8 things you should know about the modern CMO

CMO delves into eight facets of the modern chief marketing officer's role to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie

6. They can tell a good story

Marketers are known for favouring a bit of spin, but with 69 per cent of Australian marketers planning to increase their investment in content marketing activities in 2014, the ability to craft a good brand story and target it to the personality and preferences of the individual is critical.

David Newberry, group marketing officer at customer management software provider, Pitney Bowes, claimed marketing as a discipline comes down to three things: Understanding customers by tapping into data and information about that individual; interacting with them via appropriate channels of communication; and creating an emotional, personal bond through content.

“Content is really the third leg of the stool, and it always has been,” he said. “It has become more important because of the sheer number of messages available today, and because of the fragmentation of channels.”

When it comes to the content marketing dos and don’ts, story relevance, brand fit, credibility, distribution, shareability and one-to-one interaction are all vital.

“Content marketing is about being able to tell stories that inspire and inform people at the same time,” Tourism Australia CMO, Nick Baker, said. What many organisations fail to recognise, however, is that no content should be produced or curated in isolation.

In addition, while a highly emotive piece of content might work for an emotionally suggestive brand, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same strategy should be used for a B2B product or service.

“If it’s not relevant, or not a clear call to action, it’s a wasted effort,” Baker claimed. “There must be a business reason and business context if you’re going to do it at all. There are organisations out there that say content must be engaging, but if it’s not integrated with the rest of your plan, it’s just content.”

7. They’re not just about marketing

The role of CMO is so diverse that many now claim it’s not really about marketing at all. In fact, research undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2013 claimed CMOs are in the midst of an identity crisis, as they and their executive peers struggle to define the parameters of the role successfully.

For example, 19 per cent of CMOs in the EIU report said driving revenue growth was their top priority against 30 per cent of other c-suite executives. Twenty-two per cent of marketers also claimed creating new products and services was the top priority, yet just nine per cent of their c-level peers agreed.

In addition, 70 per cent of CMOs believe they should play a lead or key role in selecting new markets to enter, compared with 56 per cent of their c-suite peers. Nearly half those surveyed also claimed a disconnect over what marketing should be delivering.

“Part of the issue may be that the CMOs oversee what is arguably the broadest and most dynamic mix of disciplines among all c-suite positions,” the original EIU report stated. “While this far-reaching portfolio presents an opportunity for CMOs to increase marketing’s influence across an organisation, it also highlights their greatest challenge: getting everyone to agree on marketing’s priorities.”

<i>Forbes</i> columnist, Dean Crutchfield, claimed the evolution of the role of CMO has triggered what he calls the ‘eclectic CMO’. “Now more than ever, the role requires being myopic about the consumer, fanatical about innovation and a leader in the c-suite,” he wrote in October.

“Increasingly CMOs succeed when they have an eclectic background that ranges from deep strategy, team leadership, PR through to operations, commercial acumen and information technology know-how.”

An excellent example, Crutchfield said, is JC Penney JCP -0.46%’s decision to appoint Jan Hodges as senior VP of sales promotion, a role that has similar duties to the vacant CMO role. Hodges has spent most of her career rising through the ranks of merchandising and managing JC Penney’s salon business and has never held a formal marketing role.

ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster, saw the CMO’s job becoming more like that of the CEO. “Previously the CMO was intrinsically entwined with all aspects of marketing, but the role is becoming more like a conductor leading a variety of musicians as the skillset is becoming too broad for one person. It now involves other diverse areas like data, technology, IT, creative and PR,” Sangster said in a blog post for <i>CMO</i>.

In a post for Firebrand Talent last year, marketing veteran and commentator, Damien Cummings, also pointed out a modern CMO needs to have a deep understanding of technology and how it affects customer behaviour. “Programs like CRM, digital marketing, social media, e-commerce and lead generation all need strong guidance from marketing,” he said.

“There’s even speculation that CMO and CIO roles will merge into a chief digital officer role in the near future. Regardless, modern CMOs need to be experts in technology to be successful.”

Dachis Group’s Erin Mulligan Nelson said no three CMOs are the same. “Look at CFOs as a comparative example: It’s clear what CFOs do. They manage accounting, treasury, financial planning and analysis, and pretty much every one has the same job description. That means it’s fairly easy to consistently measure and manage how a CFO is performing versus their colleagues,” she said.

“CMOs are all over the board. I don’t think we’re getting to a point anytime soon where all CMOs have the same job description either. It’s about figuring out where you drive value, what you’re accountable for and making sure you can measure and articulate against that value no matter what the job description is so you become invaluable to the rest of the c-suite.”

8. They need more data scientists

As more organisations look to data for competitive advantage and customer intelligence, led by the marketing team, the demand for data analytics skills rises. Filling that data scientist gap is already becoming difficult and things are predicted to get a lot worse.

To cope, the IT Leadership Academy has suggested CMOs adopt an ‘ensemble’ approach to the deficit in analytical skills.

“You have to create a portfolio of talent within a team,” Scott Friesen, director for marketing analytics and customer insights at Ulta Beauty, suggested. “For example, you might have someone who is a great statistician but doesn't know database query mechanisms. So someone else on the team does the SQL pulls for the statistician, who hands off to the best communicator. That is who communicates the message to the business.”

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