The rise of the CMO (SAP CMO series)

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The Chief Marketing Officer of 2014 is busier than ever, and cultivating customer loyalty is a top priority.

A 2013 poll of 285 marketers revealed that the cost of customer retention is increasing: digital marketers spend nearly as much to keep buyers (45 percent) as they do to gain new ones (55 percent). A 2013 CMO survey showed that digital marketing spending had a predicted growth of 10.2%, with more than 40 percent of U.S. marketing professionals increasing their spending on data-driven marketing in the first quarter of the year.

According to an article published by The Wallstreet Journal, the average tenure of a CMO is now 45 months, nearly double the average tenure in 2006, when it was a little over 23 months. Spencer Stuart, the research firm that conducted the study, says that the improvement is largely due to the rise of a new breed of tech-savvy executives that are able to navigate the fast-changing market.

Welcome to a new era for the CMO

As Nick Hahn, managing director of strategy consulting firm Vivaldi Partners, put it, “The (CMO’s) skill set now needs to be more fluid… A strong traditional marketing background is no longer enough.” This tech-savvy approach translates to not only company-specific strategies but social media activity. Many CMOs can be found on Twitter, offering insights and cultivating connections.

The position also attracts numerous female hires. Rajeev Batra, Partner at Silicon Valley-based venture firm Mayfield, wrote that “women marketers have the chance to lead a new generation of results-driven marketing that transforms their companies from within.” Harriet Seitler is a good example: she’s CMO and Executive Vice-President of Oprah Winfrey’s HARPO Studios and OWN television network. Other prominent female CMOs include (or have included) Angie Hicks, CMO and founder of Angie’s List, Sue Bostrom, former CMO of Cisco Systems, and Karen Quintos, CMO of Dell.

No matter who’s in the CMO seat, a 2011 IBM report says the focus is still on markets rather than individuals. Stéphane Bérubé, CMO at L’Oréal Canada, wants to change this trend. When he came into the position in April 2014, he aimed to engage with customers and harness Canada’s fast-growing communities, particularly the South Asian market.

Canadian company well.ca, an online health and beauty store, has their CMO and CEO sit in with directly customer care teams. Even though the Guelph-based company has what they describe as limited resources, they have won numerous awards, including the Canada Post eCommerce Innovations award and the Retail Council of Canada Award for best E-commerce retailer.

Mark Sutter, Chief Strategic Officer for ad agency The Halo Group, says integration is a key trend CMOs should be aware of: “Understanding how all of your communications connect is critical to creating a coherent brand story for more a sophisticated consumer.”

Another key trend is providing content that is directly valuable to your customers. “Make it your purpose to serve,” Sutter says. “And keep it fresh, unexpected, and personal.”

The Harvard Business Review identified how the rise of the digital CMO is a bellwether for change in the digital media industry: “They experiment aggressively. They hire smart digital natives — and empower them. They partner with great agencies. They have the humility to admit what they don’t know, the courage to toss out the old playbook, and the confidence to allow digital metrics to illuminate the results.”

Flickr photo via user SEO 

 

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