Expanding C-Suite Opens Opportunities for Marketing Leaders

Expanding C-Level Roles Mean New Opportunities for Marketers

Last week, we talked about the changes happening in C-level positions throughout the marketplace…today we focus on how these changes affect marketing leaders in particular.

Continuing on to some other C-suite roles in transition, some companies are expanding the job description of their existing CIOs. Others are asking their CMOs to take on the job. Shiv Singh, PepsiCo’s director of digital, North America, forecasts a consolidation of the CMO and CIO roles. As Singh said during a recent Social Media Insider Summit, “Forget the CMO—the next big industry title will be the CMTO [chief marketing and technology officer]. Each time I catch up with my CMO, I ask her how much she is learning about marketing technology.”28 Other organizations are testing new positions such as the chief digital officer and the chief analytics officer, staffing them with people who have both technical know-how and marketing and management expertise.

What’s a Marketer to Do?

With all of these new C-level positions, is there still a place for marketing at the table? Absolutely. The emergence of CCEOs, CIOs, CAOs, and CDOs illustrates the new opportunities available for marketers. We believe that the traditional CMO position can ultimately morph into any of these roles; however, marketers will need to proactively build the requisite skills. We need to get in the game now and take ownership of what is to be.

This may or may not be music to the ears of marketers who are already under a lot of pressure. It can be overwhelming to learn new mind-sets, skills, and processes, even as we are being asked to do our current jobs and measure the value of our contributions. Given the plethora of imperatives for action, it is challenging to place bets on what to emphasize first. But we can do it. Remember the big picture: to know our customers thoroughly, to build profitable relationships with them through great customer experiences, to have our finger on the pulse of demand, and to inspire our broader ecosystems in the endeavor. That combination will make us invaluable to our organizations.

Understand Our Customers Thoroughly

To lead the customer effort, we need to know our customers inside and out. Charles Eames, the world-renowned designer, once said,

“Never outsource understanding”

…and we could not agree more. Drawing from new and traditional sources and ongoing engagement, we can continuously build a living and breathing context for our customers: what are their needs, desires, motivations, and existing beliefs? What are their preferences for communication and purchasing? What makes them act? What gives them meaning? As our organizations’ reach extends into new markets and cultures, this ability to create relevant contexts for our customers is even more important.

Keeping our finger on the pulse of cultural zeitgeists, those movements that are defining the spirit of the time, combined with ongoing conversations with our customers, can help us anticipate where demand may be heading next. What music and philosophies are gaining steam? What consumer-electronic trends and devices might our customers take a cotton to next? What new products or solutions are being developed around the world, and especially in emerging markets, that may change the rules of the game for everyone?

Know How Our Customers Experience Our Brands

We also need to know how our customers experience our brands throughout the customer journey. What attracts people to us and how do they find us? What inspires them to engage? This includes the big notions like our sense of purpose and smaller, concrete things like search terms. Drilling down further: What are our customers’ typical journeys? Who and what are the key influences along the way? Which are our most vital interactions? What touchpoints are redundant or missing or need to be improved? What do our customers value in an experience with us? How do we know? What back-end support is needed to deliver excellence in each of these interactions? How does our marketing spend match up to where our customers are spending the most time? While we can answer these questions at a given point in time, really knowing our customers is a dynamic proposition; these questions need to be asked and answered regularly.

Build Customer Relationships

Ultimate job security and satisfaction comes from our ability to transform key-market segments into relationships with real people who feel a connection with us—and to be able to do so at scale. This requires us to reenvision our role as marketers to be one of trusted advisors rather than pushers of sales. As Gary Vaynerchuk, a wine connoisseur and social media expert says,

“The one who cares the most, wins. It’s about relationships, not platforms. It’s about having real friends.”29

Being able to develop and implement thoughtful customer experiences that coordinate our interactions with each of our market segments across channels fuels these relationships. To pull this off, we need to be creative and data analytic savvy, so that we know the types of experiences that we can deliver. We also need to work with IT to develop an integrated and intelligent customer engagement platform to be able to offer these contextualized experiences at scale.

Coordinate Moving Parts and Integrate Opposites

Designing and delivering remarkable customer experiences is complicated; it involves managing and integrating multiple moving parts: customer service, sales, web design, fulfillment, IT, e-commerce, and more. Each of these parts has to work together consistently to create and deliver the customer experience differential. Just as data scientists consider a variety of inputs to find the signal in the noise, we work across functions to uncover patterns, synthesize points of view, and keep our organizations focused on our constituents.

