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Four Complex Challenges for CMOs

Marjorie Clayman is VP of Client Services at her family’s full service marketing firm, Clayman Marketing Communications.

Earlier this week I was reading through IBM’s landmark CMO survey/study titled, “From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study”. The study, which was formulated based on face-to-face interviews with 1,700 CMOs, reveals the scope of responsibilities that CMOs must embrace today.

The report notes that CMOs must:

• Shift their focus from markets to individuals

• Shift their focus from solely emphasizing transactions to now incorporating relationships as well

• Remain accountable for all marketing tactics

• Work with all facets of the company to create an easily understandable brand

Although this list at first glance seems small (and it is by no means comprehensive) each of these challenges for CMOs involve several layers of complexity that can make them daunting.

1. Shifting the focus from markets to individuals

For a detailed look into the complexities of this emphasis shift, I recommend Influence Marketing by Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella. These two authors offer excellent insights into how social media has altered marketing strategy (and indeed customer service).

Instead of looking at the big picture – namely via market research that companies could purchase and peruse – marketing professionals can now study individuals, groups, trending topics, common  keywords, and even brand-related sentiments. Customers now have faces, likes, dislikes, and the ability to talk back.

While focusing on the individual is increasingly important (and one might argue increasingly time-consuming), CMOs must also balance this new information with the big picture.

Companies need to understand industry trends, what is happening on a global scale, and more. With this influx of information, how can CMOs possibly use all of the data in the most beneficial way for the company?

2, Transactions Versus Relationships

The era of social media has also signaled a shift from the traditional focus on transactional relationships to a more “fluffy,” more difficult to define focus on “relationships.”

If a CMO feels it is incumbent on her to pitch social media marketing, the word “relationship” will very likely come up. However, relationships are hard to sell to a CEO, particularly if the CEO is accustomed to hearing more about conversion rates and less about likes on a cat picture.

How can a CMO accentuate the importance of relationship building while also noting that the company can continue to promote products and services in traditional ways via other marketing tactics?

3. Measuring ROI

According to IBM’s report, and many other sources reiterate this, ROI remains a key stumbling block for CMOs, yet it also remains a top priority for CEOs and CFOs.

CMOs increasingly find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to ROI. If you are a CMO I am sure you have horror stories.

There is a hesitation now to try new things if it’s unclear how ROI will or can be measured. Social media evangelists preach against transactional content online, yet the CEO wants to see measurable results. How do you make those two worlds mesh?

Of course, CMOs are under this pressure for “traditional” marketing tactics as well. How can you pitch that  ad as a branding opportunity if everything is based on some sort of lead conversion that will result in sales? Can CMOs “win” as they are pulled between relationships and sales?

4. The Brand

Finally, CMOs these days are expected to help implement a “social business” mode of operation for companies they work for, complete with a brand that is understood from top to bottom, clear communication, and effective inter-departmental collaboration.

For the CMO, this means getting buy-in from the CEO and other management personnel, making sure customer service, PR, and all other departments are working together effectively.

If this sounds like a Herculean task, you’re  correct. If you’ve ever tried to get an entire company on board with a single concept, you know that it can feel like a losing proposition.

Are you a CMO? How are you handling all of the challenges your job now entails? We’d love to hear from you!

For more marketing insight from Margie Clayman, click here.

Image: Dell’s Official Flickr Page (Creative Commons)

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