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The 7 Habits of Top-Performing CMOs

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Can you see into the future? If you’re a marketing visionary with innovative ideas about how to drive business growth and customer-centricity, the answer is yes.

You don’t want to just navigate the competition, you want to completely topple it. While the tech landscape continues to shift and evolve, your posture is “bring it.” Great attitude, but you need action to succeed today.

Change is the new normal. Big data is now colossal – and still ballooning. Attention spans are as short as a tweet. You’re expected to get quick wins that have meaningful impact – the kind that attracts more customers and enthralls stakeholders.

Well, we’re about to set you up to not just be as good as your competitors, but soar past them.

As CMO, you have the opportunity to transform your business both culturally and digitally. Get your game on by developing these seven habits of top-performing CMOs.

1. Do right by customers and the business results will follow.

“Customer experience” isn’t just a buzzword. It directly affects your company’s bottom line. Corporate leaders who create great customer experiences boost revenue between 5% and 10% and cut costs by 15% to 25% – in just two or three years.[1] Think of yourself as a champion for customers, and they’ll pay it back (literally).

2. Don’t just talk about wowing your customers; make it happen every time.

Top-performing CMOs study the customer journey 26% more than other CMOs.[2]

No more “brand to many.” In this day and age, there’s no excuse for talking at customers in sweeping segments instead of conversing with them individually, at scale. Treat them as friends, and don’t be fair-weather about it. It’s not enough to engage every few months. Customer needs change – often rapidly. If you’re constantly attuned to customers and actively studying where they struggle, you’ll quickly notice subtle shifts in behavior or attitude. And you’ll be light years ahead of the many marketers who learn about the customer by leafing through persona profiles.

“[Customers] want to be wowed at every opportunity,” says Maria Winans, CMO, IBM Watson Customer Engagement. “It’s not just what [you] have to offer, but how [you] deliver it that matters. Previous standards of how we thought of personalization no longer apply and aren’t enough. Customers expect to be understood as an individual.”

3. Think of data as a trusted advisor, but don’t dismiss your intuition.

You’re probably already using data to paint a picture of your customers. After all, data-driven marketing leaders are almost three times more likely to have increased revenues.[3] But while data-focused, you may have trouble translating it into customer insights. And you’re not alone. 80% of marketers reported that not being able to turn data into action kept them from success.

“What we’ve found is most marketers are still learning, experimenting and testing with mixed results. The majority of data is dark and unknowable. How can we tap its potential and create these ‘wow’ experiences for our customers?” says Winans. “Finding the best way to manage the data is a challenge, but it is going to be critical for every company’s long-term success.”

Don’t let limited access to data scientists curb your progress. Today’s technologies function as a data scientist would, and at superhuman speed, giving you the valuable insights you need to act in the ideal moment. With technology doing the heavy lifting data analysis, you and your team can focus on strategy, creative and developing authentic campaigns that delight.

And, as you use data-driven customer insights to strategize your next steps, don’t abandon your intuition. Let data be your guide, but combine it with your instincts – after all, you’re an experienced professional!

4. Pinpoint growth opportunities with cognitive solutions.

Brands used to know the competition inside and out. But, with so much industry disruption, competition can come from unexpected places – often outside the industry. In fact, the majority of CMOs expect more competition from industries other than their own.[4]

Leapfrog both industry players and non-industry competitors by keeping a firm pulse on customer needs and expectations. Use cognitive tools to remove the guesswork behind what’s working and what’s falling flat – get data-backed answers now. Accurately predict what your customers want and need next in their journey. Yes, go ahead and play mind reader. The point, after all, is to astound customers.

5. Build a team of inquisitive rock stars.

Above technology and resources, having a diverse team with varied skills and experience is the bedrock of exceptional marketing. Invest in your people, and the return will be significant. Don’t forget to keep building on the strengths of your existing team and provide training to fill in the gaps.

6. Forming partnerships is no longer optional. It’s the only option.

Successful CMOs have a solid network of trusted colleagues who they routinely consult. Collaboration within the business and across industry is key. Partnerships are no longer optional. They’re the only path to exceptional customer relationships. 74% of CMOs plan to partner with other enterprises.[5] Leaders with a lone wolf attitude don’t get far.

7. Integrate your marketing stack, employing automation and agile process to reach and engage with speed.

When your automation and marketing tools work together, your customers see a consistent brand from channel to channel, one interaction to the next. And with an all-in-one platform, your team no longer has to spend hours (or days) integrating, managing and all that fun stuff. You can now spend your time where it should be – focusing on your customers. Plus, you’ll see a cost benefit and be able to spend your marketing dollars in more effective ways.

Learn more about how top-performing CMOs are winning customer hearts in the CMO Council Webcast: A Conversation with IBM’s Maria Winans.





[1] http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-ceo-guide-to-customer-experience

[2] http://www-935.ibm.com/services/c-suite/study/studies/cmo-study/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbespr/2015/01/08/new-report-shows-data-driven-marketing-drives-customer-engagement-market-growth/#4ca97e9135c0

[4] http://www-935.ibm.com/services/c-suite/study/studies/cmo-study/

[5] http://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/gb/en/gbe03593usen/GBE03593USEN.PDF?

Director of Marketing, Watson Marketing

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