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CMOs are Spending More Time in the Driver’s Seat

Gary Georges — 8 December 2015


There’s never been a more exciting or challenging time to be in marketing!

Since 2010, social media and the power of the consumer with a mobile in their hand has been driving fundamental change for marketers. With the ability to measure digital media, marketers could suddenly measure (almost) everything and prove value in their activity.

The other major change for marketers is their growing power for marketing technology (martech) purchases due to cloud computing. CMOs used to have to take the slow route through the CIO for a lengthy approval process, requiring upfront licences with painful consulting services for old-speed IT offerings where cost is based on complexity. For the past few years, cloud services have made it possible for CMOs to get their projects up and running immediately with a subscription and tailored pilot program that’s short, sharp, compressed and easy.

Of the US$380B in cash on software acquirer’s balance sheets for 2016, Oracle has spent US$3B on martech acquisitions averaging a company a month. When I was at IBM there was a similar rate of acquisitions, buying into analytics, network, security, big data and marketing - 15 acquisitions in 2010. Strategically that was influential, but tactically it was a huge challenge because it caused serious deployment bottlenecks.

A long list of enterprise and government clients were promised the best from the niche software (startup) companies being acquired who had small tech teams. Upskilling the big blue services teams took longer than expected due to global distribution. It took 12 months for the acquisitions to be finalised and during that process the software company being acquired would send sales and tech folks around the globe to sell (the sizzle of being acquired by IBM) as much as they could before the acquisition completed.

Customers don’t want to buy software. They want to deploy software, and they want to know who’s going to be there for support after they deploy it.

Like the formation of the solar system where planets collide, shift, and merge, so too is the current marketing technology landscape - just a little less volatile. The nature of markets has driven the need for a digital marketing hub according to Gartner. In 2012 Gartner also predicted that by 2017 the CMO will be spending more on IT than the CIO.

Three areas leading CMOs are focussed on to drive improvement;

1. Developing a Turnkey Global Operation

Marketing needs data-driven decision making for analysis and creativity.

Enterprise marketing generally consists of operations, brand, marketing communications, channel partners, and corporate marketing. The key skills needed from marketing operations is writing content, digital dexterity, and being highly active on social media. Then, molding these skills ensuring adherence to the brand, effective use of martech in a type of digital centre of excellence, localising to all regions and across organizational boundaries.

The global marketing leader at open source software Red Hat, Jackie Yeaney, believes that technology is at the core of being a good marketer. Jackie’s approach is a reflection of what modern marketing has become: “engagement and conversations with the customer based on data, digital capability, experiences and content.”

The NASA-style mission control centre is a proven concept for cities around the world to drive growth, efficiency, and sustainability. The dashboard governance era we’re in now delivers features like visual business intelligence and sensemaking. This actionable and consumable graphical display of abstract information is becoming crucial for marketers.

The CFOs are interested.

The Marketo State of Digital Marketing in Australia and New Zealand Report summarized by Gavin Heaton explains that “executive teams do not truly comprehend the opportunity which can be realised if the digital channel was performing to a high standard. Measuring ROI has always been a challenge and it’s becoming harder as organisations put their marketing dollars across an increasing number of channels.”

This reflects a mismatch in how much enterprises actually invest in martech - down 28% over the past two years - versus the 84% that believe ROI will become more measurable and play a larger role in their digital marketing investments over the short term.

The CEOs are interested.

In PwC’s latest Annual Global CEO Survey, nine out of 10 Australian CEOs reported that understanding and responding to the impact of digital technology on customer behaviour is the biggest concern they face .

A turnkey global operation with a digital marketing hub doesn’t mean that all field activity needs to be restrained because of transparency and a perceived command centre control hierarchy.

Global marketing wants to deliver on efficiency while regions desire more agility.

2. Building Speed and Flexibility Among Teams

Deloitte was shaking up the traditional top-down marketing approach a few years before social, mobile and cloud became business as usual. They ushered in a new model of knowledge sharing and collaboration. By fully engaging all staff to embrace social media and expecting everyone to participate, their finger was on the pulse of what mattered to their customers. The agile and empowered professional services teams of Deloitte became the trusted advisers, and the brand became a reflection of the outcome of the people .

But doing everything in house is virtually impossible. Skills required for fast evolving technology and the constant need for fresh creative becomes rare and expensive. Agencies with talent, and the SaaS technology providers with easy integration tools are essential. These services allow CMOs to react fast and expect measurable outcomes from digital marketing while worrying less about taking on new projects.

CIOs are interested.

As brands move to media buying programmatically and appealing to consumers in real time with intent-driven micro moments, the pressure to maintain brand consistency increases. The CMO needs to empower the marketers to deliver content while constraining them to deliver on brand.

Having a sense of urgency and understanding the scarcity of time that everyone faces is crucial. Now authors can update content with velocity. Every brand asset can can be reused. Every local office can represent itself through a template based app with execution across all media, without having to manage a website.

However, focussing on the buyer is paramount.

3. Delivering on Customer Experience

The biggest area for improvement for marketers doing digital advertising is using all the rich data available on their customers to better target their marketing so the interaction is immediate, personal, and relevant.

The CCOs are interested.

Marketers are customers too.

In turn, the agencies that deliver the creativity and material for publishing to the marketers have the biggest opportunity for improvement in the production process. Agencies have embraced technology for the design aspect but are still using old processes for production. Producing large volumes of recurring material with common brand assets expose significant cost reduction opportunities in the process.

Vendors and agencies must provide valuable experiences to marketers. They can empower the marketer with highly curatable content to easily publish across all media on the fly (while keeping the design and messaging on brand). Disruptive technology delivering this type of functionality also provides more transparency into the marketing production costs, hence facilitating ROI calculations.

That’s why agencies are trying to create one-stop shops for marketers, offering everything from website design to ad buying. Publicis paid $3.7B to buy Sapient, while a swag of large tech companies including Accenture, Deloitte, Google, and Facebook, have acquired creative agencies.

Technology is necessary to deliver business initiatives, however, technology is useless without the strategy. Delivering on the organisation’s strategy requires a team effort between all C-level execs.

The 360-degree customer effort is required in order to generate consistent customer satisfaction and repeatable sales. Sales are the result - delivering to customer needs is the objective.

The experience is the brand.


CMOs are becoming more strategic as the power shifts from the producers of products to the consumers. The marketing function is a major conduit between the organisation, customer, and all the channels in between.

With the high volume of martech acquisitions taking place, there’s a strain on the platform vendor to deploy projects efficiently. The platform offerings comprised of multiple new acquisitions present a risk for CMOs aiming at lean, on budget deployments.

Digital hubs are required to set the standard, progress innovation, and ensure brand consistency through governance. Flexibility and agility are now easily accessible by empowering all users (including those outside marketing) to interact with customers without delay. Immediate and massive scalability through constraint based templates is now business as usual. Websites managed by corporate head office are no longer a bottleneck. Power is handed to local teams so they can deliver marketing at velocity with increased focus on relevant content.

ROI metrics of martech investments have become more difficult to predict over the past couple of years, probably due to convoluted processes, and the pace of change. Therefore, greater digital literacy and more transparent production processes are required, assisted by analytics for monitoring activity and identifying trends.

CMOs need to balance internal capabilities and capacities with an astute selection of external agencies and technology providers. Many agencies want to be a one stop shop but it makes sense for CMOs to minimise risk by sharing activity load across more than one agency. A cooperative effort is paramount between internal teams - including those led by the increasingly common evolution of CMOs to Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) - and external providers to deliver on the number one common objective - a growing number of happy paying customers.