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5 ways CMOs should start thinking like chief digital officers

With businesses more digitally connected than ever before, technology is at the center of nearly every marketing function.

5 ways CMOs should start thinking like chief digital officers
[Photo: Rodion Kutsaev/Unsplash]
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It’s not something we typically realize until an eye-opening moment occurs. It could be your Wi-Fi going down for a couple of hours, or your computer needing to restart and install new updates. Even worse: Your phone battery dies and you can’t find your charger. In a 2020 work-from-home world, these three scenarios aren’t just inconvenient—they genuinely limit your ability to do your job.

Technology has become ingrained in how we do business on many levels, and nowhere is that more apparent than in marketing. More than a third of all companies surveyed by Stein IAS, a marketing and advertising agency, say the greatest opportunity to come from digital marketing transformation is the ability for marketing to contribute directly to revenue growth.

Companies are now primarily reaching their customers through digital channels, hyper-targeting accounts based on data gathered to evaluate the likelihood of a purchase. Whatever their core service or offering, companies of all types now have technology at the center of what they do, and marketing must promote and showcase those capabilities. Brands are reaching customers where they are—adapting their offerings to their customers’ lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic. Marketing teams are utilizing technology for new ways of collaboration and communication, and training team members on new marketing tools that will help them to do their work more effectively.

For marketing to be successful in these technology-centric roles, there can be no silos. The technology team at your company has a wealth of knowledge that marketing can leverage to educate their team members on how to more accurately and efficiently communicate to potential customers. At the same time, with technology at the forefront of how businesses are operating, these teams must be in lockstep with marketing to demonstrate externally the value they can bring for consumers and clients through technology services or products.

With businesses more digitally connected than ever before, CMOs need to be more tech-driven. Here are five ways they can start thinking like chief digital officers (CDOs):

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Shift toward data-driven, behavior-based sales and marketing

In-person events have become a tactic of the past. Getting directly in front of customers and prospects is now harder than ever, and even when the pandemic is over, we may not return to it as a primary way of marketing. Instead, allow your marketing teams to become well versed in the latest marketing technology capabilities, investing appropriately, and leverage these capabilities to reach a hyper-targeted audience.

Customer data, predictive modeling, propensity to buy, and geolocating are all valuable resources for marketing teams to leverage in order to deliver knowledge and information to prospective customers with solutions to their problems. With these newfound capabilities that were traditionally reserved for the technology function, marketing teams can be proactive rather than reactive, adapting to the current world and needs of customers, and creating long-term partnerships that may have never been realized without the tools to make the connections.

Rethink customer experience to leverage technology

Brands are trying to make life easier for their customers in a time of disruption and uncertainty, while at the same time increasing their market share. For example, services companies are helping large, global organizations reduce costs and improve efficiencies. Marketers must be able to communicate the value that they can bring to optimize technology capabilities to better serve their customers.

Do you need to retire an old application to enable online ordering? Could you consolidate into one suite or platform to streamline the experience? Are you unsure how to bolster cybersecurity defenses, or scale your 5G or artificial intelligence program across the business? Are you looking to leverage the cloud to get new capabilities and experiences to market more quickly? These are the questions CMOs need to consider to ensure their teams have the technical knowledge and understanding to convey the right messages of how this can be done and supported.

Uncover growth drivers through technology-driven efficiencies

It is essential for CDOs to clearly and convincingly communicate the vision and value of technology that can reduce cost and increase efficiency. Marketers must be well versed in speaking this language. Communicating how technology provides value to the business, and what differentiates your technology capabilities from others, is something a CMO needs to have a firm grasp on as the technology continues to evolve.

Enable new ways of working supported by technology

CDOs have been spearheading change during the pandemic, including helping their organizations adapt to remote work. As marketing teams shift how they brainstorm, create, ideate, and delegate tasks and assignments, understanding the technology that enables their remote work should be a priority. In doing so, they will be able to clearly communicate how the technology works—setting the example for how the rest of the business can improve the culture—and empower more employees to embrace this new way of working.

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Train employees on new technology

Whether it’s the technology and tools needed to market to customers, or the technology used in day-to-day operations, employees must be well versed in using the company’s digital tools. As technology advances, CMOs should lean on their technology counterparts to develop useful programs to train current employees on emerging tools, and onboard new employees quickly when they first join the company. Marketing’s mastery of digital tools will enable them to create more impactful campaigns that resonate with their target audiences.

Technology is at the core of marketing’s future. The CMOs who create a marketing function built around digital connectivity, collaboration, and education will have teams that can market in the most innovative ways. Technology is industry agnostic, and marketing teams must make the effort to learn how these capabilities are impacting the products or services that their companies provide.


Shade Vaughn is CMO and Charlie Li is EVP of application and cloud technologies for Capgemini North America.