A Glimpse of the Future . . . Why Technology Matters To CMOs and Marketing Leaders Now More Than Ever

I was fortunate to participate in a recent Forbes CMO Network invitation only event designed to explore how technology is presenting new ways for CMOs to think about, plan, and execute their marketing strategies.

The event, “Funding the Next Wave of Digital Disruption: An Insider’s View of the New Companies & Technologies Transforming Marketing,” hosted at the offices of leading venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) provided a unique insider’s view of the newest cutting-edge companies and technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.

I left the event with an even stronger belief that marketing and technology are forever intertwined. And, as highlighted in my "The CMO’s Role In Technology Purchasing" report (subscription required), it’s time to ramp up your technology IQ now or risk being left behind. Why now?

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Build Your B2B Brand With A Little Help From The Stars

I was fortunate to take an extended vacation this summer to visit my daughter who is serving in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, with a stop in South Africa and Victoria Falls on the way. Although you see amazing animals while on safari, experience the incredible power of Victoria Falls, and find the undiscovered treasures of Madagascar, it was the beauty of the night that really struck me. Without city light pollution, you find yourself immersed in a night sky full of the most incredible stars. A clear view of a streaking Milky Way and a strong Southern Cross just takes your breath away. Night after night, the stars are there to light up the sky.

But being in the Southern hemisphere, the North Star that I am so used to seeing was nowhere to be found. That got me thinking about how comfortable we are in this half of the world with having the North Star to act as a beacon to guide navigation to true north.

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Savvy CMOs Must Steer Their Marketing Technology Decisions In The Right Direction

When I first became a marketing executive responsible for leading a team, life was simple. All we needed to worry about was having a solid marketing strategy and then doing a good job of executing against it with engaging creative and the right offer. In those days, technology was someone else’s concern. The most we worried about was the condition of the direct marketing file or rented list and the percentage of responses we were able to get. Pretty easy, right?

Fast-forward to today and that simple life is a thing of the past. The digital revolution has forever changed the balance of power, putting customers in charge. Marketers live in a brave new world where customer understanding and the ability to provide value to customers in their buying journey across the exploding number of engagement channels are now the name of the game. And now technology is everywhere touching all of these aspects of marketing and more.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been honored to speak at NYC Internet Week’s Cardinal Path and Google's Building a Data-Driven Culture opening panel and the Ad Age Marketing + Technology Summit; as well as at several Forrester client events in the US and Europe on the topic of marketing technology and the CMO role in the strategy development, vendor selection, and execution process. And one thing that I stressed across all of the discussions at these events is this — CMOs must accept that it’s no longer possible to run the business of marketing without technology. Technology is now necessary to help your marketing team handle the external fragmentation and internal data sources that drive decisions and results.

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A Blueprint For Building A Strong, Yet Resilient, Relationship With Your Company’s CIO

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that I love to write about sports analogies to help marketers get a new perspective on the issues they deal with. But, although we’re in the midst of what most likely will be our world champion Miami Heat’s march to its second NBA championship in 2013, I’m going to turn left and mix things up a bit in this post.

I’ve been married to an architect for 25 years (as of this May 29th), so it probably won’t surprise you that I also often think of things in terms of designing and building. Considering what goes into creating a building, it provides a fitting analogy to think about how you should approach building your relationship with your chief information officer (CIO); similar to the way architects needs to work with their clients.

Of course, one can’t construct a solid and sustainable building alone or with just anyone. It requires the unique contribution of a diverse group of professionals with specific areas of expertise — the creative vision of the architect; the construction team’s ability to execute; and the specialized skills of concrete workers, carpenters, roofers, and plasterers.  And let’s not forget the importance throughout the process of interior design experts as well as the technical insights from  structural engineers to ensure that the building is and remains hurricane- and/or quake-resistant.

So how does constructing a strong, yet flexible, building apply to CMOs and the relationship you should have with your CIO?

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CMOs, Is Joining A Board of Directors Part of Your Career Plan? If Not . . . It Should Be.

I recently was invited to attend a meeting of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), a group of board-of-director members from the country’s most prestigious companies. The topic of the meeting was how to keep corporate boards relevant in the 21st century.

What promised to be a dry conversation about financials and governance turned out to be anything but that. The discussion that morning focused on the need to respond to and keep pace with the rapid change in customer behavior to stay competitive. It also addressed how current board members could keep up with the evolution of customer touchpoints to understand the new digitally-based strategies that are increasingly being shared with them.

What I found striking about the discussion after some reflection was that the realization of the critical importance of customer behavior on the future success of top companies has made it all the way to the boardroom. The age of the customer that Forrester first identified in 2011 has really arrived and goes well beyond marketing.

Why now? Corporate boards are starting to realize that to provide the strategic guidance and governance that their role requires, they need to better understand customers and how the relationship between them and the companies they direct are changing. And they need to understand it fast. The market is moving and changing too rapidly to be left behind.