In addition to coordinating efforts across our organizations, we often have to juggle seemingly opposite influences. We say seemingly opposite, because we know that connecting ideas, objects, and processes that do not normally go together can be quite fruitful—like peanut butter and chocolate before Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

For example, analytics and creativity are two seemingly opposing efforts. Pitting analytics and creativity against each other makes no sense; they need each other. Analytics uncovers the deep insights that fertilize our imaginations and can evaluate the effectiveness of our creative endeavors. Similarly, in an experience-based environment, creativity fuels our connection with our customers. It also spawns innovation, which directly impacts our competitiveness.

Speed and accuracy are two other seemingly opposite forces. By employing entrepreneurial decision-making techniques, however, we can learn by doing. As we translate our thinking into immediate action, we create evidence, improving our accuracy and speed. This too positively impacts our competitiveness.

Be a Curious Expert

Scott Bedbury, a former marketing executive at Nike and Starbucks, made a comment that has stuck with us:

“Show up stupid. Be forever curious.”30

This is great advice. Even as we become the customer experts in our organizations, we must give ourselves permission to always look with fresh ideas, to never get stale in our view, or too sure in our ways. While it is helpful to be aware of how things have always been done, we cannot let our organizations be limited by it. To be successful in this marketing landscape we must ask questions, then reframe the questions, and ask again; it is a proven way to uncover unforeseen answers and opportunities.

Tina Seelig, who teaches about creativity and innovation at the d.school at Stanford University, has found that reframing questions is a great way to unlock the imagination and create fresh solutions. In her book inGenius she illustrates how different the range of possible solutions can be simply by changing the way a question is answered. For example, she asks, Which of the questions below is more thought-provoking?31

What is the sum of 5 plus 5?
What two numbers add up to 10?

Similarly, in his book Think Better, Tim Hurson encourages people to use the word: else. “How else might we solve this problem? Who else might be involved? What else haven’t we thought of yet?”32 In his experience, the best ideas generally come when people hit the “we-are-dry” stage. Up to that point most ideas are generally regurgitations of existing patterns. Following a similar path, at IDEO, they continually ask themselves, “How might we?”

Keep the Faith

Yes, it is a buyer’s market. And yes, our companies are actively contemplating who can best lead their efforts in this new landscape. That means it is a great time filled with opportunity for retooled marketers as well.



How is your company’s leadership changing?
Who is responsible for leading the customer effort? Your data analytics and insight effort? Innovation?
How is strategy developed in your organization? Is it grounded in a deep understanding of customer demand?
What intrigues you most about the opportunities facing marketers? What makes you uncomfortable?
What is your next step?

This content is an example of what ContentOro does for its customers…providing high-quality, relevant content from experts and their published books.

About the Authors

Larry Weber and Lisa Leslie Henderson are the cowriters of this Digital Marketing guide. Larry is the CEO of Racepoint Global, an advanced marketing services firm. A globally known expert in public relations and marketing services, Larry has successfully built companies and brands and is passionate about the future of marketing. Lisa is an observer, synthesizer, and writer who draws extensively from her background in marketing and consulting. Lisa and Larry have collaborated on two guides to date, The Digital Marketer, and Everywhere: Comprehensive Strategy for the Social Media Era. To stay current on their thinking, frequent www.racepoint.com/thedigitalmarketer and follow them at @TheLarryWeber and @ljlhendo.

Buy on Amazon: The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric

28. Jake Wengroff, “CMO & CIO: Art + Science = Success,” CMO.com, www.cmo.com/articles/2010/9/8/cmo–cio-art–science–success.html
29. Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy (New York: HarperCollins)
30. Jackson Phillips, “Scott Bedbury’s Bestowed Industry Wisdom,” www.bloggingaboutads.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/7-bedburys-bestowed-industry-wisdom/
31. Tina Seelig, inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity (New York: Harper-One)
32. Tim Hurson, Think Better (New York: McGraw Hill)

ContentOro revolutionizes the way digital marketers and brands acquire content for marketing. We partner with the world’s best publishers to bring the contents of their books to life on the web with our innovative technology. Creating compelling experiences that tie our content to our clients’ product is our mission.

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