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How Big Data Is Changing the Role of the CMO

How Data is Changing the Role of the CMO

Today’s CMOs don’t look quite like they did five years ago.

Back in 2013, I joined a MarTech start-up as their first head of sales and marketing. We were building an audience intelligence platform to mine social data and build customer segments based on the expressed interests discovered using natural language processing and machine learning. I was the first full-time hire, and the platform was not fully built; we needed an injection of capital to get to a minimum viable product (MVP). As we did the rounds of pitching angel and Series A investors, one stat we often cited was that by 2017 the CMO would yield larger IT budgets than the CIO. This helped us convince investors that we were indeed pursuing an attractive and growing market. Well, 2017 has come and gone, and marketing technology budgets are indeed exceeding those of the CIO.


Quote from Stephen Tarleton: "Teh real story is how marketing has changed as the customer journey has become increasingly digital and customer-led."

Here are three key trends that contributed to this shift in technology spending.

  • Cloud / SaaS platforms. Platforms have made it easier for CMOs to make technology decisions without having to work through the IT department. In a world without server purchases and software implementations, marketers can bring new systems and platforms into the organization just by signing a contract.
  • Continued increases in MarTech solutions.  Even with consolidation and a spree of PE buying, we still have over 5,000 MarTech vendors by the last count, a 39 percent increase from last year. Majority of these companies sell directly to the CMO, and many are more than happy to keep the IT organization out of the conversation.
  • Increases in digital media and advertising. Media and advertising are now being bought programmatically using automated systems. Shifts to digital media and programmatic buying mandate larger marketing technology spends.

But this story is about more than just a shift in spending; it’s about the increasing availability—and importance—of customer data. Technology spend is just a means to an end. The real story is how marketing has changed as the customer journey has become increasingly digital and customer-led, and it will keep changing. Collecting data along this journey has become critical to creating profitable customer experiences. Marketing is now all about data. Data can help you better tell your customer’s story, better define your strategy, and directly impact the systems you will need in place.

As customer data has increased in importance, the role of the CMO has expanded. Though it has been talked about for a few years now, 2018 appears to be the year that the data-savvy CMO will emerge as the key executive driving the company’s technology agenda. This includes CRM, traditional MarTech, such as marketing automation, plus new technologies that are still developing like big data, artificial intelligence, geolocation and augmented reality.  Ironically, this will mean working more tightly with CIOs, Chief Digital Officers, and Data Scientists.  And in some cases, these organizations may even report to the CMO.  The CMO also needs to evaluate their relationship with the giants of technology: Apple, Google/Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and IBM.  These companies offer scale in data (specifically user-generated data) providing a huge advantage with technologies like AI and Machine Learning, which improve with more inputs.  Are they a partner, channel or competitor?  Some may even be all three.

The most successful marketing leaders are embracing emerging technologies as a way to better tell their brand story and engage customers.  Just think about Alexa and Siri and how these technologies have changed how consumers interact with Amazon and Apple.  They are products, but more importantly, they are marketing channels that provide 1-to-1 experiences at the individual level. Just like human interactions, but with magnitudes better scale. As ironic as it seems, if done correctly, these technologies could actually make a company appear more human.

We marketers must change how we market as the customer journey has become increasingly digital and customer-led. We need to answer and ask new and different questions at different times throughout the customer journey. That means a serious rethink of how brands tell their story.  If your story is a bit foggy at the top level, it will be downright muddy for your customer. Following the data will be critical to determining the optimal dialogue (vs. monologue) required to engage with your customer and advance them to a point of sales-readiness.

transformational-marketing-movetoprightIn order to engage customers in today’s crowded digital market, you must establish a clear strategy to tell a simple, clear and aligned story to the right person, at the right time, through the proper channel.

To learn more check out the TopRight eBook: Transformational Marketing: Moving to the TopRight.


About the Author:

Stephen Tarleton, TopRight PrincipalStephen Tarleton, a Principal at TopRight Partners, leverages his marketing experience and technology background to help his clients define and execute their marketing strategy and operations. A love for math and science guided Stephen toward an early career in engineering with positions at IBM and Nokia, but his passion was elsewhere and he migrated into customer-facing roles. Prior to joining TopRight, Stephen was an independent consultant working with early-stage marketing technology companies, such as People Pattern, VideoDesk, ChatID and AffinityAnswers, focusing on go-to-market strategy and execution, often functioning as CMO.