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Reinventing Marketing: 5 Obsessions Today's Digital CMO Needs to Succeed

The vast majority of digital experience projects -- the very same projects CMOs were hired to see through to fruition -- "sometimes" or "often" fail.
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The traditional role of the CMO is changing. But before the new CMO can be successful, they need to fully embrace marketing technology

I attended university in British Columbia, studying at a campus surrounded by soaring snow-capped mountains and in a city filled with boundless opportunities. For me, studying marketing was a good fit as I loved working with creative people, was fascinated by human psychology, and always had a keen interest in selling. Accounting, statistics, economics and math were of course mandatory courses for a business degree but for me they seemed more like necessary evils than useful skills that I would need in my career in marketing and sales. On the side, I ran my own tech consulting company, did a bit of programming and was always the first one to have the latest technology (back when a Commodore VIC-20 was hot technology!).

But back then, marketers didn't have to worry too much about technology's impact on their careers. The traditional CMO has historically been concerned with brand awareness, creative and messaging, the Four Ps, and the psychology of the consumer. And they haven't been particularly data-driven. At best, as the old saying goes, marketers knew that 50% of their marketing spend was effective, they just didn't know which 50%.

That's all changed.

CMO Role Transformed

In a marketplace where disruptive business models are rapidly evolving and technologies are opening up new possibilities and markets, the role of the CMO is colliding with that of the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO). CMOs today are expected to know the ins and outs of their traditional stomping grounds of brand strategy and advertising while also keeping up to date on the latest technology trends that are influencing the entire customer lifecycle.

Over the past 10 years, CMOs have gone from being a cost center, siloed within their organization with minimal accountability, to being a full-blown player, charged with P&L and caring for the entire customer lifecycle. Today's CMO is more CEO like, carefully balancing parts of the business that are starting to overlap including marketing, operations, sales, and especially IT. CMOs have gone full digital, hiring marketing technologists, data analysts, and "growth hackers" in addition to the usual creatives.

Never before has there been so much pressure on a C-suite executive to embrace digital technology. Today's CMO is expected to be a mash-up of digital A-Players: The marketing skill of a Philip Schiller, innovation savvy of Beth Comstock, technical chops of Bill Joy, social know-how of Frank Eliason, and the business acumen of a Marc Andreessen.

It's About the Experience

The emergence of the digital CMO is both good and bad news.

As customers increasingly turn to digital touchpoints to interact with brands, these new-age CMOs are increasingly focused on creating great digital experiences. They've come to the realization that digital customer experience is both an urgent priority and a key factor in driving revenue. For most companies, digital experiences are the hidden treasure in today's market and for others they are a survival imperative.

But if great digital experiences are a modern-day treasure, why aren't more CMOs successful at delivering them? A recent survey by Forrester Consulting commissioned by Elastic Path reveals a shocking reality: More than 60% of digital experience projects fail. Let me repeat that: The vast majority of digital experience projects -- the very same projects CMOs were hired to see through to fruition -- "sometimes" or "often" fail.

5 Things Every CMO Needs to Know

To avoid these failures, I believe that CMOs must embrace the following 5 obsessions:

  1. Own the customer experience and lifecycle across all channels. A good CMO is chronically obsessed with the customer experience.

  • Embrace marketing technology. Going half way won't cut it. This includes in-depth knowledge of digital experience platforms such as Adobe Marketing Cloud as well as the transactional commerce component that drives revenue for the business.
  • Silos must be broken down. Organizations must undergo radical shifts in their structures to align themselves with how customers act in a new world obsessed with digital experiences. This starts with the CMO closely collaborating with the CIO, and building from there.
  • Be data driven. Pragmatic marketers have a saying for those who refuse to glean insights through data: "Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant." Opinions are great, but real-world data is greater. Smart CMOs rely on data and analytics to understand what's really going on with the business and can optimize on the fly.
  • Embrace the mobile mind shift. The new battleground for customers is the mobile moment, but the scary truth is that most companies are simply not ready for it. CMOs must put mobile experiences at the forefront of everything they do.
  • In future blog posts, I'll cover what experience-driven commerce is, and what the marketing team of the future looks like.

    Matt Dion is Vice President of Marketing for Elastic Path Software. Matt has more than 20 years of experience in marketing & partner strategy, business development, analyst relations, product marketing, product management, and strategic alliances.

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