Big Data and the CMO: Only the Tech-Savvy Survive

Better data means big changes for chief marketing officers (CMOs). As data pours in from every touch point of consumers’ day-to-day activities, from morning jogs to evening television, it has also come to play a vital role in every stage of the purchase funnel. In the very near future, data will be just as valuable to the CMO as it is to the chief information officer (CIO).

By 2018, one-fourth of CMOs and CIOs will share a roadmap for marketing technology, according to a recent study by the International Data Corporation (IDC). As the line between CMO and CIO blurs, marketers must be more tech-savvy than ever before, according to Justin Tobin, founder and president of digital advisory company DDG.

“Technology is being used more in the marketing functions, as opposed to being used just as a customer service platform,” says Tobin. “The price of entry to be a successful marketer is having a high comfort level with tech and data; it’s much more important today than it was 10 years ago.”

The use of technology and data centricity has become so important to marketers that even tech companies are positioning themselves to target those in marketing roles. “The fact that data and software is moving from the ‘back office’ to the ‘front office’ is something that’s been happening for the last couple of years,” says Tobin. “That’s one of the factors driving companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco to re-focus their sales forces, which have traditionally focused on relationships with the CIO and CTO, to the relationship with the CMO.”

But as marketers become a target for tech sales, they must also be judicious with their spend. “It is going to be more important than ever for marketers to be at the core of every marketing technology conversation so that we are making wise investments into technology,” says Liz Miller, senior vice president of the CMO Council. “It can’t be this spending spree that we seem to have been on for the last couple of years where every shiny penny gets a dollar. Our heads are on a swivel.”

As data becomes the domain of the marketer, content becomes more compelling. The IDC also reported that by 2018, one in three marketing organizations will deliver content through every stage of a customer’s purchasing journey.

“Marketers have the ability to figure out exactly which of their marketing efforts are resulting in conversion,” says Ritesh Soni, vice president of data engineering at SapientNitro. “That has resulted in the need to look at this entire [funnel] process from prospects to customer as one integrated process. Marketers need to connect all of the knowledge that they have about what were formerly anonymous segments through to the knowledge that they have in their enterprise systems around customers.”

Integrating data into the customer journey has put CMOs in a somewhat perilous position. The IDC reports that nearly a quarter of CMOs will be replaced every year through 2018. Only the tech-savvy will survive.

“What really smart CMOs are asking today is, ‘How do I make more profitable decisions and more profitable experiences that are based on how my customers are behaving and engaging with my brand? Data is key for giving those insights,” says Miller.

Miller also believes that CMOs aren’t disappearing as quickly as the gloomy numbers would have some believe. It could be that as the role changes, so does the title. “The problem is not the title CMO,” says Miller. “The problem is that we are, like never before, in a time period where that role is fundamentally changing. We are seeing those marketers who were advertising-centric moving out of the C-Suite. We are now seeing a CMO that is technology-centric. That new CMO sometimes doesn’t want to be associated with the ad-centric CMO of 15 years ago.”  

No matter what CMOs call themselves in the future, one thing is clear. Collaboration between marketers and technologists is crucial for brand success.

“Marketing and IT have had a shotgun marriage,” says Sheldon Monteiro, chief technology officer (CTO) of SapientNitro and founder of the agency’s Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO) University. “That means that a new role is rising. In the same vein, look at how much marketing has changed in the last couple of years. There are a lot more technology-savvy CMOs as well. They won’t be able to go into the same level of depth as a CMTO, but savvy CMOs, you’re starting to see a lot more of them.”

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