Marketers are beginning to adapt to the realities of today’s empowered customer. Armed with high-tech mobile devices and backed by legions in their social networks, there’s no doubt that consumers now can flex their buying muscle in new ways. They can gather product information, read reviews, comparison shop, solicit opinions, ask for customer service and eventually, buy –all whenever and wherever they choose to do so.
But, what’s happening at the other end of the purchasing spectrum? Aren’t today’s CMOs more empowered than ever before, too? Or, don’t they at least have the potential to be more empowered than ever before –if they choose to rise to the challenge?
According to the dictionary, the word “empowered” means invested with power, control or official authority. Clearly, buying behaviors have changed forevermore, and consumers control the marketplace in new and exciting ways. In many respects, marketers are still playing catch-up, still learning to tame the latest channels so they can be used to better connect with our target audiences, still finding their place in the C-suite, still maturing into key corporate decision makers.
Will there come a time when CMOs also feel as empowered as their customers?
Here’s how I see it. Today’s CMOs will feel empowered as strategic thought leaders when they fully accept the challenges going forward and realize that new authority goes hand-in-hand with new responsibility. For example, for me, the empowered CMO:
1. Owns engagement with customer, but not all functions.Marketers must take a new, customer-centric approach because now, the customer experience rules. Traditional “push” advertising is becoming less effective as customers no longer separate “marketing” from your product or the service they received (either on- or off-line). These days, everyone at your organization has to be on the same page, since as McKinsey said, “In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.”
2. Owns building bridges with the CIO to express strategy through technology. In today’s digital marketplace, technology is essential to improve marketing performance and processes and deliver better, more integrated campaigns with higher ROI. Rifts and/or lack of communication between marketing and IT can no longer be tolerated. Instead, collaboration is critical. Data is now the foundation of creative thinking, and marketing and IT must learn to master the modern fire hose of digital customer data and drive revenue growth together. (See my earlier blog post for specific suggestions to help CMOs build robust strategic partnerships with CIOs.)
3. Owns making rest of the organization uncomfortable. All marketers –whether B2B or B2C –are now part of an industry-wide revolution. The marketing function is evolving, and CMOs have no choice but to become change agents. We need to lead the way, and at first, not everyone is going to want to follow. That’s no surprise; change is never easy. But, business survival today depends on making the transformation, and CMOs have no choice but to be persistent. Fortunately, a new emphasis on accountability and ROI will help us make the case for change.
4. Owns showing value, both internally and externally. Marketing is one of the last business functions to integrate its data, processes and systems, and as a result, CMOs face tremendous fragmentation and complexity in proving ROI. That may make the job initially more difficult, but it’s no excuse for avoiding accountability. Today’s CMOs can use integrated marketing applications that merge digital data with offline and consumer information to create a much clearer picture of the value of marketing –and that’s the view we need to communicate in the boardroom.
5. Owns being the linebacker, not the quarterback. Your team doesn’t need you to control the ball and call all the plays. Your team needs you to know the playbook and remove all the obstacles. If you do that, then the team can get to work winning the game. Over the years, I have learned there is a fine line between knocking down roadblocks and disempowering. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll actually gain authority by delegating responsibility to your team.
What are your thoughts? Do you feel empowered as a CMO? How will you go beyond the traditional and tactical to become more of a strategic partner in the C-suite?