Patterns of the Digital CMO

Examining the patterns of the digital CMO, and how they put these patterns into practice.

CMOs often struggle to find their way as consumer expectations and buying journeys shift. But the ones who fire on all cylinders do things a little differently.

They demonstrate different behaviors, which can be organized into a set of patterns, said Jake Sorofman, research vice president for Gartner for Marketing Leaders, at the Gartner Digital Marketing Conference.

Before divulging the patterns, Mr. Sorofman shared results of Gartner’s CMO spend survey, which showed that the top three priorities for CMOs are:

  • Driving company growth
  • Responding to competitive threats
  • Delivering an exceptional customer experience

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With this backdrop of pressure, CMOs can learn from the following five patterns:

Pattern #1—Become an inbound advocate, shifting from finding customers to getting found.
The goal here is to show up in a meaningful way—in a way that’s relevant and resonant—where your customers lurk rather than shouting from the hilltops. For example, Mike Volpe, CMO of Hubspot, learned to create content that draws customers in and engages them in a nurturing cycle.

Pattern #2—Shelve the commercial pitch in favor of authentic storytelling.
Think differently about content and design it explicitly for the audience. “We earn the right to their attention by starting with what’s at stake for them,” Mr. Sorofman said. He noted how Tami Cannizzaro, vice president of Marketing, Social Business at IBM, had hired writers to create a variety of original content to market IBM’s smarter planet theme.

Pattern #3—Break through silos to erase seams between channels and experiences.
This is about ensuring every branded moment is exceptional in minds of customers and audiences. Marketers should define personas as audience archetypes to capture motivations and goals, and journey maps to capture the interactive and temporal dimensions of these relationships. For Julie Bornstein, chief marketing and digital officer at Sephora, digital has become a core part of the Sephora brand, culture and customer experience. Brands should make the experience more informative and positive, helping (customers) to find the best products.

Pattern #4—Use data to target precisely and measure relentlessly.
While marketers often talk about big data, many companies still have small data challenges. Brands can implement the disciplines of continuous storytelling, continuous engagement and continuous optimization where each yields a deeper understanding into what does, and doesn’t, move your audiences to action and move the needle for the business.

Pattern #5—Experiment aggressively and challenge business model assumptions.
Take an innovation budget, which can represent 10% of total marketing budget, and set a goal to test and fail to learn and scale. This requires a whole-new way of thinking, where marketers look beyond data-driven insights for the sort of breakthroughs that come from a more human-centered way of thinking.

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