Monday, May 21, 2012

The New Priorities of Today’s CMO

The position of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) was created to elevate the responsibility of demand creation and branding to C-level status. It has been a short and rocky experiment so far. The average lifespan of a CMO is arguably less than 18 months. The VP Marketing-turned-CMO is often too rooted in tactical marketing terms that most CEOs don’t fully understand, like branding and engagement rather than revenue and cash flow. But today’s CMO is spreading his/her leadership wings; a change, largely, due to the internet.

A fantastic seminar, “Changes and Challenges Facing Today's Chief Marketing Officer” on May 17, 2012, was held at the Union League of Philadelphia. The event included some great speakers:

  • Blair Christie, Chief Marketing Officer, Cisco
  • Christa Carone, Chief Marketing Officer, Xerox
  • Moderator: Elliot Schreiber, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Marketing and Executive Director, Center for Corporate Reputation Management, Drexel University

This event was a joint effort of the Philadelphia chapters of several national marketing associations - PAMA, PDMA, MENG, SMEI and BMA and The Center for Corporate Reputation Management at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business.

Changes occurring at Cisco and Xerox, large B2B companies with significant marketing investments, are felt among most organizations.

  1. Data is available to measure return on investment. The amount of on-line data being generated has exploded which makes measurement of response to communication possible.  The role of CMO has become more analytical, data intensive, and scientific. It is not more data that marketers need, but the ability to better synthesize and make decisions with the data.   A dashboard that tracks the 4 to 5 most relevant metrics for the organization is what the CMO demands for instant feedback and updates. Reporting on the Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is sure to lengthen the tenure of the CMO.
  2. Employees are becoming “ambassadors of the brand”. In large organizations, there are thousands of employees, each participating privately on social media platforms. CMOs want to harness this power to create ambassadors. Ms. Carone wants to “Empower each person to use their social connections to act as a spokesperson for the company”. At Cisco, Christi adds “we spend as much time internally as we do externally” on marketing. Xerox likes to provide sneak previews of upcoming product releases to employees / Twitter / bloggers, etc. to make sure that expertise and positive communication is present.
  3. Social media’s role in the mix is growing. Ms. Carone spoke often of the “gut check” when selecting media from the many social and traditional platforms available. When targeting B2B executives, it is all about “engagement marketing”. Ms. Christie likes LinkedIn's ability to zero in on executive decision makers. Carone and Christie both agree that reaching a high-level business decision maker still requires some good old fashioned networking at trade events, and a chance to demonstrate thought leadership in the industry. Platforms such as mobile devices and social chat tools are not ending up in the mix due to their low use among executive buyers.
  4. Marketing must enable the sales organization. This role is becoming much more important. Companies are finding it harder to stand out in a competitive environment and marketers are taking the lead in understanding customer needs, simplifying the communication and framing solutions in a way that can be used in the selling discussion. 
  5. Marketing and communication roles are blending. CMOs are discovering that content writers, currently found within PR agencies, can be used as content creators for all forms of communication. PR is moving from a direct media relations role to the center of a holistic communication strategy. This moves them away from pushing a product story to the press into a role of “storytelling”. Their outside perspective and knowledge of “what sticks” in communication is invaluable.

The CMO’s role is evolving.  Demand creation coupled with effective measurement are the keys to success into the future. These changes are bringing the CMO to the forefront of the organization.

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