Why the CMO Will Soon Have a Better Pulse on the Business than the CFO

Marketers Must Shift Money to Digital, Prepare for Organizational Upheaval

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Marketing stands at the brink of a new era. And as so many of us are gathering this week and next week for marketing's biggest annual events -- Advertising Week, IAB MIXX and ANA's Masters of Marketing -- it's a good time to reflect on the state of our industry. How are things going? Well, not so good.

According to research just conducted by Adobe with 1,000 marketers, 66% of them feel their company won't succeed without a digital marketing approach. But the importance they're placing on digital doesn't match the confidence they have in themselves or their organizations. Less than half of respondents say they're confident in their own digital marketing abilities. Confidence in their companies isn't much better. Only 40% think their company's marketing is effective. All this against the backdrop of one of the most transformative times marketing has ever seen: 76% say marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the last 50.

That's the glass half empty. The glass half full? There's never been a better time to be a marketer.

My boss recently said (with a smile) that the CMO will soon have a better pulse on the business than the CFO. An unimaginable comment in days past. For the first time in history, we have the tools to truly measure the impact of our campaigns. And I don't mean panel diaries. I mean big marketing data.

So, what do we need to do to take advantage?

First, you need to be fierce. It's hard to institute this kind of change. At Adobe, it had to be a top-down mandate -- become a world-class digital marketing group and shift as much of our budget as possible (today it's 75%) to digital. We drank the Digital Kool-Aid early because we wanted to be closer to our customers. For instance, we now get a steady stream of first-hand product and policy feedback through social channels. We also became more efficient and learned to move quickly. If our data shows that a digital campaign or something on our website isn't working, we quickly test other options and swap in something we know will work. In addition to faster time-to-market, we needed to get more bang for our budgets. Predictive market modeling tells us which parts of our mix are delivering the highest levels of conversion and how best to allocate our dollars. We can also forecast how much we'll need to spend in order to achieve a given revenue target.

Second, be prepared for organizational upheaval. Some folks on your team will fight it. But you need to plow through if you want to succeed. For instance, we've resisted the trend of creating a digital marketing department. Instead, every marketer had to become a digital marketer. If you were in PR, you had to become an expert in social. If you were an advertising professional, you had to become a digital advertising pro. We also hired a lot of new talent -- from web analysts to database analysts to social media practitioners.

As David Cooperstein, who runs Forrester's CMO practice told me, "Build your team with marketers who 'get' the move to more targeted, measureable, results oriented media. Further, don't isolate the traditional advertising folks from the digital side. Make them work together to drive brand and sales results across all channels."

We found that the best-equipped talent to make this transition was in our Marketing Research group. So they transformed into the Marketing Insights group, whose charter is to be the "single source of truth" for marketing. Because they are responsible for all data collection, monitoring and reporting, they have the best sense of what's happening with the business at any given moment. Everybody uses the same numbers and any issues are flagged and action items are assigned.

Finally, we need to teach our employees to think differently, and we need to provide them with the tools and training to thrive in this new world. One of the most important findings in our study was that marketers are desperately looking for help. They know they need to become digital marketers, but they don't know how to do it. From in-house training efforts to seminars, panels and roundtables at digital marketing events to case studies, it is our responsibility to train our employees to become great digital marketers.

I am really hopeful that this topic is a centerpiece at the conferences this week and next. The distress that marketers feel is debilitating for them and, ultimately, for the companies they market. Speaking as someone who has made it through the chasm, I know that the journey -- no matter how bumpy -- was well worth it.

Ann Lewnes is chief marketing officer at Adobe. Follow her on Twitter at @alewnes.
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