THE BLOG
18/10/2013 07:13 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Rise of the CMO - The Time Is Now

Increased customer expectations and demands for more personalised engagement have led to a shift in focus for businesses. New roles are emerging and old roles are being revamped to cater to the new business landscape. In the middle of this upheaval, the role of the Chief Marketing Officer is arguably the most popular of those adopted by businesses of all forms and sizes. Facebook's recent naming of its first CMO provides strong evidence of this shift.

Increased customer expectations and demands for more personalised engagement have led to a shift in focus for businesses. New roles are emerging and old roles are being revamped to cater to the new business landscape. In the middle of this upheaval, the role of the Chief Marketing Officer is arguably the most popular of those adopted by businesses of all forms and sizes. Facebook's recent naming of its first CMO provides strong evidence of this shift.

One might ask, why now, for one of Silicon Valley's premium players? When you consider the new digital landscape and the increased influence of customer voices on business processes, it should be easy to spot why it is necessary to reinvent one-size-fits-all marketing strategies. Today's CMO must now examine every available information channel for relevant insight into customer preferences, proving the role is now intrinsically linked with framing strategy around technology implementation.

Over the last decade, I have benefitted from a valuable perspective as a CEO, over just how the role of the CMO has evolved. In my view, there are three reasons for the role's success:

Executive leadership in marketing has become essential for business growth

According to the latest McKinsey and Company global survey of 850 c-level executives, the majority of respondents believe the success or failure of digital programs rests on the shoulders of leadership and organization, rather than pure technology or data considerations. In other words, while making the right technology decisions is important, it is even more important to have the right CMO in place to drive digital programs. It's an executive issue that has been recognised, but one which must now be acted upon. CMOs hold an "outside-in" perspective due to their finger resting squarely on the pulse of the customer experience at all times.

The expanding influence of the CMO on the IT budget

Organisations are increasingly recognising that they need the right technology in place to help communicate and engage with customers in a timely fashion. In fact Gartner predicts that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.

With this increased level of influence and responsibility, CMOs are making technology decisions, beyond the remit of IT, more frequently, in an effort to meet a number of diverse goals - many of which require adopting analytics and CRM/CXM technology.

It's also clear that the CIO and CMO are both equally involved in sponsoring digital initiatives in modern day business. It's therefore critical that today's CMO holds a firm understanding of technology in order to stay competitive, be agile and regularly uncover new customer insights.

The crucial strategic importance of customer Engagement

With customer opinions of more importance than ever, brands must not only understand how to communicate with the customer, they must also be able to interact in a timely and

personal manner. CMOs occupy a very important role in this process, in determining the avenue for organic growth as a result of their insights into customer preferences. The CMO also acts as a brand steward, working with customer service, key influencers and advocates alike to humanise their organisation and provide an authentic voice behind these digital media channels.

Facebook's appointment of a CMO will undoubtedly spark some urgency in other brands to make similar appointments, but what should not be forgotten is the transformative effect such a move might have on internal operations.

Most large organisations typically operate in silos, something the modern CMO has the ability to break down by putting the customer at the core of the business, sharing vital insight, reshaping outdated models and acting as futurists, offering a competitive edge. In business, as in life, the first step is often the hardest but the future is here, now. The only question left here for me to ask is: "Are you on board?"