How Being Customer-Obsessed Can Increase a CMO’s Tenure

October 24, 2018 Kira Byrne

With customer data at their fingertips, the most effective (and longest lasting) CMOs use insights-driven analytics to structure their marketing processes around customers’ wants and needs.

In the three decades since it became a C-suite mainstay, there has been a significant uptick in the average tenure of the CMO: while the average stay was just 23.6 months in 2004, CMOs are now sticking around for an average of 44 months.

The CMO role has undergone massive changes in this time: from the dawn of direct mailer campaigns, to the explosive arrival of social media, to the rapid proliferation of programmatic media buying, the digital revolution has fundamentally redefined what it means to be an effective CMO. However, marketers who understand the importance of improving the customer experience are the ones that have contributed to the recent uptick in tenure: according to Forbes, “the very best marketers are performance-led, metrics-focused and have an incredible balance of art and science.”

This new focus on measured performance has presented a challenge for CMOs and rank-and-file marketers alike. While Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends survey found that 65% of marketers believe that improving their data analysis will be “a very important factor” in delivering improved customer experiences, eMarketer cites a lack of analytical prowess as the biggest obstacle marketers face in effectively putting customer data to use.

Ultimately, the primary role of the CMO in 2018 is to leverage data-driven insights as a means of delivering compelling, highly personalized customer experiences — and sophisticated customer analytics platforms are the means to that end.

Building a Customer-Centric Marketing Department

Especially in the retail space, today’s best marketing teams (and the CMOs who lead them) are obsessively customer-centric. Instead of structuring their approach around a particular product line or marketing channel, these teams focus first and foremost on crafting processes — and the metrics to evaluate them — based on what their customers actually want.

Traditionally, a retail CMO would create separate teams for each of the brand’s primary marketing channels. Oftentimes, each team would be so entrenched in its own silo that it would be totally oblivious to what the other teams were doing. The email team would monitor open rates for a brand’s email campaigns, the social team would monitor click-through rates for the brand’s Facebook ads or sponsored Instagram posts, and the direct mail team would monitor coupon redemption rates for the brand’s paper mailings. Despite working for the same brand — and the same CMO — each team might even take a different approach to audience segmentation, making it effectively impossible to get a holistic view of any given customer’s behavior across multiple platforms.

A customer-obsessed CMO, on the other hand, inserts customer insights into their team’s operational “engine room.” In the context of a campaign to re-engage lapsing customers, for example, an effective CMO will leverage insights-driven analyses to determine a customer’s relationship with the brand across all channels.

Say a frequent shopper with a high customer lifetime value (CLV) interacts with your brand frequently, but that interaction is spread across a range of channels, both digital and IRL. In a traditional marketing setup, there would be no way to analyze all of these interactions holistically. Instead, this customer might be identified as in danger of churn based on their limited interactions with the brand on one platform, such as Facebook. They’d then be targeted with some sort of “we miss you” messaging — nevermind the fact that they actually engage with the brand more deeply than the majority of customers.

Conversely, in a customer-obsessed marketing setup, the CMO would be able to see that this high-value customer simply prefers to engage with the brand via email, and would therefore be able to instruct their team to target the customer with “you’re a VIP” messaging. This level of targeting precision and messaging personalization is only possible when a CMO approaches marketing through a customer-centric — not a channel- or product-centric — lens.

The Hallmarks of a Modern CMO

There are a number of things customer-obsessed CMOs can do to facilitate this kind of cross-channel marketing.

According to eMarketer, 58.5% of marketers believe that “dissolving silos between business/functional groups would be one of the most important changes their organization could make to derive value from their data.” As a leader, it’s a CMO’s job to both break down silos and empower their marketing teams to take a customer-first approach. CMOs should help their teams establish collaborative, complementary relationships with the teams that manage business intelligence and customer relationship management, each of which plays a critical role for a customer-centric brand.

The CMO of 2018 should also be in it for the long haul. In retail, this means being willing to reconsider the role brick-and-mortar stores can — and should — play in a brand’s overall business strategy. As Millennial and Gen Z consumers become an increasingly dominant force in the marketplace, physical stores are no longer just places to make a purchase; they’ve become places to discover a brand’s products and enjoy an immersive brand experience. For CMOs, this shift will necessitate a reevaluation of what “success” looks like.

So what’s a CMO to do? To achieve this new definition of success, sophisticated customer analytics tools are a must. For instance, a fully-integrated customer analytics platform enables brands to monitor, evaluate, and manage all of their marketing channels from a single interface. Once the marketing team identifies the audience segment they wish to target, the platform will provide relevant customer insights based on data drawn from the brand’s email service provider (ESP), social pages, Google AdWords account, and more. An integrated customer analytics platform can also be used to automate a wide variety of marketing tasks.

These kinds of tools allow CMOs to make decisions based not on intuition, but on cold, hard data. Ultimately, that’s the first step toward figuring out what your customers want — and when you boil it down, those preferences are (and always have been) at the core of any customer-obsessed retail strategy.



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