How To Be a Future-Proof CMO

Digital marketing | BCBusiness

Marketers with an eye on the C-suite must embrace data-driven digital efforts

Chief marketing officers have long been the top-level innovators—pushing creative boundaries as they develop big, bold campaigns. They’re idea guys, but rarely are they developers or techies. In fact, many of today’s CMOs don’t have the technical understanding to see the full potential the web offers their business.
But that’s changing rapidly. Tomorrow’s CMO will be digitally minded and creative, combining market savvy and tech savvy. This new CMO will embrace the full potential of the web, welcoming an environment where everything is measured and insights are data-driven.
As a marketer with your eye on the C-suite, here are the steps you need to take now to secure your corner office as CMO of the future—no relocation to Toronto required.
1. Know your value proposition inside and out
 The first step is to know your organization’s brand promise better than anyone. Your value proposition is your “secret sauce”—it’s the reason prospects become customers.
Today’s CMO will do market research, positioning studies and target market investigations to understand the company’s product-market fit, using it as fodder for hypotheses to test in the market. And a future-proof CMO will validate those hypotheses so their best intuition is backed by scientific certainty.
2. Embrace an iterative approach
 There was a time when you could create static quarterly messaging plans and predict your activities months in advance. But those Mad Men days are over. Marketers today need to be responsive to the market’s evolution.
The future-proof CMO is continually refining messaging—emboldened to try new approaches and evaluate market feedback to shape value proposition and offerings. Think less about quarterly campaigns and more about iterative evolution. That will mean having lots of tests and quickly adapting in response to market feedback.
But don’t mistake this iterative approach as shooting from the hip. The CMO is intensely measurement-driven, and their motto is ship early and test often.
3. Ruthlessly measure tactics against results
 The future-proof CMO doesn’t blindly follow trends that don’t show value. Every online tactic is measurable, so if an approach doesn’t yield results, it’s killed quickly.
Content marketing offers great examples: as this approach picks up serious steam, it’s essential for marketers to determine the ROC (return on content) that their creative efforts are producing. Recognize that content marketing without conversion is just free publishing. Your video may go viral, but if it doesn’t bring in new business, it’s just another meme.
4. Look beyond the top of the funnel
 Most marketers spend a disproportionate amount of money on driving awareness and traffic volume rather than converting awareness into sales. Marketers tend to believe their job is just to get new prospects into the funnel, and leave the rest to sales or customer service.
A CMO needs to look beyond traffic generation and take responsibility for the entire customer journey.
A recent study of more than 1,800 digital marketers showed that more than half of companies spend less than five per cent of their marketing budget on optimization activities. Once a target is in the funnel, they invariably get less attention. Yet those investing more than 25 per cent of their budget in this area are twice as likely to experience higher conversion rates.
5. Contextualize website experiences
The web offers unprecedented control over how and when messages are delivered. A newsletter may perform a very different function if opened on a Saturday afternoon than a Monday morning. The future-proof CMO will tailor content to the context in which it will be consumed.
He or she will bear in mind that society is mobilized and will make every interaction relevant to the method and mode of delivery. Yesterday’s CMO had the luxury of knowing an ad would appear at 8 p.m. to a specific audience. The new CMO has to anticipate a customer on the go, bearing in mind time, device and audience group. Fortunately, segmentation has never been easier. Neither has tracking and iteration. The future-proof CMO will glean fresh insights from every interaction and apply them the next time around.
6. Get chummy with your CIO
As a marketer, there will always be smarter technical people around you. Instead of intimidation, view them with respect. The technical insight and backing of a CIO is one of the most valuable things the future CMO will bring to the table.
They may offer a good reality check around execution, or open your mind to new technical possibilities. Pair that with your own strategic understanding of customer needs and you’ll find touch points yesterday’s CMO never dreamed of.
7. Embrace big data without the big hype
Big data is more than just a trend, but today’s marketer may be confused by the endless possibilities posed by our growing digital archives. The future-proof CMO understands that data is only useful in context, and sees it as an opportunity to shape the customer experience.
Look at ways you can glean customer service data to identify gaps in the customer experience. Drawing insight may mean partnering with analytically minded business folk who can help you see data from that customer-centric standpoint. Then use innovative technology to fill those gaps. You might fail, but you’ll fail early.
The common thread that will ultimately secure your fate as tomorrow’s CMO will be embracing digital as the primary tool, not only to connect with your customers but to shape the way you improve your business. The CMO of the future will elevate insights from tests as the crucible for decision-making. And if that CMO is going to be you, now’s the time to put aside data-aversion, look past the hype, and embrace the vast potential of the web. 


Chris Goward founded WiderFunnel, the marketing optimization agency that pioneered conversion rate optimization methods for companies such as Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, Shutterfly and
Ryan Hanawalt is managing director at Domain7