The Aspiring CMO Series: Why This is an Extraordinary Time to Lead Marketing

April 10, 2014 by

This five-part informational series is designed for all those marketers around the world who are aspiring to lead a marketing function. The objective of this series is to share insights, experiences, and ideas for passionate marketers who want to grasp what it takes to be in charge of marketing, especially in these amazingly progressive times where marketing has attained a more strategic role.

Digital and the Big Picture

Let’s first stand back and explore how the emergence of digital channels, technologies, and practices have changed the business world in general. After all, sometimes it is difficult to see through the smoke when in the midst of a revolution.

Thanks to the evolution and adoption of online communications, businesses are fundamentally changing the ways in which they operate. The number of mechanisms for connecting, collaborating, sharing, and executing business has become richer and more powerful. Immediate access to information, conversation, and opinion has created new opportunity for organizations to create value. If organizations can embrace digitally oriented business models, they stand to gain far more than they lose. Online communications, especially in the form of social networks, are creating a means of interaction within and between businesses that can vastly improve productivity, performance, and organizational effectiveness. The biggest risk is not modernizing your business, particularly your increasingly strategic marketing function, as more agile and sharper organizations are leapfrogging competitors in the land grab for digitally savvy customers.

For businesses, digital adds both complexity and opportunity. Thanks to search engines, businesses can actually be found rather than continually having to go out into the market and hunt for customers. Of course it takes planning, experience, and expenditure to maximize the quantity and quality of visitors who reach your business via search, but it is now one of the fundamentals of today’s business to be able to be found online, 24/7.

Additionally, social media and professional networks allow people to break down barriers to knowledge, which means that it is no longer possible to have a gap between what you say and what you do. Businesses must avoid damaging reviews and negative online sentiment at all costs. It has never been more important than to monitor and manage the reputation of your business online, as this genuinely influences whether prospects and existing customers will conduct business with you.

Related Class: Personal Branding via LinkedIn

Over time, as decision-makers become used to searching for goods and services online in their personal lives, so they are naturally inclined to bring the power and convenience of online research into their business lives. Decision-makers are open to influence from multiple online and offline information sources. In many businesses, prospects are not connecting with sales personnel until much later in the decision cycle. Sales has lost the control of acquisition and retention that it once had.

Marketing has assumed more responsibility of the revenue cycle

The Internet is gradually enabling the establishment and enhancement of relationships via more convenient research, networking, and online collaboration, which in turn is gradually displacing face-to-face interaction. Social media, content marketing, and online search are turning traditional customer acquisition and retention practices on their heads. As Internet marketing accelerates and old techniques begin to falter, firms that ignore these trends will certainly be vulnerable.

I believe Peter Drucker once said that the only two functions of any organization are innovation and marketing, and that was before the Internet!

Marketing’s Increasingly Strategic Role

What we can reasonably conclude is that marketing is central to the remarkable recent change in business models and practices. Given marketing’s understanding of the customer, the modern buying cycle, competition, and market dynamics, it is now most important that the board has a representative from marketing.

Due to the empowering nature of digital business, the customer is way more in control of the initiation and ongoing desire for any business relationship. Organizations must become truly customer oriented and operate every aspect of their company with the customer in mind. The CMO needs to play a crucial role in constantly updating the boardroom and the CEO about the latest customer preferences and market trends, and how well corporate resources are aligned to meet those evolving customer needs.

Marketing can become the glue that bonds any customer-oriented business together, by internally nurturing a culture of information transparency and sharing of customer insights. Employees will feel more connected to the business, and a more natural collaboration between sales, marketing, customer support, and other functions will occur as overall customer intelligence increases.

Some execs will be skeptical about this next comment, but over time when it comes to identifying the sales forecast for next quarter, the CEO will approach the head of marketing, not necessarily sales. This will be because marketing is assuming greater control over more of the marketing and sales funnel, to the point where the ratios of targets-to-prospects-to-leads-to-sales become so scientifically predictable that forecasts and future growth will ultimately depend upon the number of prospects (new or repeat) delivered to the top of the funnel.

Do You Have the Desire and Ability to Run Marketing?

Make no mistake, to be a successful CMO or head of marketing is a tremendous challenge. A past history of juggling should help with the mindset needed, as there are way more variables to understand and manage than in previous eras.

To be a modern CMO means being extremely informed, right and left brained, hybrid in your skillset, utterly data driven, and agile in your execution.

The many variables to manage by today's CMO

The remaining posts in this series will consider the mindset, skills, strategies, and practices needed to succeed as a marketing leader.

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