Wanted: More Left-Leaning CMOs

Winning in marketing today requires leaning just a bit to the left—in terms of analytical thinking, not political leanings. Indeed, “The Arrival of Left-Brained Leaders and the Rise of the Marketing Department” is the title of a chapter in coauthors Russell Glass and Sean Callahan’s book, The Data-Driven Business: How to Use Big Data to Win Customers, Beat Customers, and Boost Profits. And for good reason…

“As data-driven marketing has become the predominant model of marketing,” write Glass and Callahan, head of B2B product and senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn, respectively, “the kinds of people who practicing marketing and advertising are certainly different sorts than they used to be, even five years ago…”

These new marketers are much more analytical, according to the coauthors, who provide numerous examples. At Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), for example, the director of global brand and digital marketing organizes his marketing team into three marketing “types.”

  1. Content Jockeys: those who write white papers, blogs, and articles and produce videos
  2. Infra-Jockeys: those who design, operate, and maintain the marketing technology environment
  3. Demand Gen Jockeys: those who “optimize demand generation efforts using sophisticated marketing automation systems”

The first category represents a relatively traditional marketing type: folks who can flex their creative thinking and communicate well. The second two categories, which are obviously more technology-focused, represent the present and future of marketing. Glass and Callahan do not claim that creativity is becoming irrelevant; instead, they argue that the technology and analytics skills are becoming much more relevant, and more valuable.

The book provides some useful practices for marketers looking to become more analytical; these include:

Consistent reporting and business metrics: The coauthors point o Joe Payne, former CEO of Eloqua, who emphasizes that he always exhorted his marketing executives to share a consistent report—containing the same metrics—when presenting at weekly executive meetings. These measures, Payne also emphasizes, should be real; that is, tied to performance outcomes. CFOs do not make up their own metrics, Payne explains, and neither should CMOs.

Accountability: Marketers should be held accountable for their investments and the results that their spending produces (or doesn’t). The CMO of software firm Domo stresses that this accountability means that marketing needs to report in its revenue contribution, as opposed to reporting that it won a marketing award.

Perseverance: One of the most challenging obstacles marketers face when trying to become more analytical may be “their own innate creative tendencies,” according to Payne and the coauthors. Some marketers view the analytical mandate as a directive to become boring.

They shouldn’t, according to another expert the coauthors cite: Glen Cow, CEO of marketing technology firm Crimson Marketing. “The vast majority of CMOs out there—maybe really the entire marketing department—are what we called right-brained people,” Cow says. “They are hired for their creative abilities and their ability to drive outbound marketing campaigns and then do branding. The world has changed very, very quickly, and it requires left-brained talent. It requires people who can make sense of the data that’s coming in.”

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