Insight/ General Management

3 Ways CMOs Must Unite Their Organizations


by Suketu Gandhi
Deloitte Consulting

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Article Highlights:

  • The CMO is the leader principally suited to engaging other leaders.
  • Taking advantage of a new technology early, rather than waiting it out, can make a big difference.
  • CMOs should bring together virtual and physical environments to create a single consumer-oriented experience.

Want a 360-degree view of your customer? Join the club. These days it seems like nearly every part of the business is trying to create a full picture of the consumer–from customer service and product development to risk management and, of course, marketing.

What’s more, each function brings its own set of tools and data sources–service feedback, purchasing patterns, user reviews, market research, social media, you name it. But they’re likely to fall short of creating a truly inclusive picture of the consumer without the leadership of one important executive: the CMO. That’s because nobody else operates at the chaotic intersection of a company’s products and services, the predictably irrational people they serve, and the data they are constantly generating.

Over the past decade, many CMOs have made big strides in their efforts to create a more nuanced, multidimensional view of the consumer. From neuroscience capabilities that allow them to see which parts of the brain are activated by different cues, to analytics capabilities that mine social and transactional data for hidden patterns in preferences and behavior, CMOs are raising customer insight to an art form.

Unfortunately, even these kinds of next-level technical capabilities may not be sufficient for CMOs to provide the full value their companies need. CMOs can also serve as organizational lightning rods that bring together capabilities and insights from across the enterprise. And if they don’t? Their businesses will likely press ahead with an insufficiently clear view of their consumers–a hit-or-miss approach that can waste valuable resources and leave the organization at a competitive disadvantage.

Making this transition may not be intuitive for many CMOs, who often feel lucky to get their own marketing teams aligned around customer insights–much less bring other organizational stars into play. Much heavy-lifting will be required to get from here to there, but CMOs should consider three fundamental changes to begin laying the groundwork for today.

1. Move To The Middle
Many leaders have a stake in a company’s ability to understand and connect with consumers–but too often they’re not taking part in the same conversation. Consider the CIO, for example. CIOs can play a central role in an organization’s pursuit of a better view of the consumer, but they’re often left standing on the sidelines. Likewise, the head of R&D can have plenty of consumer-focused insights to bring to the table, but can often be locked out of decision-making when it comes to marketing and product strategy.

Unless someone makes a first move, this siloed scenario can continue indefinitely. It’s up to the CMO to become the catalyst. The CMO is the leader principally suited to engaging other leaders, including the CFO, in a shared, ongoing, customer-oriented conversation. CMOs should be at the middle of the table. And that may require re-engineering many of their internal relationships.

2. Drink The (Technology) Kool-Aid
There are plenty of reasons for CMOs to be wary of new technologies. When you’re bombarded with “ the next big thing” at least once a week, adopting a wait-and-see approach seems like a no-brainer. Why place bets before seeing which technologies actually get traction in the marketplace?

At the same time, technology adoption is becoming a leading predictor of achievements in consumer engagement. Taking advantage of a new technology early, rather than waiting it out, can make a big difference. In this environment, a customer-focused CMO can place smarter, more informed bets. How? By evaluating progressive new technologies by their ability to influence interactions between the company and the consumer. If you make that your criteria, then you may have less reason to be scared of technology–and more reasons to embrace it.

3. Decompartmentalize
In the not-so-distant past, marketing organizations sustained a series of narrowly focused conversations in different channels with the same consumers. As a result, consumer interactions with a company through, say, social media channels may have been very different from those through other channels, such as customer service, catalogs, in-store, and mobile. Anyone can see that this type of compartmentalized approach is unsustainable. Customers want to have the same experience across channels. That’s why CMOs should bring together virtual and physical environments to create a single, effective, consumer-oriented experience. Reaching outside of the marketing organization’s traditional boundaries to create this new experience is essential.

Are you sensing a pattern here? It can be hard to plot a path to a more sophisticated understanding of the consumer that doesn’t wind through parts of the organization that may not have been fully engaged before. IT. Finance. Research. They’re central to the cause. And in many organizations today, those groups are doing their own thing on the periphery. The CMO can serve as a catalyst to bring these various groups together.