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Great Time to Be a CMO, If You Are Among the 20 Percent

3-31-2014 2-38-04 PMInfluence can be a magnificent vehicle in the C-suite, but if you are a chief marketing officer, you better make sure that vehicle is well powered or you risk hindsight that is more 80-20 than 20-20.

This is the basis of two recent research reports, one by IBM and the other by Forrester. According to IBM, chief marketing officers are gaining significant influence with the corner office – 63% of CEOs involve the CMO in overall business strategies, second only to the chief financial officer at 72%. Yet only about 20% of CMOs feel fully prepared to manage the recent proliferation of data that is increasingly guiding their corporate decisions.

Similarly, Forrester finds that business leaders lack confidence in their digital strategies: while 74% said their company has a digital strategy, only 15% believe their company has the skills and capabilities to deliver on that strategy. This presents an opportunity for CMOs to step up – but at the risk of failing.

That CMOs feel ill prepared to tackle the burgeoning challenge should not be surprising. The average CMO likely rose through the organizational ranks before the complexities of mobile and social communications transformed customer relationship marketing into a global, around-the-clock necessity. The result is a lot of planning and intent, but limited action.

All of us are in a foot race to keep up with the rapid reproduction of big data. Based on my own experiences bridging the gap between customer information and customer intimacy, I’d suggest a four-step process:

1) Hire a data tamer: By next year, one quarter of large global organizations are expected to appoint someone to manage data oversight, according to research by Gartner. This could put companies without a chief data officer at a disadvantage. Companies should weigh this disadvantage against the investment in appointing someone to handle this critical success element as part of a broader strategy.

2) Say hello to the CIO: Once the data is well managed, the CDO and CMO should corral their ambitions and work closely with the organization’s chief information officer. Together, they can craft a roadmap to success that will get buy-in from the CEO and board.

3) Don’t drop the phone: The sheer volume of reports, articles and trade shows dedicated exclusively to mobile communications can waylay the urge to act on it. Savvy executives won’t make this mistake. Chief marketing officers, and the chief data officers, can combine their skill sets to extract the complex ways mobile will transform the customer experience – and how to tackle it.

4) We’re all at the starting line: Executives should embrace the potential of their data, and their strategies to execute on it, while recognizing that almost everyone is in the same place. A long-range plan, in combination with a series of “here-and-now” learning experiments that shape that plan over time, is a sound strategy for rounding the curve to future successes.

This four-step process is the engine that will accelerate a data strategy into action. It also will better position companies, and the people who run them, to more nimbly respond to other challenges.

(Image courtesy of IBM)

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