The Next-Generation CMO

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Mike Volpe, HubSpot
Mike Volpe, HubSpot

In Moneyball, a movie often cited in our office packed with baseball fanatics, Brad Pitt tells his older scouts, steeped in tradition and wed to their well-worn approach to evaluating players, to “adapt or die.” At this juncture, the same could be said of marketing leaders. Our average lifespan in the job is dwindling, and our reputation outside the world of marketing is akin to that of politicians, car salesmen, and stockbrokers. So, how do we collectively fix this, and what characteristics will drive the success of the next generation of Chief Marketing Officers? I've outlined a hypothesis below.

1. They will serve double-duty as Chief Publishing Officers: When Don Draper sold an advertising idea and plan, TV outlets and newspapers could charge a premium because they were the only game in town. Simply put, there was no other way to reach people through the mass market, and Americans consumed media through three channels only: radio, TV, and print, all with a finite number of stations, channels, and options. Those days are over. Americans spend almost three hours per day glued to their smart phones, and there are tens of millions of YouTube channels, blogs, news outlets, and podcasts; 86% of people skip TV ads, and 200 million people are on the Do Not Call list.

As a result, marketers can no longer afford to “rent” audiences on a daily basis. We need to build our own media vehicles and devote time, effort, energy, and money to developing targeted, in-depth, and innovative content that our customers care about, share, love, and promote. This will mean three things for marketers: First, we need to hire exceptional content creators—writers, designers, videographers, and editors, who tell our brand's story in a compelling, creative, and relevant manner. Second, we have to keep pace with the rapidly evolving pace of media consumption. Does that mean we publish every second or every hour? No, but we need to strike the evolving balance between quality and quantity.  Third, we need to be truly and exceptionally versatile in how and where we share our content. The old model of sharing the same content in the same format across sites does not an innovative CMO make.

2. They will be savvy buyers, users, and adopters of technology: At this point, you're likely living under a rock if you haven't read the Gartner prediction that by 2017 CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs. I happen to agree with them, but I also think it's important to include some additional predictions alongside theirs. First, the best next-generation CMOs will indeed borrow from what CIOs do best: They will be systems thinkers and equally as focused on implementation and execution as strategy and big ideas. On the flip side, however, they'll also need to carry over what CMOs have traditionally done best: betting big on transformative, industry-leading innovation, messaging, and platforms that disrupt how business is done on a daily basis. In other words, the next generation CMO will adopt best practices from the ancient archetypes of the CIO and CMO and unite them under one informed and technologically savvy approach.

3. They will adapt to future that is all about inbound: Gartner Analyst Jake Sorofman wrote a great piece about how marketers need to transition from analog to digital, and I couldn't agree more. He correctly noted that our industry simply hasn't moved fast enough during the transition, and that many of us have twentysomethings on our teams more well-versed in our mediums than our C-suite. That has to change, but I think we need to go further. Marketers aren't the only group that has changed: Consumers have more resources than ever to block out, fast forward, and ignore traditional marketing mediums. Moreover, most buyers do up to 80% of their research before they even visit your store or talk to a sales rep, so fundamentally, our approach needs to change.

I believe successful next generation CMOs will fundamentally lead an inbound revolution at their respective companies. Consumers will no longer tolerate a fragmented brand experience through which they receive different messages from our field marketing, digital, brand, and social teams. They will expect and demand better from all of us, so we'll be forced to create an integrated experience that is seamless, authentic, and measurable. Currently, just 50% of companies say that they're centered on the customer. That number needs to increase exponentially in the coming decade.  In other words, next generation CMOs will adopt, promote, and deliver on the promise of inbound marketing by transforming their organizations into scalable, measurable, and results-oriented teams so optimizing for every single component of the marketing funnel is easy and seamless.

Brad Szollose describes the key to success as “doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.” We've danced around the status quo for too long; now it's time to blow out the walls and reconstruct the foundation. The next generation of CMOs will build marketing organizations that are scalable, measurable, and efficient. They will no longer capture data solely in cost per click or impressions viewed, but rather in how they lowered the average cost per lead for sales and how they delivered month over month to fulfill a joint agreement between their sales and marketing departments.

Mike Volpe is CMO of HubSpot.

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