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There Is no ‘I’ in CMO

Today’s evolving digital landscape is unmatched in unpredictability and potential.

What customers want and what businesses need is rapidly changing as new technologies such as social and mobile have created a more dynamic and complicated customer journey. Every executive is working to adjust to the relentless pace of change in their respective domains, but nowhere is the impact more clear than in the marketing department.

With the rise of new technologies and ever-expanding customer touchpoints, expectations have changed. Today’s digitally savvy customer expects every interaction, regardless of the channel and device, to be laced with context from past interactions. And to most marketers’ frustration, mapping out customers’ paths to purchase is more like solving a Rubik’s cube than playing connect the dots.

So how can CMOs make it in this fast-changing world of marketing? How can companies put customers, not technology, at the center of their digital strategy? The key to success relies on building marketing competency across domains, developing internal advocates, establishing common goals, and developing shared accountability for customer experience success within the C-suite.

But cultivating cooperation is easier said than done. The balance of power in the C-suite is constantly shifting in terms of roles and budgets. New titles like the chief digital officer and chief customer officer are emerging as companies struggle to get their arms around the new digital consumer. While these fluctuations have caused tension in the executive suite, they have also created opportunities for real transformation—most notably in the way the CIO and CMO work together to deliver on the promise of digital marketing.

Historically, CIOs were at the helm of the technology purchasing budget. They had the power to decide what investments would increase efficiencies and help drive businesses forward, but that has evolved as cloud business applications have shifted the decision-making focus to line executives who are now able to tap into deep domain knowledge and rapid deployments that leave capital expenditure budgets untouched. According to Gartner, the CMO is now projected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017, and we’re already witnessing that transformation. I have experienced this firsthand, as the majority of technology expenditures for our company—and our customers—increasingly shift to solutions to help manage digital marketing campaigns, Web initiatives, SEO, advertising, etc.

However, as CMOs take on a larger role in technology-purchasing decisions they often fail to consider how the systems they deploy impact cross-departmental business processes and the enterprise integration landscape. The promise of data-driven marketing is continuously undermined by the proliferation of stovepipe applications deployed to manage interactions across different channels—and it’s now harder than ever to achieve a singular view of the customer that is immediately actionable to marketers. Countless companies talk about “omnichannel” initiatives with CRM systems integrating to campaign management, e-commerce, and other platforms in real time. However, few have successfully implemented effective integrations, largely because companies tend to adopt a rigid ERP-based approach for managing customer relationships. One size does not fit all, and CMOs need to think about flexible integration to keep their heads above water.

Meanwhile, CIOs often underestimate and underserve the marketing department’s technology needs. A recent Accenture survey highlights this disconnect with eight out of 10 marketing and IT executives saying that collaboration between each other is not up to par. And both sides have their complaints. Half of IT leaders said that marketers introduce technologies without considering existing IT standards, and four in 10 CMOs claim that the IT department doesn’t have the marketing domain expertise required to quickly deploy effective systems. This is further evidenced by a recent Forrester Research survey that revealed that 49% of IT employees say that their CIOs hire employees with marketing knowledge, while just 19% of marketers say their CMOs hire technology experts focused on customer engagement.

As CMOs set out on a quest to build alliances within the C-suite to federate customer data, integrate processes, and rationalize their investments, the CIO must be their first target, and both offices must advocate the development of common goals to propel their efforts forward. To connect with today’s increasingly mobile- and data-conscious consumer base, companies need a fully aligned integration strategy that will enable them to harness and analyze data to orchestrate compelling customer experiences.  

While the CMO and CIO dynamic is important, the emphasis on developing it shouldn’t take away from the importance of building partnerships with the other C-suite executives such as the CFO and CEO. Delivering measurable business growth is everyone’s goal, but often the CFO and CMO aren’t in sync with how to measure the revenue impact of a company’s marketing investments. Providing instrumentation and visibility on revenue-side outcomes is paramount—the days of tracking vanity metrics such as impressions or open rates are over.

When it comes to the CEO and CMO chemistry, the tension lies in who owns the customer experience. CEOs often claim customers as their own and don’t share ownership across the organization. In reality, every business decision should be centered on the customer. The CEO can help build a company based around customer needs and thus break down the C-suite silos, which will result in a more harmonious alignment of people, process, and technology.

Ultimately, marketers need access to rich customer data, flexible technology, and capable teams in order to deliver meaningful business results. Once they bridge these relationship chasms with this in mind, it shouldn’t be hard for the C-suite to all get along.

Alex Lustberg is CMO of Lyris

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