I recently attended the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit  at the Gannett headquarters office in Vienna, Virginia. This information-packed day of keynotes, panels, and nonstop networking was worth the price of admission.
If you are seeking answers and major breakthrough ideas, then my takeaways may surprise and disappoint you. I did not discover any new technology breakthroughs. I didn't meet a plethora of hot customer-centric growth companies, although CustomInk has great potential and will be featured in a future post.
Instead, I left with a series of questions about the future of marketing in this increasingly complex, technology-addicted business world. Here are some contemporary questions that every CMO and VP of marketing needs to raise:
- Does our messaging and content strategy improve our customers' lives in some way, or are we simply tooting our horn? HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe says his company has reduced its content development by up to 40% per month. (See my interview with him below). Customers and prospects are simply inundated with information and ignoring the messenger.
- Where can we get the highest return on our social media efforts? A recent UMass Dartmouth  study found that the percentage of companies who blog dropped from 50% to 37% in 2011. They are now shifting their social media resources to Facebook and LinkedIn. Building "Likes" and followers does not always translate into educating your customers and improving their lives.
- How will CMOs demonstrate a strong ROI on integrated marketing? Even the most seasoned CMOs are grappling with how to make integrated marketing pay off. Jason Jue, CMO of Vocus, stressed that it's a delicate balance between message marketing and metrics marketing. "I love Salesforce.com because they found a way to do this," he said. "They use news releases very effectively to drive people to read their content and drive more web traffic." Jue is right. When Salesforce.com was founded, it was viewed as an ASP. Today, they live in the upper-right quadrant of the social enterprise industry category.
- What can CMOs do to balance the important, creative, playful aspects of marketing with left-brain analytics and planning? Sadly, the Summit succumbed to the sexy technology topics: blogging, inbound marketing, mobile marketing, and marketing automation. A soupçon of the importance of deepening customer connections emerged during the "Newest Trends in B2B Marketing" panel. Debra Lavoy, director of product marketing from OpenText, says it well. "The role of marketing is to become chief storyteller. The art of storytelling pulls teams together and has a huge impact on the customer." Her point of view was simply refreshing.
- How will CMOs drive revenue streams, not just demand streams? Brian Reed, CMO of BoxTone, shared how his company operates among dozens of competitors and often struggles to stand out above the noise. They needed to get creative. "We shifted position from technology providers to strategic advisors by approaching health care companies, and showing them how to enter the nonprofit arena."
- Whom will we trust with our marketing planning strategies? No CMO can go it alone. The marketing landscape is rife with technology posers, boring branding agencies, and bright shiny objects. Consider firms that create new categories, such as HubSpot, as potential growth partners. Watch the video for some words of wisdom from Mike Volpe, HubSpot CMO.
Storytellers. Innovators. CIOs in training. Community activists. Statisticians. The final question to ponder is "what will CMOs be when they grow up?"
- Why CMOs Are Facing Extinction 
- The Four P's Of Marketing Need A Facelift 
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[Image: Flickr user Thomas Hawk ]