How CMOs Can Prove the Value of Marketing to the C-Suite

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A company’s leadership gathers for their monthly meeting. The CFO, CIO, CHRO, and COO each give their updates with hard metrics on slides with the company’s PowerPoint template. Now, it’s the CMO’s turn. Historically, this meant it was time to dim the lights and watch the new TV creative for the newest ad campaign. The CMO’s presentation was the “fun” presentation.

No longer.

Today’s CMOs’ presentations are as hard-nosed and financially-oriented as any other C-Suite member. This is largely thanks to digital media, its measurability, and the martech and adtech worlds converging to enabling people-based marketing with real measurement. If this isn’t your boardroom, let’s take a look at the transformation occurring in marketing that’s getting the smartest companies here.

Communications Planning

Communications planning has typically meant planning for reach and frequency across a broad audience, often described in personas. Today’s CMO knows their customer base inside and out. Not just their personas, but each customer, one by one, and the devices they use to interact with the brand and the messages they’re responsive to. The communications plan starts people-based and works its way out, spending money first on known audiences across all digital, addressable channels. Only after those customers and prospects have been effectively communicated with does the marketing team apply test-and-learn money to unknown audiences.

Sales, Customer Service, and Marketing Converge

Once a prospective customer shows interest in a brand’s products, that prospect’s interaction with the brand typically fell into sales, a call center, or in-store experience groups. Customers today indicate interest with social media engagement, web site, and app visits, and require immediate follow-up and personalization. The wall between marketing to the customer and selling the customer has come down. The line between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL) is disappearing as customer interactions become more real-time and often automated.

The marketing and media ends need to be smarter and in-tune with customer realities as well. Clearly, an airline can’t show an ad touting their industry-leading on-time arrival rate if the customer just recently experienced a 6-hour delay. An ad for free two-day shipping is not just wasted but harmful if shown to a user whose package from that same company arrived most recently in four days instead of two.

There are nearly unlimited “if” statements today’s marketers must consider, and these can only be done through a fully cooperative approach with sales and customer service.

From Arithmetic to Statistics

The quantitative demands on today’s marketers go far beyond adding up GRPs, impressions, or even clicks. Today’s marketing teams require data scientists trained in statistics on both the planning and the measurement side. Testing efforts must be planned using statistically significant and valid control groups. On the back end, controlling for frequency, message exposure, and purchase experience is required to get a true sense of lift metrics across various channels and interaction points. Nate Silver, perhaps the world’s best-known data scientist, recently said on Twitter:

In the many years I’ve worked with our data scientists to uncover the why behind various marketing campaigns, knowing what to control for has been a much more valuable component of the discovery process than which statistical method to use. Knowing this requires intimate knowledge of the brand, how its customer interacts with it, and how various touchpoints influence customer interactions. Those who are right-brained or left-brained will face challenges going forward. It’s the both-brained who synthesize these various inputs that will lead our marketing organizations.

To win the future of marketing – for the CMO to be as much (or more) a part of the growth engine of the company as any other C-Suite member – these are the new realities. People-based, lift-measured, statistically-driven, fully-interconnected marketing has elevated the CMO within the C-Suite, and in many companies over all other C-Suite members.

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