What does this mean for CMOs?

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Data-Driven Insights And Technology Change March Madness . . . What CMOs Can Learn

If you’ve been following my posts, you already know that I love sports. But, if this happens to be your first time reading my blog, I’ll admit it right now . . . I’m a sports fanatic. In fact, I’d say I’m just slightly to the side of being obsessed. Seriously obsessed.

Second only to the Super Bowl for me is March Madness, the greatest time of year for NCAA college basketball. What makes it so great is the passion and enthusiasm that takes over every one of the 64 teams that make it into the tournament. And, of course, the Cinderella stories that seem to emerge, year after year.

In South Florida, we love our world champion Miami Heat, and even our Miami Dolphins, which seem to just flop around year after year. But who would have thought that the University of Miami Hurricanes basketball team would be the talk of the town in 2013?

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It’s Time To Engage Your Customers And Make Them The Center Of Your Universe

The travel poster might read something like this: “Satisfy your thirst for adventure on the newest frontier with a luxury, guided expedition to the latest exoplanet.” Like just about everyone else on this planet, you’ve probably seen, heard, or know something about the film Avatar. What you may not know is that Pandora is based on a very real and recently discovered solar system — Alpha Centauri.

It has about the same mass as Earth. Like Earth, it circles a star. And at a mere 4.4 light years away (just a hop, skip, and a jump in astronomical terms), it’s close enough to make an interstellar journey feasible. While Alpha Centauri isn’t habitable (minor detail), some of its neighbors might be. As intriguing as such a journey would be, it would also be daunting. It would require an in-depth analysis of a constellation of factors. And it would mean asking and answering a litany of questions. What would a successful journey look like? What would it take to reach the destination in terms of technology? What kind of budget would be required? How do you convince early voyagers that a trip to Alpha Centauri would be the best journey of their lives and answer their WIIFM (what’s in it for me) questions?

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CMOs, Be Agents Of Change With Customer Insights

I love the Oscars with all of its glitz and glamour, celebrating the year’s best films. And while this year’s crop of Lincoln, Argo, and The Silver Linings Playbook are all great films, one of my all-time favorites is still Moneyball. Although the discussion about the Moneyball story isn’t new, it’s still a great lesson of what we can learn about using data and insights in new ways to change the game. Billy Beane harnessed the power of data based insights to assemble a winning team. He ignored the conventional measures of success — batting averages and stolen bases — and hired a number cruncher to rewrite the rules of the game. By applying data-based insights to day-to-day decisions, Beane stacked up win after win, ultimately challenging the American League record for consecutive wins.

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B2B CMOs, Have You Started 2013 Strong?

Welcome to 2013. This is the year during which business-to-business (B2B) CMOs will have to step up as strong officers of the business to propel innovation forward and drive business growth, as customers continue to do their own shopping for big-ticket items. The task: to deliver experiences that customers seek along their buying journey, which is no small feat for B2B CMOs to accomplish who have been beholden to a sales-led approach all of these years. A laser focus on a few key imperatives will ensure that B2B CMOs succeed in making the leap to the age of the customer.

As we stated in our recent report “2013 B2B CMO Imperatives” (subscription required), be sure that your 2013 initiatives:

  • Embrace customer insights. Accept the fact that customers are now in control of their buying process. Respond with strategies that build in-depth customer understanding and leverage the skills and resources that can turn that understanding into actionable insights.  A new position of data scientist will become one of the most sought-after roles for B2B marketing organizations in 2013. Why? The ability to make sense of the data deluge by identifying market trends, correlating unrelated data sets, and delivering predictive go-to-market strategies delivers winning results. My earlier post on the 2012 elections shares a best practice from Obama’s team. Start now to partner with your human resources colleagues to define the resources you need to succeed in 2013.
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Connected, Customized, Personalized . . . My Day At CES 2013

After spending opening day at CES, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps in her blog post that CES matters more now than ever to every marketer, product strategist, and C-level executive in every industry. Across the CES floor, connected TVs, tablets of all sizes, and a new breed of “phablets,” combining the form factor of tablets and smartphones into one, confirmed the fact that we’ve left the PC-dominated world behind for a mobilized and connected home and work life where content and context will dominate.

What struck me while I walked the floor at CES was that Peppers and Rogers were actually way ahead of their time. Remember them, the ones who wrote The One to One Future way back in 1996, well before the digital age became a reality? Their vision continues to become a technology-powered reality. With CES showing an abundance of new ways to connect with mobilized customers, the ability to target, reach, and effectively communicate with customers one-to-one, customizing and personalizing messages and offers to their unique needs, is increasingly within the reach of the marketer.

Available channels to the customer exploded on the CES floor to include everything from connected TVs and other devices in the home to all types of mobile devices and ruggedly made tablets built for the enterprise and everything in between. All are connected and share content in the right context to the devices consumers or business customers want, when and where they want it — just like Peppers and Rogers dreamed would happen.

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