Anyone fancy being a marketing director? close

David Hart
David Hart
In Musings, Online Innovation
20th June 2013
Anyone fancy being a marketing director?

There was a time, seems like a very long time ago now, when I worked on the client side. Having worked agency side for over a decade now, I often forget the frustrations that being responsible for marketing as a client brings. And in a recent report by Accenture entitled ‘Turbulence for the CMO’, where over 400 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) or their equivalent, were interviewed, it’s clear that life is getting tougher and tougher.

The challenges are many: on the one hand, you have a difficult economic climate, where you are fighting to hold onto customers who are increasingly becoming more demanding. On the other hand, you have a multitude of channels that you not only have to align in terms of how you communicate with your customers, but also how the management of these channels all knits together. Add to this a general lack of good talent, and pressures to become more efficient, you can start to see how many CMOs are feeling like they are drowning.

CMOs don’t think they do digital well

Specifically, when it comes to engaging their customers through digital channels, only 13% of CMOs believe their company is cutting edge, and 16% admit that their performance is ‘weak’.

Why is this the case, I ask myself? I think there are probably a few reasons:

  1. CMOs, probably cut their teeth in marketing before the digital revolution and so perhaps it’s always been one of those uncomfortable truths that they don’t feel they really know enough about it.
  2. The rate of change and the explosion of multi-channels makes it a challenge even for people working in the industry day in and day out to keep up.
  3. ROI is becoming harder and harder to track and quantify. When you have organisations who measure the success of their social media investments by the number of ‘Likes’ they get on Facebook, you instinctively feel something is very wrong.

Perhaps there is a sense, among senior marketing professionals, that digital is still a bit of a Dark Art. And in fact, in terms of digital, marketing operations, customer analytics, customer engagement and innovation, CMOs rank ‘digital’ as being the least important and the worst performing. This is despite the fact that the performance of digital in high-growth companies is 21% greater than in negative growth companies. In short, according to Accentre, high-growth companies have found a less turbulent path by improving their digital focus.

It’s only going to get harder

You have to feel a bit sorry for CMOs. Relying on the traditional DM methods of analytics and broadcasting messages just don’t seem to be working anymore. And it’s not going to get any easier. The proliferation of channels to market means that marketers are going to need to do two things:

  1. Be more innovative in the way they use the channels to engage with their customers.
  2. Work out a way to co-ordinate these opportunities so it’s all part of one unified strategy, rather than a scatter-gun try everything and hope one of them takes off approach.

More channels = more agencies?

Will we start to see more and more niche agencies? Where once digital was seen as fairly niche, now we have, search agencies, social agencies, mobile agencies – will that start to sub-divide even further? Facebook-only agencies, Windows Phone 8 only agencies? And if it does, how are the battle-weary CMOs supposed to manage all of this? Where once digital agencies were expected really just to be able to design and build websites, will they have built up the skills and people needed to cover all the requirements that clients will have over the next few years? And, if CMOs feel the need to use multiple digital suppliers, where will the strategic or creative leadership come from? So many questions….

What about “in-sourcing”?

Just yesterday I spoke to a potential client who is wrestling with the politics of outsourcing work where her company has in-house resources who could cover it. In many ways, pulling all the expertise in-house might reduce the complexity of managing and coordinating all the fragmented activity that is going to be needed. But the reality is, agency is better. I’m not just saying that because I have a vested interest, according to Accenture, external providers receive satisfaction scores 9 – 12 points higher than internal resources. But this causes yet more problems for the CMO.

So where next?

CMOs, especially in large organisations, face a really turbulent time as they wrestle with managing the ever-changing digital landscape and the teams, both internal and external, that will help them deliver their objectives of profitable growth and operational efficiency. But they need to embrace digital fully: as Accenture points out, those who are doing it well are also the ones who are seeing faster growth and reduced turbulence.

Agencies, in turn, need to ensure they have the skills to deliver the new opportunities that clients will need to exploit. And they’ll also need to help their clients make sense and coordinate things efficiently.

Read the report from Accenture, "Turbulence of the CMO".