Jeff Young


Attention CMOs: Why the nerd to your left is the key to your success

CMOs, this is for you. Who among you doesn’t seek greater stature among your C-level colleagues? Or more influence with your boss? A stronger voice in the boardroom? Your sterling resume and adept strategic skills earned you the chief marketing officer title. But you’ll need to up your game if you want to make progress in these areas.

I’m presuming you are nodding. If so, then earn the influence you seek by focusing on these imperatives:

  1. In-depth knowledge of your customer
  2. Measurement and analytics
  3. A grip on “Big Data”

You must have in-depth knowledge of your customers to influence them appropriately along their buyer’s journeys. This requires segmentation and targeting. In addition, you need the know-how to connect this information to sales data to deliver precise messages at exact moments in the buyer’s journey for maximum impact. Today’s sophisticated marketing automation platforms offer exactly this. Complex and intimidating as they may seem, they are essential.

Measuring your activities has always been a goal, but few organizations truly commit to it. Data analytics can position you as a growth partner. It’s what empowers you to prove marketing works rather than relying on opinion or persuasion, says Bruce Rogers, chief insights officer at Forbes. Technology has advanced to the point where meaty measurement tools can help you collect, combine and analyze data to improve your campaigns and other marketing activities from year to year, and even on the fly.

It’s more difficult to analyze your campaign data if you don’t have accurate, up-to-date sales data and marketplace trending data. Getting a grip on Big Data requires access to the information and robust reporting systems.

What’s the common thread among these three areas? Today’s technology. In two years, marketing will spend more on technology than the information technology (IT) department, according to Gartner, Inc., an IT research company. Ramp up quickly and don’t get left in the digital-age dust. For that, you’ll need a partner.

Buddy Up
Your partner is likely the nerd to your left: the chief information officer (CIO). I’m guessing this is no great revelation. But Accenture reports that just over 50 percent of you agree that alignment with a CIO is necessary. That means there are roughly 50 percent of you who disagree with this. If you fall into the latter group, perceptions likely block your thinking.

See if this feels familiar: You think your CIO rules a technology empire that is behind the times. Your organization’s digital IQ is low, and you blame him or her. To rub salt in the wound, your boss spends more time with the CIO, and you feel underappreciated.

(Of course, the CIO has a perspective, too. It’s that marketing is a money pit. It’s slow to make decisions and to implement technology. It doesn’t like rules or follow standards. And it’s not technologically savvy. Ouch.)

The CIO/CMO partnership is critical to maximizing digital technology investments. But most rate this relationship as one of the weakest in the C-suite, finds the PwC Digital IQ Snapshot. This must change. The reality is that, based on your three imperatives, the CIO is best-positioned to be your wingman. Who else can help navigate today’s myriad marketing platforms? Who can help you access technology that will help your team be thorough and smart in measuring and analyzing everything you do? And who has the knowledge of and access to all the systems required to effectively marry sales and marketplace data? Yep. It’s your CIO.

Mutually Beneficial
Here’s how to buddy up and create a mutually beneficial relationship with your CIO.

  • Job share. Well … sort of. Dedicate a day each quarter to share key initiatives, plans and objectives with the IT team that, in turn, will do the same with your team. McKinsey & Company recommends to take it a step further, hire “translators” and integrate marketing and IT teams. Being able to speak with a common vocabulary is paramount. Take responsibility to cross-train yourself and your staff.
  • Out of sight is out of mind, so don’t hide. Meet one-on-one with the CIO once each week to discuss progress on key initiatives. These meetings will progressively build your relationship and help you both identify areas of mutual benefit.
  • Share your vision. Establishing a workable partnership mandates that CMOs precisely define their vision across facets, ranging from data analysis to implementation and tracking impact on earnings, according to McKinsey.
  • Partner in presentations to your president or CEO. This will help mitigate the frustration and head-scratching generated when he or she must sort through your endless investments in marketing and the CIO’s laundry list of technology must-haves. Unless someone connects the dots, your CEO inevitably will miss the forest for the trees. Partner with the CIO to show how technology solutions ladder up to campaigns, then to strategy, then to objectives.
  • Scratch each other’s backs. Marketing can make the business case for technology, and the CIO’s team can help marketing by connecting the dots mentioned above in a dynamic and actionable way previously unavailable because of the lack of technology.

Clearly, there’s never been a better time than now for CMOs to embrace technology to increase their effectiveness and influence. The tools exist. But you’ll need to partner with your CIO to maximize effectiveness. It’s up to you to create a symbiotic relationship that will push you, your team and your company to greater heights.


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