Is Today’s CMO Stretched or Strengthened?

Have you heard the news? CMOs report that they feel unprepared for the future!

Sobering headlines from IBM’s global Chief Marketing Officer study have been plentiful over the past few months, focusing on statistics like:

“Four out of five CMOs anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.”

And CMO quotes like:    

“In this coming age of complexity and uncertainty, there is a serious risk of ‘losing our North,’ of being intoxicated by data overload and suffering from corporate indigestion.”

While the insights from this report were alarming they were also incredibly valuable, providing some wonderful guidance for CMOs in 2012 and beyond!

What’s the cause for concern?

The interviews (conducted with over 1,700 CMOs spanning 19 industries and 64 countries) revealed that CMOs see four “game-changing” challenges ahead:

  1. The data explosion
  2. Social media
  3. Proliferation of channels and devices
  4. Shifting consumer demographics

It’s true – these are factors that have significantly rocked our world as marketers over the past several years. However, I also believe that we can overcome these obstacles by funneling the expertise of internal gurus and specialty partners/consultants. What a wonderful opportunity for fresh thinking from both inside and outside your organization!

2011 IBM Global Chief Marketing Officer Study

…But, some things never Change – LOVE thy customer!

Yes, it’s true. Marketing has changed more in the last few years than it has in the last 30! However, IBM also highlighted some key actions and opportunities that all CMOs are familiar with: LOVE THY CUSTOMER!

I had the fortunate opportunity to see Katharyn White, VP of Marketing for IBM (who participated in the interviewing process for the IBM survey) present at the ITSMA conference appropriately themed “Passionate About Customer Intimacy”.

While Katharyn was very matter-of-fact about the challenges upon the CMO, she did a marvelous job bringing forth some highlights for me on a key area where CMOs, and organizations, should be focusing their time and energy.

Focus on the opportunity to create value for customers as individuals.
Customer intimacy is crucial—and the entire organization (from the top down) should know this.

IBM shared that awareness and prioritization of customer value in their CEO study, stating, “We learned CEOs regard getting closer to customers as one of three prerequisites for success in the twenty-first century.”

This should be welcome news for the CMO, as it should sit at the top of their list too.

The most successful CMOs will be focusing on relationships, not just transactions.

Relationships mean truly understanding the customer and the key challenges and opportunities they encounter (not just the challenges that you can solve, but a holistic view of their needs). Relationships mean that you and your organization are considered a trusted adviser, and can be relied upon to provide insights and category thought leadership to support business challenges.

In 2012, I will be talking to my client base about strategies like Account-Based Marketing, which is a proven and successful approach for organizations to bring greater business value to their most important key accounts (customers) and prospective accounts. This type of approach is not new, but has been proven to be the most effective way to engage with prospects and customers in a meaningful relationship (I personally have dozens of success stories that I’d be happy to share, but you can see a recent example of Nuance’s Targeted Accounts Marketing Success as featured in BtoBOnline).

Given the speed at which business is changing, I believe today’s CMO is both strengthened AND stretched by relationships with customers, technology and new channels for connecting with prospects. Personally, I feel it’s invigorating and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

There have been a lot of interesting perspectives on IBM’s CMO Study. Here’s a few interesting links to check out:

CMOs Struggle to Find Sure Footing for the Future, by Bill Babcock

CMOs are at the Cross-Roads of Customer Transactions and Engagement, by Brian Solis

As a reminder, the full 72-page IBM CMO survey is available for download too.

I’d love to hear your perspective on the insights from this survey. Or, please share interesting perspectives from others. It’s definitely a meaty topic worth further dialogue!


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