The SiriusDecisions Summit 2016 was one of the best conferences I’ve attended—and I, as you know, attend many. Presented by SiriusDecisions, a global B2B research and advisory firm, the recent event, in Nashville, focused on how to accomplish the difficult digital transformation work while achieving intelligent growth.
To get at the CMO-centric issues and opportunities, CMO.com talked with SiriusDecisions’ Jay Gaines, vice president and group director, marketing executive services, and his teammate, Jennifer Ross, service director, marketing leadership strategies and CMO Peer Advisor. Gaines and Ross led SiriusDecisions’ just-completed annual study of B2B CMOs with input from hundreds of leading B2B organizations in North America, EMEA, and APAC. They gave CMO.com a look into their initial analysis; the final report will be issued in early July. (Click here to read a companion article, “CMO’s Notebook: Digital Transformation Is A Mindset, Not A Project.”)
CMO.com: Jay, you’ve been a B2B CMO and now work with many CMOs across a variety of B2B verticals. What are the top three challenges B2B CMOs are dealing with today as they lead digital transformation and enablement in their companies?
Gaines: The No. 1 challenge for B2B CMOs is that they continue to struggle to gain understanding among the rest of the C-suite and across the company of what “modern marketing” actually is and what it can do for their business. There are a lot of legacy perceptions. Marketing in the B2B world has gone through a massive evolution in the past seven years with new approaches, new technologies, becoming much more customer/audience-centric rather than product-centric. So CMOs have a big challenge to educate other leaders. And part of this is that marketing now is not just about designing collateral, doing press releases, creating logos, and hosting events. Marketing is much more operationalized, it’s process-oriented, and has direct impact on revenues, profits, and sales productivity, but only when it is understood and supported properly. ... Fortunately, we see that internal education about what marketing should and can do is accelerating. Once CMOs educate their C-suite, they can support why they need funding for new marketing-led programs and mar-tech and to develop the right enabling skill sets and capabilities.
The No. 2 challenge that we hear all the time from CMOs is they are operating in a fog of technology options. There’s been a massive explosion of new mar-tech and approaches, processes, and required capabilities that go along with this tech. The question we get all the time is, “How do I make good decisions about the tech we should adopt, and how do I know the right ways to implement and integrate this new tech, what new processes, capabilities, and talent do we need to optimize its benefits?” CMOs need to put themselves in good positions to communicate the why, how, and positive impact of new tech to the C-suite and to recommend, sell in, operationalize, and optimize very good tech choices for their specific use cases.
The No. 3 challenge is not having enough of the right people in their organizations with the right, new skills and capabilities to use and optimize the new tech, and to also be able to capture and make useful sense of the abundance of big data. There are many people who claim to have this expertise, but it is very hard to hire people who are truly experts in various tech platforms.
Ross: To add onto the No. 3 challenge, we often see that when companies do adopt new tech platforms, they now have the ability to capture lots of new data and a never-ending list of things that they can now measure. But CMOs need help to develop the right types of metrics and dashboards to use this new data wisely to capture useful insights, to influence the company, and to show where marketing is having a meaningful impact on the business versus it appearing that marketing is just focused on volume of activity, which reinforces legacy perceptions of what marketing is.
CMO.com: SiriusDecisions just completed its 2016 CMO Study, now in its third edition. You’ve shared initial insights with CMO.com in an infographic [also embedded at end of this article]. What was the purpose and scope of the study? What are the biggest insights and implications?
Ross: The purpose of the study was to examine the things that are having the greatest impact on marketing strategy. We wanted to explore whether there was a focus on a particular growth strategy and what the implications were on priorities, etc., based on that growth strategy. We took a two-year view of what is changing and impacting the CMO’s thinking about their function, role, priorities, capabilities, and marketing strategy across the company.
One of the things we’ve seen a lot of change around over the past few years is the focus on marketing sharing accountably for generating growth and revenue. This was the first area we wanted to get an update on. We wanted to know what CMOs’ primary growth and revenue strategy was. The infographic highlights that we learned there are five primary growth strategies: new markets, new buyers, new offerings, productivity, and acquisition. In fact, 88% of respondents said their organizations were pursuing as many as all five growth strategies.
With each of these strategies, there are implications for marketing in terms of how you structure it, the capabilities and talent needed, processes and workflow, tech tools and insights needed, interdepartment collaboration, etc. CMOs and C-suites are recognizing that if they change their primary intelligent growth strategy, then they need to move away from the way things have always been done and develop new processes, tools, and talent. For example, the study indicates that CMOs are investing in marketing planning technology and stronger internal processes to co-plan with other functions to have a seat upstream in the strategic-planning process versus their traditional downstream role.
Gaines: One of the challenges we see our CMO clients having is when a growth strategy has changed and there isn’t clarity around what needs to change to support it, then it is very hard for marketing to focus and understand how they can contribute to the new strategy. We recommend that early in the change process, there should be a readiness assessment so that all C-suite leaders can come together and coordinate their work for the new strategy.
CMO.com: What is the survey telling CMOs about where the biggest changes will be made in marketing organizations to support the new strategies?
Ross: The constant emergence of new marketing technologies continues at an astounding pace. My advice is don’t be consumed by the number of technology choices but instead to embrace the opportunities. Our CMO study indicates that B2B marketing leaders are doing just that, with 83% of CMOs surveyed reporting an increase in their 2016 marketing budgets. When asked how the additional investments would be allocated across programs, personnel, technology [systems and tools], and outsourced services, they ranked “systems and tools” as the No. two investment category–second only to program spend.
Further validating the importance of systems and tools to fueling a high-performing marketing organization, the CMOs reporting a budget decrease this year indicated that systems and tools would be the least affected of the four categories. We also saw that business intelligence and customer intelligence management top the list of technology investment priorities for CMOs. There is more on this in my blog post “Where B2B CMOs are Placing Technology Bets.”
CMO.com: What are your calls to action to CMOs and the C-suite at B2B companies to lead digital transformation and intelligent growth in their organizations?
Gaines: The No. 1 thing CMOs should be doing is bringing focus to their organizations and their business, in general. A key part of this is the transformation to audience-centricity, which will enable CMOs with deep audience insights to bring focus around what their customers want. Become a business leader that happens to lead marketing.
Also, as B2B marketing evolves, we are seeing much more application of science, data analysis, process orientation, and operationalizing marketing. The science of marketing can enable the art of marketing. This is in line with the summit theme, “The Art and Science of Intelligent Growth.” But I do think more B2B CMOs need to also focus more on the art side. There is an opportunity to create an emotional response in your B2B buyers. A B2B purchase isn’t entirely logical. We are all humans. Any B2B purchase decision is based on trust and, therefore, emotion. We’ve seen this art-and-science balance in the B2C world for a long time.
Ross: CMOs and the C-suite need to be thinking about how to transform their business models, approaches, and organization design to be customer/audience-centric versus product-centric. A lot of our study data points to this being the most important pivot to focus on. This is a huge challenge in most companies and marketing departments. We spend a lot of our time at SiriusDecisions helping our clients make this “plan, build, run transformation” to customer-centricity. I would also recommend that CMOs do an audit of their current mar-tech stacks and think about what their growth strategies are, what tech and talent they have in place today, and what they need to add to achieve their intelligent growth objectives. Avoid chasing the next shiny object.