CMOs Must Fully Embrace New Technology, or Fail, And They Know It

A New Survey Shows Marketers See Digital as Their Greatest Weakness

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As new channels and technologies provide customers with countless options to switch to new services and brands, today's chief marketing officer is feeling tremendous pressure to find solutions that keep customers engaged and coming back.

How much pressure? A new study by Accenture Interactive, "Turbulence for the CMO," reveals that 70 percent of the CMOs of some of the world's largest enterprises think they have five years to fundamentally overhaul their companies' corporate marketing operating model to achieve competitive success.

CMOs are increasingly concerned that tight budgets and the lack of a clear digital strategy across the enterprise are hurting their company's ability to compete in the digital age. They are being squeezed by the need to support major corporate objectives -- profitable growth and operational efficiency -- while maintaining a loyal customer base and increasing sales amidst stiffer competition and higher customer expectations.

Despite huge investments in the tools, technologies and resources to better connect with customers, four in 10 of the executives surveyed -- over 400 senior marketers in 10 countries -- say that they are still not prepared to meet their marketing objectives. Considering that 65 percent of the CMOs reported that consumers' expectations for relevant, targeted experiences are having the greatest long-term impact on marketing strategy, the road to success will depend on the ability to drive digital technology beyond marketing and into the enterprise as a whole.

Based on the survey's key findings, there are four broad steps that marketers need to take if they hope to meet customer demands and grow market share. ?

Fundamentally Change the Marketing Experience. CMOs must drive a shift in organizational culture that makes consumer relevance at scale a key operating principle, shared by every department beyond marketing that affects the consumer experience -- R&D, sales, manufacturing, supply-chain management and services. Building a marketing organization powered by analytics and technology and focused on business outcomes will play a critical integration role across channels and business units.

Embrace a Digital Orientation. As digital technology plays an increasingly vital role in transforming the customer experience and enhancing corporate success, CMOs must lead the organization in embracing a digital orientation. The performance of digital orientation in high-growth companies is 21 percent greater than in negative sales-growth companies. Yet, survey respondents say that when it comes to the capabilities considered most essential to improving their company's performance -- offering innovation, customer analytics, digital orientation, customer engagement and marketing operations -- their weakest performance is in digital engagement.

Invest in Analytics and Talent. One in five CMOs rates him or herself below average in multichannel attribution, correlating advertising to sales and measuring media and buying effectiveness. When a company's fortunes rise or fall based on understanding of and response to customers' needs, this is a major issue that must be addressed. While CMOs do plan to invest more in their analytics capabilities, a major focus of that investment must also be on hiring, retraining and redeploying people to improve efficiency, agility and responsiveness of the organization. Marketing talent must be able to create consistent, multichannel experiences that meet customers' needs, expectations and demands for relevance.

Pick a Partner. Agencies must help CMOs make sense of complexity in the marketplace by improving their levels of execution and delivery and providing a broader set of capabilities and deeper integration across the agency ecosystem. While 55 percent of CMOs said they were satisfied with the level of collaboration with their outside agencies and give external providers satisfaction scores of nine to 12 points higher than internal resources on a range of capabilities -- from customer insights and analytics to multichannel campaign management –- there remains a disconnect between what the brands expect and what agencies deliver.

By making additional investments in talent, analytics and, most importantly, digital marketing capabilities, marketing executives will position themselves to reap the rewards from creating seamless customer experiences and ensuring that their brands capture the hearts, minds -- and wallets -- of their customers.

Brian Whipple is Global Managing Director and Baiju Shah is Managing Director of Strategy & Innovation, Accenture Interactive.
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