CMOs Thriving in the Age of Big Data

CRM analyst Raluca Druta interviews TEC’s marketing specialist.

Recently, the task of selecting customer relationship management (CRM) software tools appears to reside in the front yard of the chief marketing officer (CMO). Is this a natural evolution of the CMO’s job responsibilities?
It makes sense. The CMO is responsible for making the most of the data that passes through the CRM system. But to do that, the marketing department relies on all kinds of tools that aren’t necessarily part of the CRM system itself. The CMO is the best person to advocate for a system that plays nicely with other marketing software.

From your own experience and observation, have you noticed marketers— and more specifically CMOs— becoming more technical in the past few years? If yes, would you be able to summarize what their technical expertise amounts to?

Yes. They have no choice. With so much data available now, marketers live and die by the numbers. They have to measure and test everything. But knowing what to measure and how to test isn’t easy. These are definitely technical skills, and marketing departments are always looking for people who are comfortable with data. Consequently, the CMOs have to be more technical in order to direct what their departments are doing.

The flipside here is that marketing software has gotten much easier to use and customize. With improved wizards, drag-and-drop features, and dashboard and report customization functionality marketers don’t need to be as “technical” to get more involved in the administration of marketing software solutions.

At TEC, from our software selection team, we know that in the process of acquiring software, a company is mostly concerned with features and functions and not so much with product technology. Are CMOs able to define the specific requirements of their departments regarding CRM or enterprise marketing management (EMM) solutions while having a broad understanding of the CRM/EMM software market?
Well, one of the things we see a lot at TEC is that software selection teams simply aren’t aware of what the latest software solutions offer. CRM selection teams are no exception. To get around that, we start by analyzing business requirements and then match them to software features and functions.

That said, CMOs are still concerned with features and functions, although they may not know or care about the technical details. For example, they can evaluate a solution to see if it has social features, BI and analytics, customization and administration tools, and so on because they understand how having those features will support their strategies.

As an aside, what can you tell our readers about how marketing and advertising technology has evolved in the past year or so?
As in other "hot" market segments, we’re seeing a lot of niche vendors and providers of apps and add-ons. The cloud is now the predominant delivery model, and mobile is more of a requirement than a nice-to-have.

Coming back to our discussion about the CMO’s role in CRM/EMM software selection, I would like to trace the impact that the data explosion has had on the way CMOs view technology. Is there a significant difference between before and after data explosion, for CMOs?
Absolutely. Instinct and experience still matter, but data is much more important. Marketers are able to measure and test everything in order to find what works best, and CMOs need to be prepared to accept what the data is telling them.

Of course, that makes data analysis tools absolutely critical. So from a software selection point of view, today’s CMOs can’t imagine buying a CRM solution that doesn't have a BI and analytics module.

And because marketers are becoming more technical, we’re seeing more tension between marketing and IT—whether it’s because marketers want more control over the data or because they’re “stealing” budget from IT.

That said, marketers still rely on IT for integration with the rest of the organization’s systems, and for integration with advanced analytics tools (e.g., social media monitoring).

What about social technology and mobility? Did these two innovations force CMOs to become more technologically competent?
I’m not sure this is a question of being technologically competent. Social and mobile technologies are designed to be easy to use for marketers as much as for anyone else. That said, marketers do need to understand the strengths and limitations of these technologies, and especially how they work together, to get the most out of them.

If we’re talking about social, the technical challenge is more in figuring out what constitutes success, and how to measure it—particularly if the goal is brand-building or “engagement.” And an even bigger challenge is integration. Especially with legacy systems, or ERP solutions that don’t have much of a social component.

Mobile presents different technical challenges, many of them related to the sheer number of platforms and devices on them market. The more important issue though is customer experience. To succeed in mobile, companies need to create content and experiences that are designed with mobile in mind. A lot of companies get that wrong.

Also, do you think that following the online habits of potential clients (specifically for each company and industry) can influence the software selection decision making?
I think that marketers want to follow the online habits of their markets. But more than that, they want to engage and communicate with customers in real time. That means finding CRM and marketing software with tools for social, for collaboration, for portal access, etc. So yes, it definitely affects the choice of software.

Any final thoughts?
CMOs are legendary for having a short shelf life, but that’s changing. For most companies, customer experience is the only real differentiator these days, and that’s made the CMO’s role more important. So it’s no surprise that, according to Forbes, the average tenure for a CMO is rising fast.
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