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5 signs CMOs are becoming more powerful

5 signs CMOs are becoming more powerful Brian Kardon

It wasn't so long ago that the CMO was in the "arts and crafts" department, unable to measure the impact of marketing and doomed to an average tenure of just 23 months.

But the signs are everywhere that the CMO's position is increasing in importance.

Tenure is increasing
In 2006, Spencer Stuart famously reported that average CMO tenure was the lowest in the executive suite -- just 23.2 months. Tenure has been steadily rising, with Spencer Stuart reporting average CMO tenure now at 43 months.

Swelling budgets
It began in 2009. Tech companies woke up and saw the growing role of technology in the marketing department -- web analytics, marketing automation, social media, and digital advertising. The CMO's budget was surging, and the CIO's was receding. Earlier this year, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan boldly declared, "By 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO."

At the center of social media
When Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook emerged, it was the CMO who took the lead. CMOs were the first to embrace SlideShare, YouTube, and Pinterest. Today, those social outposts (and many others) not only improve awareness and change perceptions but also drive pipeline growth and win new business. Great CMOs are connecting social media to demand creation.

Big data
Overhyped? Perhaps. It seems there is a new big data conference every day of the week, and everybody is jumping on the big data bandwagon. Gartner says big data will drive $32 billion of tech spending in 2013 and $232 billion through 2016. Much of the growth in big data is centered around marketing -- clicks, web sessions, video downloads, Facebook updates, LinkedIn profiles, email open rates, lead scores, and hundreds of others. As the mountain of data rises, CMOs are tasked with applying predictive analytics to better understand buyer behavior and improve conversion rates.

Marketing measurement is here
The excuses are all gone. Modern marketers are in control of their spending, they know which programs are mostleast effective, and they are optimizing their budgets. In many cases, they have built sophisticated demand-generation models that incorporate real-time data on conversion rates (by stage in the buying process), number of days in each stage, and average transaction size. They know how many inquiries they need now to hit the revenue targets each quarter. After years of fighting the image of being "soft" on analysis and a black hole of cost, marketing is able to prove measurable impact.

How are the best CMOs using this new power?

In my role as CMO of Lattice Engines, and as CMO at Eloqua before that, I have been immersed in the evolving role of the CMO. Some CMOs are thriving, but others are drowning. I want to share some of my observations from the best-performing marketing leaders:

Building a data-driven team
Brian Halligan of Hubspot calls them "digital natives." My friend, Scott Brinker, writes about a new role: chief marketing technologist (CMT). Brinker's premise is that technology decisions and marketing strategy are so tightly intertwined that companies need a CMT embedded in the marketing organization. Forrester Research recently recommended establishing an "office of marketing technology" to deal with all the technologies in marketing. The best-performing marketing organizations are effectively managing the explosion of data and driving new insights that improve customer engagement. Success begins with a marketing team that has strong analytical and technical skills.

Marketing to individuals, not to "demographics"
"Women 18 to 24" doesn't cut it anymore. Digital technologies allow marketers to know who is interested and who is not. Personal messages and websites need to be dynamically configured to the interests of the buyer. The recommendation engines Netflix and Pandora do a great job at this. Google Search becomes highly personal over time as it "learns" about you. Retail sites are getting very clever about knowing the brands and styles you like best. Great marketers, in both B2C and B2B, are creating highly personal experiences.

Improving sales performance
Sales teams are becoming overwhelmed with data. They spend 24 percent of their time doing research before making a call. In a recent CSO Insights survey, they reported checking as many as 13 separate sites to uncover information. Unfortunately, less than 0.01 percent of this information is actually useful for uncovering buyer's intent. Leading marketers are embracing predictive analytics to gain insight from the data and find the needle in the haystack that can close more deals for sales reps.

It's a great time to be a marketer -- growing power within the organization, lots of new data and tools to work with, and a longer tenure to get it all done. Leading marketing organizations are embracing this power and driving exceptional performance.

Brian Kardon is the CMO for Lattice Engines.

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"Chinese business man flexing" image via Shutterstock.

Brian Kardon is the CMO for Lattice Engines and is responsible for the company’s market positioning, demand generation, thought leadership, and integrated marketing to ensure strong connections with customers and constituents.  Prior to...

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Commenter: Jarmila Halovsky-Yu

2013, February 01

Just back from 2 days with the Institute of Direct Marketing refreshing my skills and networking with peers. We discussed this very point and we agree entirely. We are of course reliant on 'the business' taking a progressive approach, placing faith in the marketing function and supporting cross functional collaboration. There are plenty of stats proving the return to the bottom line when marketing is correctly activated. The brave and the bold will reap considerable rewards!