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CMOs must expand their tech skills in the digital marketing era

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 5, 2013
As CMOs take on a more strategic role in the C-suite, they will need to broaden their technical skills and expertise to understand big data analytics, customer online experience, social media and more.

To do that effectively, says Laura McGarrity, vice president of marketing at hiring, recruiting and consulting firm Mondo, CMOs must rely on tools and resources that first track customer behaviors online, and then help mine the extensive stores of customer data to direct business' activity; tools that might once have fallen solely under the purview of the company's CIO, she says.

"They'll have to know how to select and use technology to get into the real nitty gritty not just what customers buy, but how they go about buying it," McGarrity says. "What sites are [customers] looking at? How important are social media sites and blogs? What kinds of advertisements are they clicking on? What promotions or special deals are they responding to? How many different places do [customers] go to do research, how many reviews are they reading before they buy? What influences their decisions?" she says.

The Data-Driven CMO
Of course, to accomplish all this requires an understanding of the advantages of technology, data gathering and analysis, and data mining, as well as some grasp of how big data can deliver actionable business insights to help companies better service customers, increase revenues, and even develop new products, says McGarrity. These skills and knowledge, again, are areas where the CMO and the CIO roles overlap, she says.

"CMOs must have the skills to understand big data and how that can translate to better customer experience, improve ROI and measure spending accurately," she says. "The CMO role is definitely becoming more data-driven, and it's a place where CMOs can join forces with the CIOs to make marketing initiatives more impactful," she says.

Proving CMO Value
Of course, there are limited resources available for IT initiatives, regardless of department, says Laserfische's Samuelson, meaning CMOs will have to fight for every dollar allocated. But here, CMOs have a distinct advantage, in that they can point to data to prove the success of their initiatives, she says.

"Where CMOs will emerge triumphant is their ability to prove that their initiatives work, that by applying certain methodologies, gathering and analyzing customer data and then iterating their marketing and business plans to better meet customers' needs, they can deliver the ROI they promised," she says. "They will have a proof-of-concept, and that will mean their initiatives will be seen as worthy of further investment," Samuelson says.

That doesn't mean the allocation of resources has to turn into a battle royale, though, Samuelson says. CMOs must develop internal advocates and get buy-in from across business units and within the C-suite to help market and sell their initiatives. And, she says, once colleagues see the benefits of smart, customer-focused, business-boosting marketing initiatives, it shouldn't be difficult to get their support.

 

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