3 Ways Data is Changing The Role of the CMO

Marketing is all about decisions. What creative is going to resonate most with my audience? What channels are going to perform best and where should I commit the most budget? Which regions should I...

Marketing is all about decisions. What creative is going to resonate most with my audience? What channels are going to perform best and where should I commit the most budget? Which regions should I be targeting and when to get the best ROAS? There are countless dials you can turn to increase the impact of a message.

The amount and complexity of data available to help marketers make better decisions is phenomenal, and it continues to grow. And, for many marketing teams, data still represents untapped potential. 

But all that could be about to change. Sophisticated data-driven strategies aren’t just for big business titans anymore, the availability of advanced tech is leveling the playing field and marketing teams across all company sizes are becoming increasingly responsible for their performance data. And as a result, the role of the CMO is evolving to account for this growing emphasis on data and marketing analytics. Here are a few of the key changes that I am already starting to see across the industry.

1. CMOs are more accountable than ever — but they also have more of a seat at the table

The old adage of ‘not knowing where 50% of your marketing budget goes’ is out the window. Throw it in the bin. I would never be able to get away with that narrative the same way some of my old bosses did. CMOs are experiencing a huge pull towards accountability, and that’s because we have better access than ever to performance data.

If my budget gets cut by 10%, I could categorically tell you the difference that would make to revenue. I know what that’s going to do to the number of demos we get, the number of sales accepted opportunities — there’s a direct correlation. It’s not an accident, and it’s not finger in the air — it’s a science and it's measurable.

 

If my budget gets cut by 10%, I could categorically tell you the difference that would make to revenue.

Harriet Durnford Smith, CMO, Adverity

 

For decades, marketing has struggled to get a seat at the table because we cannot prove our worth. Marketing is, at best, a bunch of creative branding exercises of intangible nebulous benefits that never (at least in the eyes of the board) actually contribute anything concrete when it comes to important stuff like revenue, right? Wrong. Today, marketing data and the ability to efficiently measure performance has given us the opportunity to clearly demonstrate our value to the company’s bottom line. 

Sure, getting to this point isn’t easy. In fact, our recent research found that 47% of CMOs struggle to demonstrate the business impact of marketing efforts. But we’re starting to get to the tipping point now where it’s harder to hold onto legacy systems and clunky outdated ways of measuring performance. And those who are getting on board are seeing the good that this level of accountability and visibility over their team’s performance can do.

2. CMOs depend on digital-natives now more than ever

Up until the last century, the biggest technological changes we’ve had to adapt to have largely been singular — iron, plastic, electricity even. But now the biggest change isn’t any one particular technology, it’s the rate at which we’re advancing, and how quickly those new technologies are coming around.

CMOs depend more than ever on their younger, digital-native counterparts to understand and take advantage of these new technologies and the different mindsets that they grew up with. I think this is especially true in massive, well-established legacy companies and industries.

By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millenials, and I think this is a big driver in the shift towards a data-first culture within marketing. But there’s still a massive skills gap in a lot of organizations, and part of that is because the culture of data isn’t being pushed from the top down enough. 

3. CMOs need to give their team the freedom to make mistakes

Marketing has always been a results-focused discipline, and that can make it difficult to implement long-term changes that take a while to pay off. However, a big part of making decisions with data is trial and error — and that means allowing room for your marketers to make mistakes.

In a roundtable we conducted last year, I will always remember Andy Lark, CCO at Dubber, explaining how marketers need to start thinking like scientists — making hypotheses and testing them. This means accepting that mistakes will be made, but that learning from those mistakes has enormous long-term value.

But, if your company sees marketing as a cost center then that’s not going to happen. It’s a delicate balance between showing that your marketing team can use data to make these short-term wins and finding the time and resources to set up a sustainable data-driven strategy.

Conclusion: CMOs need to start being data champions

Ultimately, data is the most important asset marketers have in terms of giving the best experience and acquiring and delighting customers, and CMOs should be conscious of making sure their marketers have access to the right insights to make this work. 

CMOs need to lead from the top and become data champions in their own right — identifying what data their teams need, giving them the tools to draw insights from it efficiently, and giving them the space and freedom to work with it.