Being a CMO will be one of the most interesting, but also one of the toughest jobs in the 21st century. Consider the context: consumer behaviour is changing faster than the planning cycle of marketing campaigns, marketing technology is becoming the most complex part of the enterprise stack while the rise of agile, ruthless competitors from new markets means that brands have to achieve global scale to avoid imitation and replication.
Things were once far simpler.
The average household watched television at dinner time, read the newspaper at breakfast, listened to the radio on the way to work, and enjoyed magazines in between. Today, consumers have multiple devices, intelligent objects and networked screens surrounding them. They are exposed to as many as 10,000 ads per day. Most have cell phones, many of them smart devices, and over three billion people are on the Internet.
Technology is changing marketing, but that doesn’t mean that the CMO of the future should act like a CIO. High performance CMOs don’t need need to manage and provision IT systems, but rather what it takes to push technology to its limits in the service of transforming customer experience.
The platform doesn’t matter. How people use it, does.
That should come as no surprise. Of all the roles in the business, marketers have always been closest to the customer and the market. What has changed in the 21st century is not the focus of the marketing team, but the source of their insights. In the past, focus groups, market research studies and advertising agencies were reliable channels of consumer information. No longer.
Marketers must be data natives. Like high frequency traders, they have to design platforms and deploy resources so that they are always in the middle of real-time data streams, constantly testing and adjusting their market interventions.
Data is the lingua franca of the modern enterprise. Finance, HR, IT, customer care, marketing and operations are all moving into the Cloud, becoming more integrated and automated. As that happens, data will change from being something used to describe past events — to a currency of real time value that can be used to not only predict what might happen next, but actually shape the design and delivery of your product.
Why measure brand awareness, when you target a specific individual? In the data driven enterprise, it is possible to track the lifecycle of a customer — as they undertake their journey from an initial brand discovery, through to trial, purchase, evangelism and upgrade. With that information at your disposal, there is nothing you cannot achieve. You can literally design an entire company to serve a single person.
The next generation of companies will do just that. We are moving into the era of hyper-personal business. Already, no one sees the same retail home page at Netflix or Amazon, nor the same newsfeed on Twitter or Facebook. These are companies built to scale for millions of customers, but fashioned to serve just one at a time.
Embracing data has real rewards. According to McKinsey & Company, companies that are more data-driven are 5 percent more productive and 6 percent more profitable than other companies. If anything, that understates the case. Can you really say that Netflix is simply 5 percent more productive than a TV network, or Amazon slightly more effective than another retailer? In truth, they are entirely new kinds of businesses.
Change is not easy. Marketers have been schooled to think in channels, not customer behaviours, to measure their success through abstractions not algorithms, to create strategy not run experiments, and to applaud advertising that wins awards not customers.
Embracing a new marketing playbook will be confronting both for you as a leader, as well as for the rest of your team. But doing nothing is no longer an option.
Your customers will force you to change long before your shareholders do.