By Tyler Douglas published October 8, 2013

5 Types of CMOs Who Will Lead Tomorrow’s Marketing Strategies

cmo personas-marketing strategiesIs the CMO’s role still about marketing?

I got to thinking about this recently after reading a Forbes article about the emergence of the “Eclectic CMO.” In short, this refers to a marketing leader who doesn’t have the traditional marketing pedigree or resume.

In the past, marketing was about the four Ps. Today, marketing strategy is about delivering smart content to help leaders innovate and grow their businesses. Audience fragmentation, social media and, more recently, Big Data, have changed the rules of content marketing. In sharp contrast with the strategies of a few years ago, influencer engagement and a solid mobile strategy are now emerging as the keys to success in this arena.

This revolution has opened unconventional paths to the CMO role. As a result, companies are hiring CMOs with more diverse sets of credentials, skills, and experiences. 

If you’re wondering what it will take to lead marketing into the future, keep your eyes peeled for professionals who fit into these five personas:

1. The data scientist

Last year, an article in Harvard Business Review named the data scientist as the sexiest job of the 21st century. Because of data’s wide availability, CMOs are starting to realize that they need people who are proficient at extracting insights from CRM and business intelligence systems to develop content.

Recently, Volvo’s CMO, Tassos Panas, confessed that he is a numbers person and made the case for organizations having data-driven feedback systems. In the future, we’ll see more marketing leaders like Panas — CMOs who are comfortable with quantitative data and skilled enough to improve data flow within their organizations. For content marketers, being able to analyze where their most successful pieces are landing and resonating with will be a critical component of their job. To react to another trend — the impending era of wearable technology — CMOs will require data acumen to lead their teams in sifting through the huge wave of data that will be available.

Companies such as Marketo and Salesforce enable brands to automate data collection and to easily link marketing activities to sales. The business analytics industry is also booming, as companies such as MicroStrategy, IBM, and SAS make it possible to easily collect and analyze transactional, behavioral and social data.

 2. The entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are visionaries and innovators who turn ideas into businesses. They manage time and resources well. They build high-performing teams, and they manage client relationships fantastically.

These entrepreneurial skills are exactly what the CMO needs. Marketing teams are already being asked to do more with less, challenging CMOs to be resource management experts. The pace of technological change demands that CMOs help drive innovation. And, as technology provides more platforms for marketing teams to reach consumers, CMOs need to articulate a clear vision and content marketing strategy to their team.

3. The social media whiz

Customers can’t help but voice their love (or, in some cases, hatred) of brands on social platforms. Today’s empowered customers also tune out canned marketing messages and gravitate toward customized content that they deem valuable.

Companies that are successful at smart content marketing know that real-time engagement is often the name of the game. Some businesses place so much value on social media listening and engagement that they’ve even pondered introducing the role of Chief Social Officer. At the same time, enterprises have traditionally been slow to add C-level roles, and so the task of engaging stakeholders will very likely end up in the hands of the CMO.

The good news is that we already have CMOs (like Collective Bias’s Ted Rubin) who lead with strong social marketing strategies. These CMOs excel at storytelling that resonates with audiences in authentic ways.

4. The investigative researcher

In 2009, Forrester’s Dave Frankland predicted that the next-generation CMO would come from the customer intelligence discipline. Frankland predicted that as customers become more empowered and connected, firms would elevate the customer intelligence role to enable data-driven insights.

CMOs increasingly need to take a holistic view of the customer experience — something that research professionals are already well accustomed to doing. Researchers have a skill that enables them to make sense of large amounts of customer information and to understand why consumers do what they do. These professionals have the power to bridge the gap between consumer attitude and actual behavior, positioning them as effective CMOs.

For example, Eileen Campbell was just recently appointed as CMO of IMAX. Campbell has a strong research background that includes leadership stints at research firms. Announcing Campbell’s appointment, IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond touted her analytics-based approach to brand building. Research helps companies get closer to their customers, and the role of the researcher within marketing will undoubtedly become even more important.

5. The customer experience professional

Customer experiences remain top priority for CMOs, according to a recent IBM study. In general, however, there is still a lack of integration between customer service and content marketing. This is why brand ambassadors — those who believe in your company and are passionate about better customer experiences— will likely become in demand.

Look closely and you’ll see that the resumes of many CMOs today, including Discover’s Harit Talwar, include stints in customer service. In the age of the customer, who is better positioned to deliver outstanding customer experiences than the people who are already in the front lines? 

So how does the CMO’s non-linear career path affect the CMOs of today? As CMOs, we need to recruit people who already do things that our future counterparts will most likely do.

The common thread across all of these unconventional paths to the CMO title is the need to truly understand your audience and what motivates them — not just to buy your product, but what motivates them in their lives. From there you can create a content marketing strategy that engages people on a personal level and helps them solve problems. Today’s most successful CMOs are already doing this. What will tomorrow’s CMO be capable of?

For more insight on what skills it will take to lead the content marketing industry into tomorrow, sign up for your free subscription to “Chief Content Officer” Magazine. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Tyler Douglas

Tyler is a seasoned leader and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience. As CMO of Vision Critical, Tyler heads up the global marketing team to grow the Vision Critical brand within target markets. Tyler's ability to build high performance teams and strategic client relationships has enabled exponential growth. Tyler also serves as an adviser for several technology start-ups across North America. Follow Tyler on Twitter @tylerdouglas.

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  • Larry Goldman

    Enjoyable reading, Tyler. I would differ with you slightly on #2, however. In my experience, many “entrepreneurs” thrive and prefer smaller-sized businesses, leaving the top roles when a company’s growth moves beyond their interest or sometimes their capabilities. Innovation (that over-used mantra) is certainly an important trait for a CMO, as is high risk tolerance.

  • Ann Bevans

    Nice post, Tyler. While all of these disciplines are important to the CMO role, I would suggest that the challenge will be finding any one person who has, or at least appreciates, them all. One might argue, for example, that the entrepreneur mindset and the data scientist mindset are mutually exclusive. Thought provoking – thanks!

  • John Lawlor

    Excellent post, Tyler. Very relevant to CMOs and for CEOs of small organizations. Real-world marketing empathy from the C-suite is particularly relevant today.

  • jstec

    Interesting article, Tyler. I can see aspects of each of these in myself, although there are two (#1 and #5) that are dominant. I suspect that just as Myers-Briggs shows a dominant personality type yet we can push ourselves outside of that type as the situation requires, so too do we marketers need to understand and adapt to the requirements of of our roles — but at a cost. Understanding our style and surrounding ourselves with those who “fill in the gaps” makes for the strongest most effective overall team.

  • Ava Cristi

    Great article Tyler. There’s no doubt that customer experience professionals will going to be more in demand in the future.

  • David Patton

    I really valued this article. I mentioned to Joe at CMW that it would be great to have a panel next year — and perhaps more content — around the attributes of good content marketers. There are a few thousand people practicing and talking about content marketing today, but there are millions of people doing “traditional” marketing and communications. How can organizations and agencies find the right people — or groom them — for the future?

  • Tino Zampano

    Everybody’s so kind. I think it’s a lot af crap, sorry.

  • Susan Healy-VonAchen

    A must read article for anyone serious about their marketing strategy. I say, why wait until tomorrow? You made many excellent points among the 5 topics. My biggest concern as a social media professional is the resistance I get from the over 50 age group. People are working longer but they still refuse to to get onboard with new technology. I may have to direct people to this article via email.

  • Entreb

    Yes! I agree with this article. It seems that people who can utilize information, people who can turn ideas in to actions, and people who can make actions in to a great experience are the future of marketing.