The 360 Degree CMO

Richard Vancil

Richard is the group vice-president of the Executive Advisory Strategies division at global analyst firm, IDC.

In the IT industry, the marketing function has long worked in relative isolation. Marketing was never an unimportant function, and the real ‘power centres’ of an IT vendor have always been engineering (product development) and sales.

But the stakes are now going up for the marketing function. The successes or failures of marketing, which has often previously been left to practice its ‘arts’ on its own, will be fully illuminated across the company. The main reason for this is the self-educated buyer. With more digital and social resources than ever before, buyers in all product and service categories are disrupting traditional marketing and calling for a two-way exchange with the brands they choose to support.

To succeed, today's CMO will have to create and nurture expanded relationships inside the organisation. CMOs will have to be better at managing ‘up’, managing ‘across’, and managing ‘down’.

Managing Up

The top brass of the organisation are now worrying about the ever-more-powerful self-educated customer. They are asking: Does our business know how to capture this new customer? Is our company ahead or behind our competitors with regards to this capability? What are the threats? Do we have unique skills or capabilities that we can exploit? These are the types of questions the CEO will think about in his/her conversations and plans with the CMO. IDC believes these are going to raise candid and difficult conversations between CEO and CMO. To meet the challenge, the CMO is going to have to ramp up his/her game, to respond to higher pressures and expectations.

Managing Across

The CMO's first stop – after that very tough conversation with the CEO – might well be at the doorstep of the CIO.

The CMO's role of ‘yesterday’ did not require mastery of complex data management. Most of marketing's attention was to the outbound execution of programs and campaigns, where data management mostly centred on good list management.

But now, against the CEO's mandate, the CMO wants full capability for the inbound tracking and analysis of customers and prospects as they weave their way through a variety of digital and social channels. The CMO begins this journey into marketing automation with the problematic reality of attaining the current ‘single version of the truth’ regarding customer data and the customer record.

These will be hard conversations between CMO and CIO. The CMO may be feeling the panic of time pressure. The CIO may be looking at "yet another mouth to feed" when the CMO comes knocking. An additional impediment might be style or chemistry. The CIO is likely a process-oriented engineer who needs to be judicious with time and resources for all of his/her internal functional clients. In contrast, the CMO may be less process-oriented, and in some cases less than capable of even articulating the IT requirements the marketing function has developed. The CMO may feel thwarted by IT legacy, management systems and processes, and company culture.

Managing Down

Most importantly, the CMO needs to look within the four walls of his own organisation. Do they have the people and processes to become a master of data? Does the staff have the technical ken to deploy and benefit from complex marketing automation tools?

Marketing needs to have people who understand both marketing and IT systems. These new hires are very difficult to find. For the moment, CMOs often need to ‘import’ people with technical and operational skill sets from other functions into their department, and then train them on marketing.

Going forward, marketing needs its own staff of technically savvy new hires who can extract the benefits from so many new tools: Campaign management, web, sales enablement, content management, collaboration, social, and mobility — a huge number of different software applications.

Ultimately, these marketing chiefs must become 360-degree chief executives if they’re going to succeed.

Tags: Leadership strategies, CMO role

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