by Tom Kaneshige

How to Master CMO Word Play

Aug 07, 20144 mins
CIOCMOIT Leadership

It’s becoming clear that marketers call the shots these days and that CIOs must appeal to them to remain relevant. This means IT leaders will need to learn marketing buzzwords -- as well as tech words to avoid -- in order to communicate better.

marketing word
Credit: Thinkstock

Listen to an executive speak for 10 seconds, and you’ll know instantly whether that person is a CIO or CMO. Their use of words and the way they talk about their jobs are polar opposite to each other.

Marketers love simple buzzwords because they effectively communicate emotion and appeal to a greater audience; techies cling to indecipherable acronyms that show off their intellect and exclude people not in the tech community.

[Related: The CIO and CMO Perspective on Big Data]

At tech marketing conference GrowthBeat in San Francisco this week, the language difference between the marketer and techie flowed like an undercurrent throughout the day. These days, marketers are in charge, and CIOs must appeal to them in order to remain relevant. This means CIOs will need to learn the marketing buzzwords — as well as tech words to avoid — in order to communicate better.

If You Could Talk to Marketers

Leave it to marketers to come up with creative ways to describe their job. For instance, you don’t manage “episodic marketing events” or even the “customer lifecycle,” you manage the “journey. “There’s the ever-present marketing “funnel” turning a potential customer’s initial awareness into customer loyalty. Along the way, marketers need to pull lots of “levers” and closely watch “KPIs” (or key performance indicators) to keep then heading in the right direction and always toward the holy grail of “conversion.”  

While marketing data and real-time analytics can improve “targeting,” CIOs and CMOs should be careful not to “drown” in all the data. Also, they don’t want to get “creepy” or “stalker-ish” with customer data. If data analysis falls under the CIO’s purview, CIOs must make sure they’re delivering “predictive” results to marketers rather than grabbing data from different sources to make sense of why something has already happened.

Are You a CCP?

If you’re doing the latter, you’re simply the “chief of cut-and-paste,” says Jennifer Zeszut, founder and CEO of Beckon, a marketing analytics software company, drawing laughter from the crowd of marketers at GrowthBeat.

[Related: CIOs and CMOs Suffer From Failure to Communicate]

That’s not to say the CIO shouldn’t be doing something about data silos. In fact, CIOs should be “stitching” customer data found in front-end and back-end systems for a “360 degree view” of the customer. The capability to stitch data together just might be the most important activity a CIO can do for marketers.

Too bad for CIOs that the word play doesn’t work in their favor. CMOs don’t give a hoot about tech jargon, except for the ones that make their life miserable. Marketers, for instance, shutter whenever a CIO mentions “RFP,” or request for proposal. That’s because they fear an RFP process will lead to a delay in their tech project.

[Related: 10 Biggest CIO-CMO Relationship Hurdles]

“Whenever I say ‘RFP,’ an angel loses its wings,” says Rebekhah King, director of customer engagement at Cox Media Group and a career-long marketer recently turned techie. “They think nothing will get done for seven months.”

What Not to Say to Marketers

Other words CIOs would be smart to avoid when talking to marketers are “digital product,” “platform,” “omnichannel” and “agile.” When these words are spoken, CIOs and CMOs hear different things. For instance, a CIO equates “agile” with a software development methodology that has ambiguous definitions of timelines, whereas a CMO thinks “agile” means the ability to “pivot” and move “dynamically” in a market in flux.

By using marketer’s words and avoiding tech jargon, CIOs send a clear message to CMOs that they understand their pain points, they’re part of the marketing team, and they can help marketing seize the digital opportunity — that is, get to “conversion.”