The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) today is transforming at an unprecedented rate. New ideas, theories, methods, processes and systems are contributing to shape a role that is anything but consistent from one CMO to another.

US executive search firm Russell Reynolds – who’ve been tracking CMO appointments and departures since 2012 – recorded 175 marketing-leader appointments in the first two-quarters of 2016, the highest on record. This is mainly down to the fact digital makes it easier to report on everything, from website conversions to campaign success metrics. This deluge of metrics and data can put pressure on CMOs increasingly at risk of working to short-term metrics and diverting budgets away from lasting brand-building activity.

Marketers must scramble to collect insight, analyse data and find the formula to win in the digital economy. Some marketers fall short due to an unbalanced view or fail to brand build while driving sales, it’s time to evaluate why things go wrong.

The modern CMO

Today’s CMO is tasked with driving digital transformation, owning the customer experience, and becoming fully accountable for revenue growth. These bold objectives require bold actions, while businesses work to determine their digital strategies the CMO is left to walk a tightrope between exploring new digital possibilities and keeping income models on track.

So, what do the CMOs have to say? A recent WP Engine study found that the majority of senior marketers (89%) agree secure, scalable, digital platforms are central to a marketing strategy. This is where more than three-quarters will direct their annual spending.

The role of the CMO requires simultaneous attention on traditional marketing and digital areas –brand, communications and business strategy; analytics, data, segmentation and social. Both are linked to a company’s website, often the primary channel for establishing a rapport with customers.

So how are CMOs taking on the challenge to voice customer views across the company in this digitally transformative age?

Expectations rising For digital platforms  

With expectations on ROI continually rising, the average CMO has to justify every pound spent. Delivering a higher ROI begins with better objectives rooted in the consumer buyer journey - often originating at digital platforms. According to the WP Engine study, digital platforms (33%), social (30%) and demand generation (28%) are the most measurable ROI marketing strategies.

There’s no question the consumer buyer journey has been impacted by the ubiquity of data, analytics advances, AI, web tracking, coding and design. Digital platforms with multiple touch points are vital for executing promotions, stimulating sales, and increasing market share.

Over three-quarters of respondents said they expect their digital platforms to realise their potential to the business within the next twelve months. Furthermore, 20 percent intend to make changes to their digital marketing platforms immediately.

Thus, the company website is a critical tool in any CMOs digital strategy, it’s invariably one of the destinations consumers return to when researching a product. Research suggests 80-90% of shoppers conduct online research before buying. The complete loop is formed when a digitally savvy CMO uses this data to drive insights which can then be used to inform and influence marketing tactics.

How brands engage customers in these digital channels is critical—not just to convert consideration to sales but because, according to a McKinsey study, two-thirds of the decisions customers make are informed by the quality of their experiences.

At such a turning point in digital transformation, no CMO should rely on the legacy of a previous successful investment. Rather, they should set and manage expectations, make sure stakeholders are in alignment, ensure the digital experience for customers is unsurpassed and then work to deliver.

Integrating and changing mindsets

According to Gartner, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator by next year. This journey will begin with the brand promise and extend through to delivery of product or service.

To appeal to customers on the channel of their choice, the emphasis must be on an effective, integrated and measurable digital marketing strategy. In fact, 65% of CMOs cited ease of integration as their number one priority when adopting a new platform - ahead of pricing, security credentials, and market share.

This is not a surprise when you consider CMOs increasingly need to integrate multiple sites – corporate sites, campaign microsites or intranets. Failing to create and measure unified experiences with real-time analytics means their marketing efforts won’t perform to their potential. The measurable website is the central cog to selling in new tools to senior management.

Tools of the trade: Understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’

To meet the demands for simplicity and success, CMOs should look for a CMS platform, the core of any site, that is intuitive, scalable, and with more variety of themes and plug-ins than ever. When asked about preferences, WordPress emerged as the platform most used with 40% of IT decision-makers using one or more of their digital platforms.

So, as the CMO moves into 2017 and beyond they must be ready to make strategic choices that directly impact on the business. According to 89% of CMOs, the answer lies in ensuring secure, scalable digital platforms are in place. Only when that’s in place can the CMO’s vision coupled with their desire to tell everyone why the company’s product or service is the best be brought to its full potential.

 

By Mary Ellen Dugan, CMO at WP Engine


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