Does the Rise of the CMO Threaten CIOs?

Marketing professionals are bullish about new technologies and won't let IT slow them down. CIOs must navigate this transition carefully or risk losing status within the organization.

By Jeff Vance
Mon, October 22, 2012

CIO — Investments in IT have long been the domain of the CIO, but all of that is changing as CMOs increasingly make IT investments in this cloud and data-driven age. Many times these investments are ones IT didn't approve and doesn't even know about.

"Ten years ago, marketing was always at the bottom of IT's to-do list," says Kristin Hambelton, vice president of Marketing for Neolane , a marketing technology provider. "IT wasn't discriminating against marketing, but IT usually has five or 10 projects going at any one time, and marketing was always at the bottom of the list." As a result, marketing pros got tired of waiting and sidestepped IT.

As marketing tools became automated and were delivered as SaaS or cloud-based tools, marketing had more leeway to consume technology as a service. "When you can fund marketing software from a travel budget, it's easy to go behind IT's back," Hambelton said.

[Feature: 6 Ways CIOs Can Make Peace with CMOs]

However, it's not just the fact that technologies can be consumed as services and are dropping in prices. CIOs must also realize that marketing is claiming more and more of the enterprise's overall IT budget.

"Marketing is now the central engine of growth for many companies," said Laura McLellan, a research VP with Gartner. Gartner predicts that within five years, by 2017, CMOs will be spending more on IT than CIOs.

With Data Comes Power

That Gartner prediction may sound like a stretch, but think about how much marketing is changing. Email marketing automation lets organizations track open rates, see who clicks any links, and what they do when a prospect visits your website. Many even help track email forward rates. That may seem obvious, but remember that a few years ago, this type of tracking was considered too intrusive and most organizations didn't do it.

Other marketing tools--demand generation, lead nurturing, campaign analysis, social media automation, mobile marketing, etc.--delve even deeper into a potential customer's mindset and behaviors.

These tools are quickly becoming mission critical.

What this all boils down to is that the CIO can no longer dismiss marketing as unscientific. Today, marketing is more of a science than an art. The CMO can speak in concrete terms now. For instance, if you add an extra field to an opt-in form (say, asking for a title, or the size and type of your organization), the CMO can measure exactly how much the drop-out rate increases. The same is true for variables on a landing page or sales page. The CIO can no longer dismiss marketing's intel as smoke and mirrors. It's based on data.

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