CMO Live Chat with THINK Leaders

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CMOLiveChatImageWhat challenges face chief marketing officers who seek to excel in data-driven leadership and the creation of engaging customer experiences? On February 9th we asked a panel of experts to share their wisdom on this topic and join us for a chat, which is archived in the comment section below.

Our panel included:



  • Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing, CMO Council



We also prepared a few questions and to get the chat started. Here’s what the experts had to say:

How can you measure the success of individual initiatives to justify longer term marketing strategies?
Carolyn Baird: From the conception of the initiative, you should have a clear understanding for how it aligns with your long-range marketing strategies. You also need to know what metrics are required for your organization to justify future investments. Is it conversion rates? NPS? Revenue? Cost efficiencies? Increased social reach, or some combination of these, or something else altogether? Of course, sometimes an initiative is piloted ad hoc, and if successful, you try to fit it into the long-range strategy, or even shift the strategy. But it’s a lot harder to do it this way.

What is the first step a CMO can take in an ecosystem/partnership approach to marketing?
CB: Know your gaps. What skills, areas of expertise, functions, or tools do you need? What brands would you like to be aligned to based on their reputation, their culture, and what they bring to market? Also, think about how you can expand your perspective by partnering with an organization outside your normal list of partners or your industry as a way to spark innovation. Fifty-seven percent of CMOs in the IBV C-suite study said they expected more innovation will result from external relationships, versus just 21 percent who said innovation will be generated internally. Nearly three-quarters of CMOs also said they plan to partner with outside enterprises to augment their in-house skills. This has significant implications for their organization. CMOs need to consider the impact this will have on their management and relationship skills, and from an operational standpoint, they’ll need collaboration and data tools, processes and governance to be effective.

You have written that “brand loyalty is only as strong as the most recent experience.” What is the role of the CMO in ensuring a positive and consistent customer experience?
Jane Hiscock: Brand loyalty is a challenge for all marketers (B2B or B2C) as customer attention is difficult to earn and even more difficult to retain. In addition, technology has created very low barriers to entry making it easy for new brands to come online daily. CMOs and their teams are in the difficult role of building brand loyalty every moment and finding the critical points where the customer experience matters most. This is one of the most important roles of CMOs today as CEOs are turning to their marketing leaders and asking them to own the customer experience. We can see this playing out as CMOs are expanding their engagement models from transactional models to experience models. This requires a more significant investment in content assets to extend the experience and maximize the most important brand engagement moments.

A recent trend in marketing is the creation of marketing innovation labs. Why is this emerging now?
JH: We began seeing marketing labs pop up in 2013 with Nike, Staples, Walmart leading the way. The goals for these labs range from driving marketing and innovation cultures to new business models and new revenue streams. Speed is the currency that wins the day for most businesses and I believe that the emergence of marketing innovation labs is a result of a need for speed. It is no longer possible to come up with an idea, wait for a design brief from your agency partner, go back and forth on 15 iterations to perfection and then put something out in the market. In that time, several competitors will think of the same idea and get it in the market. The second factor is that consumers, customers, clients are increasingly comfortable with good enough. The tolerance for errors and for iterative improvements is a part of the culture. These are two factors that are motivating the interest in finding ways to drive a faster time to market and bringing an agency team in-house to stand up a lab, acquiring an agency to build out a lab or building your own in-house lab.

Who is doing this successfully?
JH: I believe that many companies are doing this, I’m not sure that any are far enough along to claim victory. Some that we hear about–Absolut Labs is a think tank that is focusing on the future of nightlife and how to drive a different form of brand engagement from their current marketing model that focuses on advertising; Sephora Innovation Lab is targeting how to deliver the best customer experience and bringing that to life through mobile and other technology. Lowe’s, Walmart, IBM, Nike…there are a lot of companies building out lab models to drive faster innovation.

Are CMOs more prone to experimentation than other C-suite roles?
Sandra Zoratti: Absolutely. Iterative, agile marketing is a capability that is both challenging and powerful. By creating tests with small segments of customers around messaging, delivery, etc., CMOs can learn much about what works and what doesn’t. Without this step, digital marketing can enable a mismatched message or marketing mistake to reach enormous scale, almost immediately. Thus a testing, iterative approach mitigates that risk and provides an opportunity to gain insight on actual customer behaviors and reactions to marketing ideas prior to and during launch.

A recent CMO Council study shows that only 5 percent of CMOs were confident they could predict their customers’ journey. What is the role of data in ensuring confidence in marketing initiatives? How can CMOs leverage analytics more effectively?
Liz Miller: First thing is to stop looking at data as a way to really clear up the rear-view mirror! Data, and more importantly the intelligence that data reveals, must be used throughout the customer engagement lifecycle. We can’t just use data to predict which media channel will be more effective. For many of us, that is where our marketing journey with data started…but that isn’t where it was supposed to stop! The voice of the customer seeps through many different points of engagement across the organization…it isn’t all within marketing. That voice is in finance, in service, in product development and in sales. Just looking at campaign data, or even just looking at data from within the walls of our own companies, will consistently fail to give us the robust view we want—and that we know we need to have.

How do I get started with building a more analytics-driven marketing team?
CB: CMOs in the C-suite study indicated they want their marketing functions to be much more data driven—60 percent said they aspire to this within the next three to five years. To do this, CMOs first need to understand the type of analytics capabilities they want to grow, short term and long term, e.g., predicative, cognitive. Set goals and assign a leader to inventory the data and analytics skills within their marketing team, and also other analytics talent that resides within their company. Depending on the organization structure and size, data and analytics talent may sit in a number of different divisions. Another important component is culture. Capturing data is one thing—generating meaningful insights, sharing them and using them in the decision-making process is core to companies making this shift. Change management, process redesign, collaboration tools, training will all be components of the change. It’s important to note too, that creativity and inspiration are vital elements to successful marketing strategies. Using data to inform decisions doesn’t have to mean that it’s all just a numbers game and creative thinking is dead. If anything, having the right information at your fingertips can empower creativity.

When it comes to digital transformation, who is the CMO’s closest ally in the C-suite?
SZ: The closest ally is the CIO, but a transformation requires the orchestration of many functions (IT, Finance, Sales), the support of the CEO and the movement of culture and employees to adapt and embrace change.
LM: Digital transformation can’t just be a marketing or even IT push to digitize engagements and experiences. It has to be an enterprise shift—a cultural shift that prizes data, automation and experience from the content all the way through to the customer. Without that CEO support that will enable cultural change, we will still just be buying new tech to speed up processes within disconnected silos.

How can CMOs work more closely with CIOs to help marketing teams use data and analytics to make better customer experiences?
LM: Stop treating CIOs like waiters in a restaurant. Far too often, marketers turn to their CIO once a program or initiative is scoped and they are asked to “go find a technology” that can get something done—or even worse, they are just told “go get me 100 seats of XYZ automation tool.” The CIO is your strategic partner to start the conversation around technology much, much earlier in the process. If the goal is to advance the digital experience through data, the first stop should be in to your CIO partner to strategize what the business case will be to get this done and work towards decisions on technology and talent rather than the other way around.
SZ: As the saying goes, we are data rich and insight poor. When CMOs and CIOs collaborate to extract actionable insights from existing data and craft a way to apply them to customer experiences/marketing in a learning, iterative approach, then data delivers value. That value is created for customers, employees and the business. A win-win-win.

Photo credit: Rogotanie/Think Stock by Getty

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