by Tom Kaneshige

CMOs Eye CEO Office, But Need CIOs to Get There

News Analysis
Feb 28, 20143 mins
CareersCIOIT Leadership

Thanks to social media, mobile marketing and data analytics, the CMO is now closer to sales revenue. CMOs are among the most important executives at a company -- and they know it and want to take the next step to the CEO's office. The good news for CIOs is that they can't do it without you.

A couple of years ago, many CMOs aspired to move up the ladder by becoming the marketing chief at a larger, more prestigious company, but now they’ve set their sights on the CEO position, according to a new Forrester survey of 212 CMOs. Forty percent of business-to-business marketers aim to become a CEO in their next role.

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What’s got CMOs aiming at the corner office? The short answer: fruits of technology.

Social, mobile and data analytics has brought the CMO in lockstep with the revenue pipeline. CMOs now know more about target customers and sales trends than ever before. Today’s digital marketer has qualitative sales feedback, sales lead data, sales opportunities, sales cycle times and, critically, measurable revenue tied to marketing efforts.

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

“Data is the marketer’s new best friend,” says Elisa Steele, CMO and executive vice president of strategy at Jive Software. “Marketing has always been a combination of art and science, but marketers today must create a strategy centered on data and insights, understanding our users and customers, what behaviors are happening, and what trends are emerging.”

As a result, the CMO has become one of the most important executives at a company, and that’s why many think they can take the reins of business strategy and planning — that is, be a CEO.

There’s no question CMOs have come far from the dark days of the recession when their spend-happy, black-art ways threatened their job security.

[Related: Are CIOs Destined to Work for the CMO?]

CMOs can thank technology for much of their fast rise in the corporate world. Consequently, CMOs are starting to acknowledge that their relationship with the CIO and, by extension, new technology is paying dividends. According to the Forrester survey, CMOs who value the CIO as important has risen from 30 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2013.

[Related: Inside the Minds (and Personalities) of CIOs and CMOs]

Of course, CMOs still have a ways to go to reach the digital marketer’s holy grail of having a data-driven holistic view of the customer. While 73 percent of survey respondents agree on the importance of having a single view of the customer, fewer than 20 percent have achieved that goal, says Forrester. The problem is that customer data is siloed and buried throughout a company.

Why the CMO Needs Some CIO Love

The CIO can help unlock this data and give the CMO even more knowledge and fire power to grow sales. This means CMOs need to have a good working relationship with the CIO, a relationship that has traditionally been a rocky one.

After all, there is a difference in the Myers-Briggs personality types for CIOs and CMOs. According to Forrester, 15 percent of B2C CMOs and 5 percent of B2B CMOs have no working relationship with their CIO.

Nevertheless, CMOs must collaborate with their CIOs to build a digital technology vision, outline priorities, and jointly lead marketing technology implementation, Forrester advises. Technology awareness was identified by more than half of CMOs as the top competency to improve, according to the survey.

“Marketers need to make technology decisions not only on infrastructure, tools, and techniques, but on the right delivery and engagement mechanisms,” Steele says. “There is no question that marketing must build a healthy partnership with IT.”

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at