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How Traditional CMOs Can Get Their Heads in the Digital Marketing Game

How Traditional CMOs Can Get Their Heads in the Digital Marketing Game Blog Feature

December 3rd, 2015 min read

digital-disconnect.jpgGartner Group recently examined the lack of digital marketing experience inside the offices of traditional Fortune 500 companies. This issue was originally researched by Harvard Business Review in 2013. Here are some of their findings.

There’s a digital disconnect in the executive ranks; a leadership vacuum created by a mismatch between expertise and authority.

Like so many other revolutions, digital marketing has taken hold from the bottom up.

Here, we find digital natives steeped in the culture and practice — twenty- and thirty-somethings who came of age on the social web. Squint your eyes and you see tomorrow’s CMOs, but today’s CMO is different.

The corporate attire may be gone, but the assimilation to the new digital culture remains incomplete.

The Rise of Digital Interactions & Accountability

Perhaps digital marketing won’t go native until the natives occupy the executive suite, but I’m betting it will only accelerate. Unlike the open source movement, which was initially about cost, digital marketing is plainly driven by revenue.

Digital experiences and engagement draw consumers closer to a brand personally and more efficiently drive conversions and transactions, both online and off.

Many people, however, long for the bygone days when the big picture of awareness alone was sufficient.

In yesteryear, the CMO could tap dance through the average board meeting, as long as revenue tracked up and to the right. Like Mad Men‘s Don Draper, the CMO became the master of the soft-shoe performance, but with today’s digital techniques, everything is measurable.

Feedback loops tighten, segmentation becomes micro-targeting, and optimizations can happen on the fly or even in real time.

The relationship between investment and impact becomes correlated and causal — and the CMO becomes accountable down to the dime and moment by moment.

This transparency is powerful when quarters are turning into dollars for the business — but potentially perilous when the opposite is the case.

The Digital Difference

What do these “digital CMOs” do differently? They experiment aggressively. They hire smart digital natives and empower them.

They partner with great agencies. They have the humility to admit what they don’t know, the courage to toss out the old playbook, and the confidence to allow digital metrics to illuminate the results.

Gartner predicted that by 2017, the CMO’s technology budget will exceed the CIO’s. Why? Because more often than not, it’s the CMO who is expected to drive this digital transformation, which is deeply dependent on technology.

So what does a traditional CMO need to do to get into the digital game?

Here are a few quick reminders and tips courtesy of Mike Brown at Bowery Capital:

  1. Inbound Marketing Takes Time, and rarely has quick wins. The benefits, however, accrue over time and don’t go away after you spend your money as they do in a traditional media campaign.
  2. Employ a “Shotgun” Strategy – don’t spend a lot of time on “What are we going to create” but just hit the ground running and develop a quick inventory of blog posts, webinars, digital downloads, etc. They will test and iterate quickly and figure out what works and what doesn’t within the first couple of months. Only then can you narrow in on what is working from a content creation standpoint.
  3. Get Ideas From Your Entire Organization –Get everyone in the company to help with your inbound marketing efforts. There is so much gold coming out of sales, marketing, operations, and customer service units that the best CMOs speak with them daily to help generate new ideas. These offices provide “low hanging fruit,” and the best CMOs use it to their advantage.

As Laura McGarrity, VP of Digital Marketing Strategy at Mondo states, “The new digital era requires marketing departments to be forward thinking, to bend with the curve, and to welcome and prepare for the demand.”

Mondo’s view, shared by many others, is that big data will continue to influence how marketers reach customers, and the ability to analyze and interpret that data will be the core driver in optimizing customer engagement across all channels.

There’s an abundance of information available and being able to stay on top of current trends and market shifts is crucial.

Is the average CMO ready to step up to this challenge? They are waiting for the experts in inbound marketing to help them navigate through this lucrative landscape.

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