Prioritizing Among the Pressure: A CMO’s Guide

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Every CMO is faced with a daily challenge to navigate, understand and prioritize among an ever growing list of buzzwords that represent a trend or a technology that could mean the difference between innovation and transformation and lagging behind the competition.

A CMO wakes up in a cold sweat, haunted by the digital buzzwordery of the day. Night after night, whether he or she has been fixated on “the marketing cloud,” “big data,” “multi-channel,” and “personalization” they invade his focus, and potentially his capability, to execute. He or she feels “increased pressure,” “even more pressure” or “increasing pressure” to keep up with the times. Every workday feels like a marathon of rumination without a destination.

Social networks rise and fall. New devices go from gangbusters to bust. Is relevance still relevant? Like the Snapchats that still vex most brands, the picture of integrated marketing self-destructs before the CMO really sees it.

This is where analysts usually drop a line about the ‘rapid pace of innovation,’ ‘the shifting preferences of consumers’ or ‘the explosion of data.’ You know about this stuff already – it is the nest where all those buzzwords hatch and haunt us.

The trends just don’t add up. Like fireworks, they seem to blaze out in every direction, suddenly and simultaneously. Trends like gamification are no longer a hot topic and have been overshadowed by things like real-time marketing and other technologies that will improve customer experience and impact the business strategy.

Despite the rise of no less than 20 innovative triggers as identified by Gartner in their 2015 Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing, only 42 percent of CMOs claim they can demonstrate the short-term impact of marketing spend quantitatively, according to the 2015 CMO Survey Report. What’s really worth pursuing?

I think the anecdote to reconciling with this complex landscape is more human than technological. If you’re a CMO losing sleep to the demands of competing priorities, here’s your guide for not getting caught up with buzzwords:

Stack your roster with techies

The CIO and CTO might support your marketing projects, to some extent, but they don’t necessarily share your interests. Many CIOs are fixated on IT costs and security, for good reason. The CTO cares more about the development of new technologies and core products than the acquisition of marketing technology.

My recommendation is to bring in a Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT) that a) reports to you, and b) can hire his or her own team. This CMT should be able to evaluate and lead the implementation of marketing technology so you don’t have to lose sleep over it.

Hiring a CMT doesn’t make you irrelevant. In the same way a Creative Director or Chief Editor manages one dimension of the marketing process, the CMT has a niche. When the CIO and CTO do have to be involved, the CMT can speak their ‘language,’ eliminating all kinds of confusion and conflict.

Pick a marketing cloud that can help you deliver

If your company generates $500 million in revenue or more, the CMT’s first task should be to pick a marketing cloud. Essentially, a marketing cloud is an integrated set of platforms. At minimum and in layman’s terms, it should include:

  • Content management system for asset management and publishing
  • Marketing automation tool for emails and personalization
  • Media optimization system for placing ads on the right websites
  • Social tool for managing communities and conversations across networks
  • Analytics for figuring out what works or not

The idea is to concentrate your content and data in one place – without iffy integrations that are costly and unscalable. Although Gartner WCM leaders like Adobe and Sitecore are doing many things right, I can’t recommend one marketing cloud over another because their suitability all depends on the particulars of your company (a CMT can help you choose). The right marketing cloud will help you progress towards digital maturity.

Hire data scientists

Data scientists have been in high demand and difficult to hire for several years, and for good reason: they can create competitive advantages that no one else has or knows about. In marketing, data scientists try to answer two core questions: Who are our customers? How do we reach them most effectively? From there, they may develop personalization engines (e.g. Amazon and Netflix), machine learning algorithms and other tools that become part of your top secret marketing arsenal.

Keep in mind that your data scientists might not home bake everything. Plenty of SaaS companies have produced good data science platforms, and there are no bonus points for reinventing the wheel.

The CMT and data scientists should be in cahoots. The CMT will help to produce and collect rock solid data while the data scientists will focus on analyzing the data and applying its lessons to the marketing strategy.

The Digital First Organization

CMOs will feel sleep-deprived until they create what I call a “digital first” organization. It’s a marketing team that plans to reach its audience through a digital device first – not a billboard, cold call, or brochure though these channels are certainly not obsolete.

A digital first company accepts that, for better or worse, people prefer to engage with brands on a screen. It recognizes that any agencies it hires must be fluent in understanding those behaviors and how they can be leveraged with a marketing cloud.

For CMOs, a laundry list of trends, technologies and buzzwords is always more overwhelming on paper than in reality. Buzzwords always aggrandize the phenomena they describe. As we translate marketing into 0s and 1s, we just need to keep it human. It’s up to CMOs to surround themselves with people who can make integrated marketing feel like a set of experiences rather than a barrage of annoyances.

Matt Goddard is the CEO of R2integrated.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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