Markets to Metrics: The changing role of the CMO

Tech Mahindra's Hari Thalapalli talks about how marketing automation and the CMO-CIO relationship are just some of the paradigm shifts in marketing

Every decade, we see macro market trends that shift the focus and emphasis within an organisation.

There are those that were committed to new product development and innovation (idea to market), and then we saw significant focus on operational efficiencies and productivity improvement (order to cash); and now, as platforms to access consumers undergo dramatic shifts, the focus is on the "market to order" space. In other words, the offices of the chief marketing officer and the chief sales officer have become more critical than ever before.

Research shows that it is becoming easier to reach large swathes of the universe through collaborative technology platforms, and the influence of technology is set to be the game changer for all industries. Gone are the days when companies took 20 years to reach their first billion dollars in revenue. It is said that Google achieved this in eight years, and Groupon achieved it in one year, while a gaming company sold almost $1 billion of its flagship product in 72 hours.

Clearly, the influence of technology in this shift is so large that the CMOs can no longer rely on advisors to make their next move. It is not coincidental that in most companies, the CMO and the CIO have similar budgets to achieve this objective.

While the transition and evolution are fast and fascinating, equally captivating is the paradigm shift in the roles of traditional analysts and influencers. We are witnessing a perceptible shift in the role of the so-called experts and traditional mediums of communication. A clear example is the almost extinct role of movie critics; today the audience is far more likely to be influenced by the timeline on their Facebook page! Online sentiment monitoring and management are becoming far more critical in times such as these.

In an era where people consider launching a brand in 24 hours, the role of technology is intertwined with the responsibilities of a CMO and with a diverse customer base; the need of technology is non-debatable. From cloud to clout, the transition is for all to be felt. A CMO needs to determine the reach of the campaign each time and aim for a larger proliferation.

There are more than 1000 tech vendors (Gartner 2014) providing various solutions to the CMO function. How we harness the power of technology and sieve through the maze of conflicting/complementary tech products to create superior engagement with customers is a main deliberation of the current CMO.

Newer marketing strategies take a ground-up approach whereby agility meshes with ability. Marketers are targeting micro-segments and addressing their needs, allowing the spurt of greenfield markets. What seems like a microcosm of the market today has the potential to be an SBU in the future.

Omni-channel approaches bring new revenue streams for products as part of long-tail distribution. They have enabled by digital marketing to open up additional revenue streams from smaller towns for these products.

The CMO function is morphing from managing communications to managing customer experience for the company. This requires mastery over several channels of customer interaction, which are almost entirely tech-enabled. CIOs are increasingly taking on a business perspective while CMOs are increasingly taking on more technology decisions, and as a result, the line between the CIO and CMO functions is blurring

The age-old designations in marketing are seeing some interesting acronyms being introduced, such as the CMTO (chief marketing technology officer) and CMT (chief marketing technologist). The truth is that despite what they may be called, technology is a mainstay of the role, and marketers are heading toward interesting times.

The technology laggards may still debate and dismiss the fuss over technology, claiming that branding and marketing can exist without being digital. But in reality, the journey will be one with slackened pace, and in a world of hyper-competition, time is of the essence for all deliberations.

This article was originally published in the CMO Council Marketing Magnified newsletter, May 2015.

About the author

Hari Thalapalli is the Chief Marketing Officer and Global Head of the Business and Technology consulting group for Tech Mahindra. He is an active participant in driving the company’s strategic ambitions and serves as the Executive Sponsor for select accounts.

Thalapalli’s position gives him the unique advantage of understanding the customer’s strategic and tactical goals as well as the challenges faced by CXOs in transitioning their organizations into digitally enabled enterprises. As the Global Head of the Business and Technology consulting group, he focuses on converting this understanding into offering relevant, sustainable and economically meaningful solutions that lead to tangible business results for the customers.

Prior to these roles, he served as the Chief People Officer and has been instrumental in many successful initiatives. His achievements are best reflected in the many accolades he has received, including the CPO of the Year award from Bloomberg in 2010. His leadership and direction have enabled multiple best employer awards in previous years. He is based in Hyderabad and has been with Tech Mahindra since 1998.

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