CMOsEvery year IBM releases the key findings from their Global C-suite Study and everyone scrambles to dig through it to find that one piece of information that might change their entire marketing strategy. To save you some time, we’ve picked five key takeaways from the study of 4,183 top executives from more than 20 industries so you can learn how the big dogs are earning the loyalty of “digitally enfranchised customers and citizens.” Let us know in the comments if you’re a CMO—or another C-suite exec—who has some thoughts about what it means to be a CMO in this changing world of marketing.

1. CMOs influence CEOs more than almost any other exec.

CEOs are increasingly calling on CMOs for strategic input, according to the study. In fact, CMOs are “second only to the CFO in terms of the influence he or she exerts on the CEO.” 63% of the CMOs surveyed are involved in business strategy development, so this means it’s more important than ever for CMOs to have access to flawless data. After all, if the CEO is going to lean on the head of marketing for advice when major decisions are being made, then the data those decisions are made from needs to be solid. In this new era of the CMO’s role, all marketing successes, without exception, need to be able to be attributable. Marketers have access to all kinds of tools to help with this—clickstream reporting, advanced call tracking abilities, Google Analytics integrations—and this section of the study reinforced the fact that CMOs, more than ever, need to be on top of all the ways to prevent making important decisions on bad data.

2. Very few CMOs have implemented key components of a digital strategy.

This is an unfortunate point to be made, but one that is important for CMOs to hear: when it comes to implementing advanced analytics to capture customer insight across all touchpoints, a whopping 88% of CMOs only “somewhat” or “to a limited extent” explored those avenues. What’s more, only 16% of CMOs have integrated customer touchpoints across physical and digital channels to what they consider “a large extent,” and only 20% are using social media to a large extent. With the changing paths of how customers are making purchasing decisions and the multiple avenues they have in gathering information about companies they want to do business with, many businesses are scrambling with how to keep up with them, and marketing organizations are struggling to find ways to engage with their customers in ways that are meaningful to the customer, as well as finding ways to measure that engagement.

“To succeed in the digital era, you have to be totally in sync with the behavior and preferences of your customers in a fast-changing landscape,” a quote from the study says. “You have to be quick and adaptable.” It’s true. If marketers want to integrate customer touchpoints across physical and digital channels, then they have to get used to the idea that those touchpoints might exist in mediums they’re not comfortable with: social media, or a phone call. Many CMOs are uneasy with these one-to-one engagements, but with research showing that mobile search will drive over 73 billion phone calls by 2018, CMOs need to bite the bullet and meet their customers where they are, wherever that might be.

3. There’s a huge gap between aspiration and action.

Above, we noted the findings that CMOs are lagging in their use of digital and digitally integrated technologies. But it’s important to note that these same CMOs have aspirations to use the technology they’re behind in utilizing. 94% of CMOs plan to use mobile applications more extensively in the future, compared to 80% in 2011, and 89% plan to focus on customer relationship management more extensively, compared to 81% in 2011. Interest in advanced analytics is up too, with 94% of CMOs expressing a desire to increase usage, compared to just 66% in 2011. CMOs have their eye on the ball, but can they catch it fast enough? Can you?

4. CMOs fall into three distinct profiles.

Despite similarity in the challenges they face, the report found that CMOs fall into three distinct profiles: the Digital Pacesetter, the Social Strategist, and the Traditionalist. The Traditionalist are struggling with data, new channels/devices, have yet to integrate physical and digital sales and service channels, seldom engages on social media, etc. The Social Strategist has gone a little farther, recognizing social media’s potential and building infrastructure to operate in the social arena. But, like Traditionalists, haven’t begun to fully take advantage of the data and analytics social media offers. Finally, the Digital Pacesetters are much farther down the road and are prepared for the data explosion and are actively putting the resources required to operate as a fully integrated physical-digital enterprise in place. They regularly use advanced analytics to generate insights from customer data. Guess who’s outperforming who?

5. Winning CMOs know the value of data.

This ties all the way back to #1. With CEOs relying more heavily on CMOs for decision-making, successful CMOs know the increasingly value of good data, and according to the study, 66% of those abovementioned Digital Pacesetters who are outperforming other CMOs are integrating data from all sources to better understand customers: they understand that data and creating an optimal customer experience are not exclusive. This means embracing all channels of engagement with them: social media, mobile experience, phone calls, and more. The pressure is on CMOs, and who comes out on top will say everything about how willing they are to embrace a rapidly shifting marketing world.

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