CMOs and Digital Transformation: How We Can Lead
Nov 01, 2019
Digital Transformation is creating fundamentally new operational models and ways of engaging with customers. These changes are having a similarly dramatic impact on the roles and responsibilities of business leaders.
Perhaps nowhere more so than in marketing.
Traditionally, marketers have struggled to be taken seriously in the boardroom. We’re often pigeonholed as the “creative” types focused on emotion, intuition and imagery, rather than on concrete facts and quantifiable contributors. As a result, we’ve often been excluded from important decisions. But this is changing. As Digital Transformation becomes a top priority, the marketing function is emerging from the shadows and assuming an increasingly critical role in business strategy and execution.
Main reason: the digital imperative centers on the customer experience; specifically, on using technology to deliver goods and services in an efficient, engaging and memorable way. Business leaders recognize that fulfilling this potential requires more than technical capabilities. Rather, the insight that marketing brings to the table – insight into what a customer wants and expects from an experience – is essential to deliver the critical competitive edge our CEOs are looking for.
A second factor contributing to marketing’s heightened boardroom visibility is centered around Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled data analytics to provide quantifiable insight into what customers have done in the past, what they’re likely to do in the future, how they perceive a brand and what it will take to influence that perception. While marketers have long relied on data to develop and execute strategies and measure campaigns, Big Data radically changes the landscape by enabling a fact-based, customer-focused foundation that can enable new business strategies.
These trends mean that we CMOs are more likely to play a critical role in defining and managing the direction of our organizations. While that’s great, we also need to meet the higher expectations that accompany our new status. More specifically, we need to convert data and customer insights into bottom-line impacts. Social media data analytics present a compelling opportunity to do just that. Leading retailers, for example, are developing initiatives to use social media platforms to facilitate financial transactions. This creates a win/win – by generating revenue while at the same time streamlining the purchasing process and enhancing the customer experience.
Being held accountable for business results is only part of the story for today’s CMO. A recent survey and report by Forbes Insights provides valuable insights into how Digital Transformation is changing the way we engage and collaborate with C-level colleagues.
Three recommendations from the report:
- Digital is about wins and lessons, not wins and losses. CMOs should play a leading role in facilitating experimentation and – when an initiative falls short of expectations – focusing on lessons learned rather than failures. While this may seem like a way to shirk responsibility, a culture of innovation and new ideas has to encourage risk-taking to be effective – and innovation by definition involves risk.
- Celebrate and share collaborative moments. The Forbes report states that collaborative organizations that see experimentation as an asset are 85 percent more likely to be effective at digital initiatives. CMOs, meanwhile, are ideally positioned to drive collaboration by, for example, sharing metrics and reports on marketing initiatives to explore how digital can support other parts of the business.
- Become a center of enablement and insight and not just action. Forbes’ research found that 72 percent of organizations are struggling with transformation. The report recommends CMOs take the lead in internal communications to share learnings across the organization, and facilitate the development of cross-functional teams that generate new ideas.
These are exciting times for marketers.
As technology continues to change the business landscape, our functions and strategic position has also evolved. We are a critical component of how companies are redefining themselves and driving new business models.
Let’s seize the opportunity and help our businesses succeed in the digital era!