Technical expertise is more important than agency experience for CMOs

The Economist Intelligence Unit is on a roll with its marketing industry research. It just released another report, sponsored by SAS, titled Outside Looking In: The CMO Struggles to Get in Sync with the C-Suite. The gist of the report, a global survey of 389 executives, is that marketing is in a period of great change, it’s becoming more strategic, and many organizations are not yet in agreement on what that means for the CMO’s role and priorities.

One thing that I found particularly fascinating, however, were the results to the question: what skills are most important for CMOs to have? Respondents were asked to pick their top three:

What skills are most important for CMOs to have?

What leaps out to me here is the emergence of data and technology as skills that are considered important for the CMO to possess:

  • 27% report data-driven analytical capability in their Top 3
  • 21% report technical expertise in their Top 3

Wow. I’m certainly an advocate for the marketing department as a whole acquiring these skills, and I strongly believe there should be a technology leader who works in the marketing department on behalf of the CMO. But for 1/5 of executives to now believe technical expertise is one of the Top 3 most important skills for a CMO to have is a huge testament to the growing realization that modern marketing is a technology-driven discipline.

To put this in perspective, only 13% of the respondents picked advertising/agency experience. This is effectively saying that technical expertise is nearly twice as important as agency experience for CMOs in the eyes of business executives. That suggests not just a shift in marketing capabilities, but a tectonic shift in marketing culture.

And the trend appears to be headed further in this direction. In a separate question, 40% reported that technical expertise is increasing in importance as a CMO requirement. 60% reported that data-driven analytical capability is increasing in importance.

To appreciate why technical expertise is becoming so important, consider the results to another question in the report: in what areas should marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business in 3 years?

Marketing investments are increasingly technology-driven

Out of the 12 areas of investment reported, 2/3 of them revolve around technology: customer analytics, CRM, social media, mobile application development, reputation management, marketing automation, collaboration tools, and web optimization tools. These are a lot of different technologies to be selected and managed.

The conclusion of the report is short but poignant, summing up this transformation and why technology is so integral to it. So I’ll quote it here in its entirety (emphasis added is my own):

The role of marketing was once easily defined: create effective mass-market advertising to increase brand awareness and loyalty. It was vague enough to allow marketing leaders to justify investments in “the brand” despite a lack of quantifiable results.

This approach no longer works in today’s data-driven, personalized, customer-centric environment. The mass market has been parsed into discrete customer segments that require increasingly targeted messaging. Customers expect to be served through multiple channels, with a consistent experience across each.

The transition is proving difficult for many CMOs and their marketing teams. Many organizations remain in operational silos, which limit their ability to share data and insights and create a consistent multi-channel customer experience. And cultural perceptions of marketing’s role, as our survey clearly shows, continue to inhibit its strategic ambitions.

To address this challenge, CMOs and senior leadership teams need to increase their commitment to investing in the skills, tools, and processes required to become more customer centric and insight-driven. Only then will marketing be in sync with the rest of the business and in a better position to serve as the catalyst of business growth.

Well said.

Get directly in your inbox!

Subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest insights on martech as soon as they hit the wire. I usually publish an article every week or two — aiming for quality over quantity.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

5 thoughts on “Technical expertise is more important than agency experience for CMOs”

  1. I may be the dissenting voice, but I can’t agree. Firstly, you have to look at who is commissioning the research and their agenda.
    Second, true marketing has ALWAYS been about understanding the customer, creating engaging propositions and then communicating in a compelling way that drives them to purchase.
    Third, true marketing has ALWAYS been at the heart of strategy – the brand proposition is the guiding principle that informs everything from customer communications to customer service – when BMW ran the strapline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” that embodied everything they did – it was far more than an advertising strapline.
    Fourth,not all categories can be treated the same. Some will respond to direct “cause and effect” marketing with a direct ROI, however, there are numerous categories where the customer buying process requires a subliminal and emotional preference for a brand – it’s why rands were created – to provide differentiation!
    I do agree that technology is an enabler to facilitate new ways of communicating however, it is about time the IT and marketing technologists started to really understand how marketing and communcations actually work – come on Marketers, re-assert your professionalism and status – it’s being stolen by techno babble!!!

  2. Chris — thanks for the dissenting voice!
    Actually, I agree with the essence of your critique. It’s kind of like we’re rediscovering customer insight and customer experience in the digital age. But you’re absolutely right that such principles have been at the heart of marketing for 50 years.
    In fairness, I do think the age of the customer we’re in is qualitatively different than marketing in the past — not just the technology, although that is a big new elephant in the room — but the way in which companies interact with their customers at scale, the way customers interact with each other, and the new norms that are emerging in the process.
    I also think that while the four P’s — which included Product first and foremost — were always the foundation of marketing and very strategic in nature, the P of Promotion had kind of taken over the bulk of marketing. Not just in public perception, but in how most marketers spent most of their time and the influence they wielded in the organization. There were exceptions, of course. But for many companies, marketing = promotion.
    It’s ironic that the digital revolution now is perhaps bringing some of those other P’s — with Product as the entirety of the customer experience at the center — back into the limelight with a vengeance.
    That’s a wonderful thing, but you’re right, it’s not really a new concept.
    The technology aspects of all this are huge and complicated, and I do think they deserve a lot more executive marketing attention than ever before. But you said it best: technology is an enabler. What’s ultimately important, still, is how a company leverages all that to deliver a remarkable customer experience and build a distinctive, valuable brand.
    Take the techno-babble with a grain of salt. 😉

  3. Hi Scott,
    Enjoyed the article and I think it represents a restating of emphasis on the importance of the medium in this case the (social media) aspects of the internet that is enveloping our lives. Here’s an interesting quote from a site that interprets Marshall McLuhan “the medium is the message state which states that — a “message” is, “the change of scale or pace or pattern” that a new invention or innovation “introduces into human affairs.” (McLuhan 8) Note that it is not the content or use of the innovation, but the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it. I think the social media effect is pushing the agenda as well as the accountability aspects of measuring everything on the internet in terms of ROI.

  4. Good morning, Scott!
    I finally got to catch up on some of your blogging this morning (Sunday), and read this one with great interest. Just the other day I was blogging about “Corporate Cyborgs: The Rise of the Hybrid Professional” which looks at the changing role of upper level management positions – especially the professional Marketer – due to the changing & fractured communications landscape.
    The basis for my argument was the emphasis that is now placed on access to metrics that track your online marketing performance results, and the elements that have been added to the Marketer’s job description as a result.
    In other words, the rise of the Corporate Cyborg/Hybrid Professional is a phenomenon caused by access to an overload of information, and the challenges facing Management as a result.
    The Hybrid Professional Marketer now must be able to bridge the gap of fear between upper-level Management who are afraid of change and technology and the possibility of social media turning against their brand, and the rapidly shifting communications landscape. The Hybrid Professional must now excel at performing tasks never asked of them before.
    So, you can see why I was so interested in what you had to say in this post!
    Keep up the great work! I really enjoy your blog.
    Darren M Jorgensen
    ps – Here’s a link to my own blog posting that I’m referencing, if you’re interested:
    Leave a comment – especially if you disagree. It is really through comments that I’m able to rethink, recapitulate and revise my ideas.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *