What (Some, if Not Most) CMOs Don’t See

Two things to start:

  1. I have no qualms with CMOs and their responsibilities – it is a critical job in most organizations and hard to do as any other one.
  2. I was not going to caveat the title and say ALL CMOs, but am trying to avoid being singled out as ignorant (yeah, new thing for me – I know)

OK, now that I put on the first layer of asbestos, let’s begin.

The job of a marketer is hard.

According to fellow barb-trader (blog post) Scott Brinker (@ChiefMarTech) as stated during his CxOTalk appearance on 03/21/2014, there are over 1,100 tools that a marketer could use to do their job.  And most of them use more of one of each type (here is a link to his website where he stored the infographic about it).

If I triple count and am generous in giving credit to vendors that are not really in the market but say they are I cannot get to 1,100 tools in Customer Service – nor in Sales, or in most any other discipline I can think of.  That is a challenge to begin.

If you talk to any marketer in the trenches they will tell you their job involves navigating between applications, pulling data from different places to use in others, and constantly struggle to make sure their campaigns and actions reflect ROI.

And this was before the “customer revolution” that turned the entire world from outbound to inbound – and is transforming the world of marketers into a “digital marketing” place – in the process virtually destroying the traditional role of Marketing.

No longer is about finding the people to receive the message, but it is now more focused on influencing others to shape the conversations so the brand remains relevant.  While having no control of the process for the most part.

Talk about challenging.

However, this change brought with it more problems that seen at first light, and this is what some, if not most, of the CMOs I talk to don’t see – yet.

  • Tools are no longer useful as before.  This was made evident at the Adobe Summit that finished last week in Salt Lake City (not singling out Adobe, merely using them as a data point).  I did not attend in person, to be honest, but I watched some of the streamed sessions, talked to many people who were there, read their reports (good job by Dan Lyons here) and “saw the tweets go by“.  The entire event was about a collection of tools (great tools, nothing bad about them) and the people who use them.  There was virtually nothing about strategy, about aligning with business objectives or even about corresponding to KPIs.  It was about getting the job done.  And getting the job done for a business is more than tools.  If CMOs moved to the forefront of the “customer revolution” as they say, then they need to realize it is not about tactics but strategies.  Even the data Adobe presented talked to tools (and lack of understanding – see below)
As a side item, fellow influencer, Godfather of CRM, and master of all #EnSw (not to mention good friend) Paul Greenberg is posting his take on the Adobe Summit soon – will update with link when he does.  It is a very good post from what he shared so far…
  • The role of marketing (and virtually all functions in the organization) has changed.  And will continue to change.  I have talked about Digital Transformation before (here is my “manifesto” about it – 4,500 words, and below is a tweet about a two-part interview I did with Jon Reed @Diginomica recently.  Good stuff) and this is a critical paradigm shift in our lives.  Everything in the organization is changing (unfortunately we are adding digital to the front of things now, like we did with Social and e- and i- everything before instead of really changing it – #LeSigh) and will continue to do so.  These changes require more – much more – than tools, and Marketing is lagging on the strategic aspects of this shift.
  • Strategy is more than saying we are going to do something – even if you put numbers to that something.  The use of ROI to justify everything they do talks to a tactical approach to the world.  In a strategic world ROI does not matter as much (there are other metrics that do, don’t get me wrong – but the investment is usually too big to be justified in an ROI calculation only).  Half-jokingly I tell people that ROI is more like CYA when management does not understand what you are doing and want to make sure they are not help responsible for “wasting money”.  Marketing needs to get past this, even if they have more data to make the calculations work to the point of measuring each single interaction.  ROI is no their justification, the digital transformation paradigm shift is – and that requires a strategic, not tactical approach.



This is not meant to attack CMOs or marketers. In spite of my early lack of understanding on the value of Marketing in my career (which I might’ve stated publicly – just in case you run a search on the terms) I have learned since a lot about it and the value it brings to the organization.  No group in the organizations is as talented as they are at crafting and managing a message.  Messages are incredibly valuable in this new world, as are tools and methods to manage them. The CMO and their organization, if they become more strategic, are critical.

Alas, (some, if not most) they are not getting the radical change that is happening.

That — needs to change.

What do you think? Am i missing the point entirely? Am i being unfair?

Would love your thoughts…

disclaimer: Adobe is not now, nor in the past has been, a client.  I had a semi-short, unpaid consulting session with them about three years ago when they were embarking on this trek.  Doubt they will remember, but I remember it was about  — marketing as Social CRM.  While they have made great progress since then (it was somewhat painful) they’d be the first ones to tell you there’s work to be done.  I also have no dealings of grudges against any other CMO, or any of the other people mentioned here or linked to from here.  I think we are embarking on a great debate that will effectively changed market from the top down – as opposed to just seeing tools change and evolve.

5 Replies to “What (Some, if Not Most) CMOs Don’t See”

  1. OK, let me see if I am to get this right:

    The issue is we (the collective) are undergoing a digital transformation that is changing the rules. I am not sure what the rules were, therefore I am even less sure about what they now are, but the rules have changed. Further, the CMOs (again, as a collective) should be leading us to where we need to be, but they (most of them) are missing the boat – Do I have that part correct?

    The second part is in regards to tools. This is an interesting one because it involves a bit of a circular argument. Marketers at many of the tool vendors have successfully convinced us that all we really need are good tools and the rest will take care of itself – right? This is not isolated to Marketing, but includes many other disciplines as well. Well, then we surely need to admit that the marketers have won that battle – but the rest of us are losing the war.


  2. Yes.

    Problem is: Gartner (and everyone who parroted the erroneously reported research) said that CMOs will rule the earth with their newfound riches and budgets and:

    a) that did not happen
    b) that will not happen
    c) a lot of CMOs are counting on that to happen

    This piece is an opinion piece that is part of the largest research I am doing in Digital Transformation, which I see as the next Paradigm Shift in business, and I see Marketing as the canary in the coal mine in this world. They are forging ahead of other disciplines and business units and are the ones that are noticing the noxious gases first.

    At the end of the day, as you say, this applies to all of the BU and disciplines equally – but Marketing drew the short straw by going there first.

    It is not about tools, that was one way to frame the discussion – as you will noticed I did not mention any tools or technologies. It is about remembering that the long journeys ahead cannot be made without a sensible strategy or two. or three. or four. or ten.

    Better? 🙂


  3. you are right. Often, Marketing can’t tell the difference between being “strategic” versus being “customer driven”. granted, that the two approaches go hand in hand and that there is some overlap but strategy is about recognizing trends and taking bold decisions often without the comfort of an ROI statement, often ignoring what customers might be telling us in the short term.


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