Digital MarketingIndustry DevelopmentsHow technology is changing the role of the CMO in 2021

How technology is changing the role of the CMO in 2021

In a world with rapidly advancing technology and changing customer attitudes, the CMO's role is an important one - making it key to stay agile, adaptive, and relevant while meeting the customer and marketing needs

30-second summary:

  • With more technology available than ever before, CMOs must bridge the gap between marketing and tech to forge connections with customers and reap success for their brands
  • 44 percentage of B2B marketers say that digital fatigue is one of their biggest challenges of 2021 providing a challenge for many CMO’s trying to find ways to work with their teams to overcome the warp speed of digitization
  • The COVID-19 pandemic forced digital transformation to happen overnight, and consumers are now interacting with brands in different ways to leverage digital channels more than ever
  • By navigating and owning the increasingly digital, social, and ubiquitous customer experience, the CMOs of 2021 have a valuable opportunity to redefine their place in the C-suite and chart their own creative, yet informed path toward continued growth and innovation
  • CFA Institute’s CMO and Managing Director shares insights on the role of the CMO and how their functions are transforming in the current environment

The role of the CMO is amidst a major transformation especially with the pandemic pushing towards a digital-first focus. The role of the CMO isn’t easy, to begin with however this past year has made it increasingly difficult. On average, CMOs are the shortest-tenured members of the C-suite. Companies all around the world are dealing with growing customer expectations, smaller budgets, adjusted customer priorities, and the CMO is set to take responsibility for how well their company deals with those pressures.

With more technology available than ever before, CMOs must bridge the gap between marketing and tech to forge connections with customers and reap success for their brands. From social media to CRM platforms to diverse multimedia channels, CMOs are learning to tap into the wealth of data and tools at their fingertips while ensuring they fulfill the full spectrum of their responsibilities.

Fortunately, the increased need for CMOs to have a major role in technology decisions brings rewards as well as challenges. CMOs are able to accomplish more than ever and play a bigger part in how their companies operate. They also get the opportunity to form powerful relationships with CIOs to increase their ability to achieve the goals of their department and the goals of the company as a whole.

However, this can seemingly become a challenge for many CMO’s due to the warp speed of digitalization. In fact, 44 percentage of B2B marketers say that digital fatigue is one of their biggest challenges of 2021. With a strategic approach and the right mindset modern marketers are quickly rising to meet these challenges head-on.

It starts with embracing technology

As we’re now several months into 2021 what should marketers focus on? And what technologies will improve or change. Even before the pandemic hit, the savviest marketers understood that social and digital technology would play a significant role in keeping pace with their customers and ecosystems.

Colleagues who tried to resist the impact of digital transformation quickly learned that they would lose the battle. But by embracing the power of technology and becoming more fluent in “digital”, it was incredible to see how quickly our fully integrated, tech-enabled cross-channel marketing campaigns at CFA Institute created stellar experiences for our members. Our recent demand generation campaign uses technology to harness data insights that allowed us to generate results above our benchmarks.

Understanding customer wants and selecting the right tools for them

While the proliferation of data can feel overwhelming to marketers, data is key to unraveling your customers’ unique wants and needs. With these insights in mind, marketers can make smarter, more informed choices about which tools will support and exceed customers’ needs. For example, technology has allowed CFA Institute to map out content that our members really wanted. As a result, we incorporated hot fintech topics like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data science, and blockchain into our learning offerings to provide the depth of knowledge candidates and members need to succeed in a competitive marketplace.

Through regular member surveys, we were able to further understand and address the real-time desires of our customers. It’s worth noting that not every technological change needs to be massive, targeted tools and simple fixes like website improvements can be just as effective in building strong connections with customers.

Lean into social media

Social media should be every marketer’s best friend. Why? Aside from the fact that three billion people worldwide use social media, it allows you to connect and interact with customers where they already are. With CMOs allocating more of their marketing budgets to keep up with increasing social media usage, especially during the pandemic, marketers are in a prime position to make it a priority.

Additionally, authenticity in social media is everything. Many CMOs are often considered the face of their brand. When customers and partners get to know the individual behind your brand, loyalty and trust are much more likely to follow. I’ve written extensively about the importance of establishing your personal brand and how social media can play an integral role in this process. The more I share who I am and what I represent, the more I’m able to build credibility amongst my followers and create additional points of connection.

For social media to really work, you must integrate it into your daily workflow. Social media is no longer just part of the marketing mix. It is really the connection point between your brand and the audience you’re trying to reach. With the right mindset, tools, and planning, social media can help you become more visible, gain share of voice and engage with customers on a daily basis. I can’t think of any CMO who would willingly pass up those opportunities.

In summary

The remainder of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 will remain a trying time for the role of the CMO – but aren’t they all? One of the most important things CMOs can do is remain agile, lean in, and embrace digital technology. The COVID-19 pandemic forced digital transformation to happen overnight. CMOs must adjust their mindset and working practices to achieve a more collaborative role and work with teams to embrace rapid change and ease any concerns.

Consumers are now interacting with brands in different ways and are finding value in digital channels more than ever. As society continues to deepen its connection with technology and devices the ability for CMOs to deliver future experiences will be finding the perfect balance between technology and humanity.

It is clear that the role of the CMO is becoming more about bringing a lot more to the table than just a traditional marketing mindset. By navigating and owning the increasingly digital, social, and ubiquitous customer experience, the CMOs of this year and beyond have a valuable opportunity – to redefine their place in the C-suite and chart their own creative, yet informed path toward continued growth and innovation.


Michael Collins is CMO and Managing Director of CFA Institute.

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