by Kevin Rands

How big data is changing the role of the CMO

Jul 27, 2017

Big data is making CMOs more accountable than ever.

In the past, marketing departments and IT departments didn’t necessarily spend a lot of time working side by side.

IT decisions were left to be made by the CIO while marketing decisions were left in the hands of the CMO. Today, however, things have changed and those C-level roles have begun to slowly converge together as marketing departments become more focused and heavily invested in technology.

According to a recent Gartner study, this year CMO’s influence and total spend on IT will surpass that of the CIOs. The report suggests that, “marketing technology, once a relatively narrow and specialized adjunct to enterprise IT, is now garnering investment nearly equivalent to the core systems that run the business,” said Jake Sorofman of Gartner.

This study supports the growing trend of CMOs having an increasing number of not only responsibilities but also expectations. According to a study by Leapfrog Marketing Institute, 92% of chief marketing officers stated they were under more pressure to prove the ROI of their marketing and technology spend.

With a new focus on technology and increased demands to prove ROI, the role of the modern CMO is evolving. One of the big drivers behind these trends is the fact that for the first time, technology makes it possible to be more intentional about where every dollar is going and understand exactly how it will come back.


“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

This is one of those quotes that seems to be repeated over and over again. From internet memes to keynote speeches, it’s become a core talking point for many executives and marketers.

While it may have been a truthful and accurate quote in the past, today things have changed thanks in large part to technology. The expectations have evolved when it comes to knowing exactly where each dollar went out and where it came back in.

Big data has been one of the key technological drivers to improve the precision and accuracy of marketing efforts. An article in DataFloq explains, “Before Big Data could be harnessed marketers had to rely upon all sorts of tools, tricks and even old fashioned gut feeling to gauge just how successful their marketing campaign may be. Today, however, Big Data has provided for campaign simulations where testing can be undertaken within a virtual marketplace. This means  that campaigns are now more streamlined than ever before, with changes and tweaks put into place before the marketing campaign goes live.”

With an increase in accuracy and measurement, this leads to the next change that big data has brought to marketing.

Bigger budgets, more scrutiny  

In the 2016-2017 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, data showed that for the third consecutive year, companies with more than $5 billion in revenue increased their marketing budget to 13% of their total revenue while companies with $250 million to $500 million in annual revenue increased their marketing spend 10%.

When combining these survey results with the increase in spend on marketing technology, it becomes clear that they go hand in hand.  

Discussing how technology is playing a part in all this, Chris Mann, CEO of revenue intelligence company Bright Funnelsaid, “Big data, analytics, digital, machine learning, algorithms – these innovations not only increase marketing ROI, but they also provide deep visibility into what drives ROI. Because marketers have the ability to shed more and more light on the revenue they are driving, they have access to an increasingly larger budget. In fact, the marketing organization often has the second largest expense line on the P&L after employee salaries. The larger your budget, the more scrutiny you’re going to get.”

Data brings departments together

A consistent theme across the media and company blogs over the past few years has been the importance of aligning sales and marketing.

Traditionally, sales and marketing operated as independent silos, but these silos have proven to lead to crippling growth problems for organizations of all sizes. For example, if the marketing department is creating content to generate leads for the sales department, it only works if they are generating the right leads. If they are generating all the wrong leads, the sales department will quickly get fed up with the marketing department and begin to focus on using their own resources to generate leads.

According to Bright Funnel, the problem with sales and marketing alignment lies in the metrics. For the marketing department, measuring click-through rates, open rates and unsubscribes is where their attention goes, but for the sales department, those metrics are irrelevant. Their post goes on to explain, “Instead of measuring the number of leads generated, measure which campaigns are sourcing the leads that turn into opportunities. Instead of measuring email click-throughs, measure where in the funnel your leads are getting stuck and what has worked best to move them through the various stages.”

If metrics are the solution to sales and marketing alignment, data is the “how” that makes it all possible. Without being able to effortlessly collect data across different departments, combine it together and create actionable insights, true alignment will never happen.


The modern CMO faces an entire new set of challenges that their counterparts have never seen before. In the past, it was acceptable and expected for marketers to not be able to provide a clear link to their campaigns and revenue. That expectation has changed. Because of the improvements in technology, marketers now have the ability to be more accurate and precise than ever before, but more importantly, technology has brought together departments that were once siloed, creating a fully aligned organization.