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How CMOs Eye the Wave of Change: An IBM Report

Last week I wrote a blog post about several converging events that are changing the marketing landscape. In my opinion, the ability to bend these Four Forces to one’s advantage is what will separate the industry’s most creative leaders from the stragglers and strugglers.

A recent report from IBM Corp. supports my theory. Titled, “From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global CMO Study,” the report reveals that while 79 percent of 1,734 CMOs surveyed expect increased complexity in business over the next five years, less than half (48%) said they actually feel prepared to manage it.

In fact, more than 50 percent of the CMOs said they are underprepared to manage 11 major market factors, including data explosion, social media, channel proliferation and shifting demographics.

How to overcome this groundswell of volatility? To the smart CEO, the answer is customer intimacy, but that’s not so easy to accomplish for the CMO. Indeed, IBM’s similar, 2010 study of CEOs showed 95 percent of the most successful corporate leaders said “getting closer to the customer” is critical for attaining their strategic goals. But, as one Canadian CMO put: “Having the customer insights to understand how to do this is our biggest challenge.”

The good news is that CMOs are seeing the value in creativity and customer data as key tools for attaining success. Sixty-three percent of CMOs cited voice-of-the-customer insights and 60 percent listed creative thinking as required capabilities for attaining their goals. Let’s hope those numbers grow.

The most successful CEOs and CMOs expect customers to demand more of them in the next five years, and this should not be surprising. Now is the time to act. If a company has access to the data, then it already is equipped to distinguish itself from its rivals. The challenge is learning which data to collect and then drawing from that information the kinds of insights that will render a complete picture of the consumer and consumer needs.

A variety of practices can be used, from trigger messaging to lifestyle segmentation to location-based marketing. The aim is simply to better understand the customers’ expectations as a means to creating the kinds of products and services that resonate, and then to fortify the customer commitment by continually communicating and collaborating.

As we weather the forces of change, these are the skills we all will need to reach the new horizon.

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