I have always been fascinated by how the best marketers combine the science and the art of marketing, and in today’s marketing 2.0 or CMO 2.0 world, successful marketers leverage both aspects to create new equations to address changing customer needs. In this era of empowerment, customers are shaping the experience, driving the brand, and deciding who to do business with more so than ever before. This has created an imperative for businesses of all sizes around the globe to reinvent how they think about and deliver the optimal customer experience.
As I engage with CMOs through a variety of organizations, both online and in person, I find that many of my peers are grappling with how to be a modern CMO and increase their influence on the customer. As the Internet has become the primary customer channel for many businesses, marketers have had to become fluent in and digital savvy with a wide range of internet technologies. What CMOs have been asked to do over the last several years is be more of a full business partner to their CEO, and a full-fledged peer in revenue generation with the head of sales, or Chief Revenue Officer.
In order to do that effectively, it’s become imperative that the CMO have both business acumen as well as the analytical and technological skills to be a peer with the other senior execs at that table. So for some, it’s been a reinvention, and for others it’s been evolving their capabilities and learning new skills in the area of marketing science and technology.
Many of my peers that I have talked to are certainly up for this bigger challenge. Not everybody, however, wants to have increased responsibility and accountability to drive predictable contributions to revenue growth. It takes a drive for understanding more than just the numbers and the data; you have to have the insights and the judgment to know what to pay attention to, what to change, and at what magnitude to act.
The most successful CMOs are also driving much closer alignment with their sales counterparts, from planning and prioritizing investments, to segmenting customers, and driving engagement, pipeline contribution, measurement, and continuous improvement. Alignment is not an event, it’s a process and it’s inevitable that you will get out of alignment, up and down and across the organization, so you have to keep focused on re-enforcing or refining alignment to maintain a solid working relationship with sales.
One of the more interesting challenges for marketers today is to drive the customer agenda. By that I mean, what is the strategy for targeting, acquiring, engaging with, retaining and growing customers? Paul Hagan at Forrester has written about the rise of the Chief Customer Officer. There may be 2,000 companies around the globe that have designated a Chief Customer Officer, but there are probably hundreds of thousands of companies that don’t have one, and marketing is better positioned than any other function to lead this charge. Marketing generally has control over significant budgets, communications, the web and social channels and consequently has the ability to extract the best information and insights about the customer. Marketing can’t do it alone, but can certainly lead the customer agenda at most companies.
In order to own the customer agenda, marketers need to become much more analytical and data-driven. Some CMOs have put a lot of this responsibility in their Director or VP of Market Operations. While it’s important to have this function at any company of scale, I don’t feel that the CMO should just delegate this responsibility. You have to be able to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and so you have to dig in, get your hands dirty, and truly understand how all this works at a granular level.
Grasping the data alone, however, is not enough to get the leverage you need to outgrow the competition. You need to understand customers in depth and create customer profiles or personas to embellish behavioral and purchase data. You want to go deeper if you can and understand the whole person. For example: what do they like to do when they are not at work? What keeps them up at night? What do they think about when they have free time? Where do they hang out, and in particular, what social channels do they frequent? You’ve got to know what’s important to them, and then you can understand the holistic person and have a better chance of effectively communicating in a resonant fashion and ultimately build a mutually beneficial and lasting relationship.
In my view, there’s never been a better time to be a CMO and have a seat at the table with the rest of the executive team, to help drive innovation and growth of the company, and lead efforts to improve the customer experience. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s certainly going to be hard, but it should ultimately be rewarding as well.