Even after more than 20 years of Chief Marketing Officer recruiting, each time I place one I learn a lot. I learn not just what skills and qualities companies are looking for in these captains of commerce, but I also glean valuable insight into why candidates fail to make the final cut. You’ll find plenty of books and research on what makes a successful Chief Marketing Officer. But you probably won’t find many on why CMO candidates get passed over. I could easily write 50 separate articles on the “elimination factors.” But here, I’m going to focus on the importance of one very key element in the future of the Chief Marketing Officer: Technology.
Chief Marketing Officers are at a critical stage in their evolution. Everything in the CMO’s world is changing: Their customers are changing, their business is changing, and expectations of their role as a leader are also changing. CMO’s have evolved from marketing leader to business leader. CMO’s are the new digital disruptors who rethink the very foundation of their business. This is the age of the customer, where the most important source of competitive advantage is to be customer obsessed. To win, serve and retain these empowered customers, the future of the Chief Marketing Officer means that they must recognize that technology often represents the new opportunity to drive their business, and they must create new strategies that capture and capitalize on these opportunities.
The proliferation of technology is totally changing how marketers work and the skills they need to succeed. It has given them far more ways to reach their customers and much wider access to data. As technology continues to fuel the inner workings of most every marketing operation, my CMO candidates need to have a firm grasp of technology just to even be considered by my clients. To be clear, my clients are not expecting their CMO’s to manage programmers or engineers. Rather, they need strong ideation skills around the creative use of technology. Marketers must also be able to handle the sometimes complex technical aspects of dealing with external agencies and service providers.
Many Fortune 500 corporations have responded by creating a new role, Chief Marketing Technologist, also known under other related titles, to set the technology vision for marketing and create the organizational structure to support it. Most CMT’s report up to either the CMO or other executive marketing leader.
For the future of the Chief Marketing Officer, all of this has made the job of CMO a great deal more challenging. Not only do they need to keep up with technological advances, they must ensure that they surround themselves with the right people and the right processes to optimize their tech investments, and that means continual advancement in tech skills. This growing emphasis on technology is pushing some marketers square outside of their IT comfort zone. But fact is, technological know-how is a key differentiator because at the end of the day that’s how businesses engage with audiences in the digital age. Those who are behind the technology curve will find themselves spending more time and resources playing catch up with CMO’s who are ahead of the curve, and leading their organizations into market dominance.