CMO Traits Necessary for Leading the Future
There is no way we can see the future. It’s unknowable. We can look at trends and imagine what the future will hold, but we cannot know the exact future. For brands that manage risk while innovating, this is a scary proposition. Their survival depends on their ability to quickly pivot, to innovate in real time.
How can companies stay relevant tomorrow, and what is the CMO’s role in continuing that effort?
Here’s a few ways a CMO needs to be stepping up to lead the C-Suite.
It’s no secret that customers are looking for products and services that will make their lives easier and better. We can see that customers are not loyal. For example, no die-hard taxi customers held on to the taxi industry when Uber surfaced. Rather, customers dumped the taxi industry overnight for the no-fuss customer experience of Uber.
This is where the CMO steps in. The CMO’s role is unique because the CMO knows the customer in a way no other officer does. And the person who knows the customer needs to shift the company strategy because profits follow companies that obsess over customer behavior.
The CMO has historically not been involved with the corporate board, however in the future the CMO will have a key role in persuading the board. The mercurial customer of the future will have an influence on the direction of the company.
If a company leaves the CMO out of board-level conversations, the company is missing out on a big opportunity to really know what’s going on in the market. Marketing in the age of customer experience has catapulted the CMO to new levels of importance. It is important for the board to hear from the C-level executive that is most connected to the customer.
Coca-Cola recently cut its CMO role, now promoting a chief growth officer that combines global marketing, customer and commercial leadership strategy. This is an example of how companies are trying to make something that is sometimes seen as unquantifiable more definitive or precise. As we increasingly look to our data to give us this information, CMOs will be held to new standards—the pressure is on to be a data aficionado.
When you ask CMOs what they do, many of them still talk about traditional advertising, but in the future the CMO needs to have a more strategic role within the executive suite and the board. The seemingly intangible metric of customer engagement will balloon in importance and it will be up to the CMO to define what that looks like.
The CMO is in charge of steering digital transformations. As an increasing number of customer experiences are assisted by technology, building that experience holds increasing importance. A company’s ability to transform digitally will determine its success.
Today the strongest brands are curating the brand and its content alongside its customers. The CMO is the most involved in customer strategy and increasingly owns all customer programs. It’s the CMO’s responsibility to know when and how to use new technologies.
It’s hard for us to imagine personalization of tomorrow because customers today have so little of it. Today’s personalization only amounts to ads you get from products you search for online. Customer service generally doesn’t remember what you told them last time you contacted them. Tomorrow, personalization will be a staple of every competitive customer experience, and the CMO will be in charge of making that happen.
It’s important for the CMO to understand emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the opportunities and challenges these technologies pose. The chatbot is an exciting new prospect for companies, but the jury is still out on how much customers will like and use these technologies. The CMO will play a role in figuring out how chatbots will supplement other customer engagement efforts.
While we’ve been using the technology for years, the potential to actually build amazing customer experiences as a result of chatbots will be here soon. Chatbots—by way of machine learning—can better understand what customers are looking for, whether it’s for education, service or sales. The CMO needs to understand these technologies more than anyone.
Today’s most cutting-edge brands understand that communication is more about engagement than a megaphone. Customers are talking to companies and they want to be heard. The challenge for brands is their ability to scale the listening process. The technologies we’ve mentioned above, namely machine learning, will help companies become better listeners.
Customers want to see themselves reflected in your brand. CMOs today need to take the process of co-created content with customers seriously. Co-created content can assist the CMO in curating content alongside its customers. In the future, brands will be actually be publishers.
Understanding how technology can accelerate growth and foster better innovation is important for any leader today, especially the CMO. The CMO must enable teams to work faster with technology and identify opportunities to do so, not just in marketing but across the organization.
The CMO has now become the go-to person when it comes to transformation. The CMO holds the key to the customer’s heart and mind. Leaders must not only be able to see what’s coming around the corner, but anticipate customer needs.
The future of customer experience is personalization and tailored interactions. The CMO needs to think like a CTO and build and drive powerful customer experiences.