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Ian Lowe Posted by Ian Lowe October 01, 2019

How CMO Trends Drive the Industry

Originally appeared on Martech Advisor.

Those who witnessed the early dawn of digitalization have already seen their role evolve from primary brand megaphone to consumer experience architect. For today’s CMO, the need to keep up with fast-changing market trends and stay ahead of competitors has driven a focus on optimizing efficiency, most often via adopting advanced technologies — factors named as two of the top three priorities this year in research by Forbes Insights.

But as building businesses around consumers becomes increasingly crucial to success, the job description is set for further expansion. Defining what the future holds for CMOs requires a brief dive into the story so far.

Also Read: How to Build Marketing Teams of the Future

The First Wave: Leader to Follower

CMOs have always been multi-taskers, but their initial job looked different as the role took shape. Emerging as companies started to embrace coordinated marketing — instead of juggling several isolated departments — the role centered on brand management, advertising, and market research. Because it was also a time when brands had enough influence to follow the Mad Men style of marketing and control conversations, CMO objectives were building a highly curated brand image, while directing consumers along defined purchase routes. That soon changed.

Digitalization gave consumers power over their own journeys. With the freedom to switch between numerous online and offline channels, audiences gained the ability to decide how, when, and where they wanted to connect with brands. And for the CMO, this meant a huge shift. No longer in the driver’s seat, they needed to concentrate on making cross-channel journeys smoother: tracking individual activity and optimizing each interaction to align with real-time needs, interests, and preferences. Experience took center stage and harnessing data to fuel better consumer understanding became the new marketing goal.

The Second Wave: A Rising Tech Focus

As increasingly precise, data-driven activity boosted the effectiveness and measurability of marketing, organizations gained a greater appreciation of its potential to fuel business growth — and began to expect more. Driving demand joined the list of CMO responsibilities, viewed by 68% of senior managers as a vital element of the job by late 2016. Over the years since, the need to deliver both great experiences and returns has intensified.

So, it’s no surprise that enhancing the marketing toolkit is now such a major priority. CMOs striving to work faster, smarter, and at lower cost are turning to tech as the most obvious solution, with 41% now stating that investing in tech is top of mind. And they are under pressure from all sides to find and install tools rapidly: CEOs want growth to be consistently streamlined, and wider teams — from campaign and digital marketers to brand, field and event specialists — want platforms that can improve their productivity.

But this tech fixation has created a significant problem. Not only are CMOs and their teams easily seduced by the latest gadgets and struggling to manage increasingly unwieldy tech stacks, but they are also failing to give tech adoption due consideration. For companies large or small, effective implementation takes planning. Without the right resources and cross-team management, CMOs risk wasting their time and budget — and that’s not to mention the need for careful tech selection.

Future Wave: A Part of Everything

In the immediate future, CMOs must take a more refined approach to tech. It’s essential to select tools that align with current marketing strategy, rather than hoping shiny new tech will automatically offer a quick fix. Before adopting any platform, CMOs should aim to answer some basic questions: will this tool be effective in meeting organizational goals? Will it work with the existing tech stack? How can it be successfully integrated and assessed to determine value? How should it be used to ensure continuous efficiency? Do we have a plan for using all of the features we’re purchasing for?

During the next five years, the scope of this informed decision-making will extend even further. Going beyond managing consumer experience, campaigns and sales, to guide wider strategic business operations. Of course, this will require a broader range of knowledge. At present, many CMOs are working to achieve a 360-degree view of the consumer journey and marketing performance: covering how their target audience behaves, what its key motivations are, and the exact impact of every message on each channel. Looking ahead, they will also need to embed marketing throughout the organization, bringing the market position and customer experience mindset to every department. Even more critically, there will be increasing expectation that marketers take on P&L responsibilities.

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This holistic insight will allow CMOs to bring more to the table than solely demand and quality. They will play a valuable strategic part in almost all business moves; from determining which markets organizations should enter to steering product positioning and development, and identifying the tech, talent, and ventures that will offer the best return on investment. Plus, this extensive information will also leave CMOs better able to fulfill the one aspect of their role that hasn’t changed: connecting with consumers.

As an industry, marketing has become much more than leaflets and emails. In fact, according to the American Marketing Association, it’s now defined as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” In short, encompassing nearly everything that lies between the brand and the consumer. So it makes sense that the CMO role has progressed over time, too. From trying to mold consumer perception of brands to optimizing interactions and juggling smart tech, CMOs have come a long way.

And their evolution is on track to continue. Going from brand and awareness, to demand and metrics, the next logical leap is operational CMO. Today, the CMO must be a master of metrics: accurately recording marketing and sales performance, and intelligently interpreting data. Tomorrow, the CMO will help decide how entire organizations operate, transforming how businesses value both their individual role and the role of marketing as a whole, along the way.