acquisition and retention for their organisation.
“CMOs weren’t previously involved in what is really an HR function, but they’re now becoming part of the whole content strategy of the business,” he said. “How you prioritise those internal content needs with external content for customers is a big area of focus.
“The CMOs doing it right are looking for influencers, customers, and so on to help with that, as well as tapping into analytics, data, social, and looking at what works and what doesn’t.”