The Economist Intelligence Unit is on a roll with its marketing industry research. It just released another report, sponsored by SAS, titled Outside Looking In: The CMO Struggles to Get in Sync with the C-Suite. The gist of the report, a global survey of 389 executives, is that marketing is in a period of great change, it's becoming more strategic, and many organizations are not yet in agreement on what that means for the CMO's role and priorities.
One thing that I found particularly fascinating, however, were the results to the question: what skills are most important for CMOs to have? Respondents were asked to pick their top three:
What leaps out to me here is the emergence of data and technology as skills that are considered important for the CMO to possess:
27% report data-driven analytical capability in their Top 3
21% report technical expertise in their Top 3
Wow. I'm certainly an advocate for the marketing department as a whole acquiring these skills, and I strongly believe there should be a technology leader who works in the marketing department on behalf of the CMO. But for 1/5 of executives to now believe technical expertise is one of the Top 3 most important skills for a CMO to have is a huge testament to the growing realization that modern marketing is a technology-driven discipline.
To put this in perspective, only 13% of the respondents picked advertising/agency experience. This is effectively saying that technical expertise is nearly twice as important as agency experience for CMOs in the eyes of business executives. That suggests not just a shift in marketing capabilities, but a tectonic shift in marketing culture.
And the trend appears to be headed further in this direction. In a separate question, 40% reported that technical expertise is increasing in importance as a CMO requirement. 60% reported that data-driven analytical capability is increasing in importance.
To appreciate why technical expertise is becoming so important, consider the results to another question in the report: in what areas should marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business in 3 years?
Out of the 12 areas of investment reported, 2/3 of them revolve around technology: customer analytics, CRM, social media, mobile application development, reputation management, marketing automation, collaboration tools, and web optimization tools. These are a lot of different technologies to be selected and managed.
The conclusion of the report is short but poignant, summing up this transformation and why technology is so integral to it. So I'll quote it here in its entirety (emphasis added is my own):
The role of marketing was once easily defined: create effective mass-market advertising to increase brand awareness and loyalty. It was vague enough to allow marketing leaders to justify investments in "the brand" despite a lack of quantifiable results.
This approach no longer works in today's data-driven, personalized, customer-centric environment. The mass market has been parsed into discrete customer segments that require increasingly targeted messaging. Customers expect to be served through multiple channels, with a consistent experience across each.
The transition is proving difficult for many CMOs and their marketing teams. Many organizations remain in operational silos, which limit their ability to share data and insights and create a consistent multi-channel customer experience. And cultural perceptions of marketing's role, as our survey clearly shows, continue to inhibit its strategic ambitions.
To address this challenge, CMOs and senior leadership teams need to increase their commitment to investing in the skills, tools, and processes required to become more customer centric and insight-driven. Only then will marketing be in sync with the rest of the business and in a better position to serve as the catalyst of business growth.
Scott Brinker is the president & CTO of ion interactive, a leading provider of post-click marketing software and services. He writes the Conversion Science column on Search Engine Land and frequently speaks at industry events such as SMX, Pubcon and Search Insider Summit. He chairs the marketing track at the Semantic Technology Conference. He also writes a blog on marketing technology, Chief Marketing Technologist.
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