CMOs Must Expand Their Tech Skills in the Digital Marketing Era

As CMOs take on a more strategic role in the C-suite, they will need to broaden their technical skills and expertise to understand big data analytics, customer online experience, social media and more.

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Mon, November 04, 2013

CIO — The balance of power in the C-suite (at least as measured by dollars spent on IT) is shifting. Where once the CIO held most of the purchasing power and the decision-making capability to determine which technology investments would drive business forward, the CMO is poised to take a much more strategic role in a data-driven business climate.

[Related: CIOs Want to Be Allies, Not Adversaries, With Business Users]

According to a frequently cited January 2012 research report by Gartner, by 2017 the CMO will outspend the CIO on technology. The traditional CMO role, focused solely on marketing campaigns and branding, is becoming obsolete, if it isn't already, says Rona Borre, CEO and founder of recruiting, hiring, and consulting firm Instant Technology.

"I don't think a CMO in the traditional sense exists anymore. CMOs today have to account for the digital age -- the digitization of everything," Borre says.

"Marketing professionals have to be tech-savvy, have to be well-versed in content optimization and be able to understand the importance of social media, data analytics, the Internet, search and so much more," Borre says.

[Related: Gartner Says CIOs and CMOs Must Learn to Collaborate on Digital Marketing]

In this respect, she says, the "new" CMO role will overlap that of the CIO, but with a continued emphasis on legacy marketing and branding activities, she says.

"The CMO of the 21st century is someone who understands how all these technologies play together; a tech-savvy, content-optimization focused person with a digital understanding and a branding background," Borre says.

CMOs Facing New Skills Challenges

That means the CMO of the future will face challenges previously taken on by the CIO, including how to use technology to market and brand products for the most effective reach in a digital era, and how to prove the success of such efforts and increase ROI, says Kimberly Samuelson, director of marketing for electronic content management solutions company Laserfiche.

The way customers interact and engage with companies has changed dramatically, Samuelson says, driven by the rise of "new media," to use the term coined in the 1990s.

[Related: What Do CMOs and CIOs Really Think of Each Other?]

Research and purchasing decisions are made using digital technologies, and the advent of social media means that both positive and negative feedback can be delivered in an instant, Samuelson says. Businesses also can track the minutia of customers' online shopping and buying behavior, allowing them greater control over the sales cycle, she says.

"The way that customers engage with companies has changed -- everything from the way they research and buy products and services to how they share those experiences with others; buying through Web stores and sharing reviews and recommendations through social media," Samuelson says.

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