Why CMOs and CIOs must work together

As data and technology move to the forefront of marketing strategies, collaboration between the chief marketing officer and IT leader is increasingly vital to business success

Ten years ago, only the most forward-thinking companies were just starting to dive into the potential of data and analytics. Since then it has become common knowledge that the ability to collect, analyse and act on data is crucial to any brand’s success.

There are two key contributors to ensuring a collaborative relationship between CMOs and CIOs: transparent communication and time

Companies at all levels of data maturity are now investing in analytics and data-driven methods to personalise and improve the customer experience. Chief marketing officers (CMOs) are being asked to drive sales and revenue growth, and to improve marketing effectiveness through data.

While challenging, this enables CMOs to enter boardroom meetings armed with tangible evidence of successful campaigns, and to be the senior executive most qualified to track and predict future trends, giving them fresh authority in the world of digital disruption. By analysing customer needs and demands, they can increase customer lifetime value.

Rise of data and tech in marketing decisions

“The brands that are the most successful obsess over the target customer experience,” says Eric Bradlow, professor of marketing, statistics, education and economics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “They steer every aspect of that experience by developing an outside-in strategy, and anticipating and predicting the needs of their target customers through better data and analytics.”

Running parallel to the growing prominence of data in marketing strategies in recent years has been an accelerated emergence of marketing technology (martech) companies that enable CMOs to make better use of the information at their disposal.

However, half of martech purchasing decisions happen outside the marketing department, according to Forrester and Accenture, making partnerships between CMOs and chief information officers (CIOs) crucial. They will only prosper when ownership over the martech agenda is shared and one is not forcing a strategy, roadmap or budget on another.

“The amount of money going into martech and services piques the interest of the CIO,” says Joy Bhattacharya, managing director for the UK and Ireland at Accenture Interactive. “Firms with tech-savvy marketing leaders will accomplish the ideal: joint ownership of martech decisions. How else can the CMO fully understand the implications of adopting enterprise-wide tools that affect multiple channels, business units and, ultimately, the customer experience?”

When CMOs share their knowledge around what’s required for an excellent customer experience, their CIO counterparts can ensure that is linked up and complemented with the correct IT tools and systems. Together, they can then design a technology strategy that’s right for customers and the business, using data-driven insights to back it up.

Successful marketing needs clear CMO-CIO collaboration

Martech solutions drive most, if not all, the decisions marketing teams now make concerning the digital channels used to reach consumers and the messages they go to market with. By reviewing key metrics, they can quickly identify the tactics that are working and the ones which aren’t, before circling each one back to the long-term strategy.

Shane Phair, CMO at martech firm Campaign Monitor, which uses artificial intelligence and behavioural analytics in its email solutions used by more than 250,000 marketers, says this has not only redefined the role of CMOs, but also strengthened their relationship with CIOs.

“There are two key contributors to ensuring a collaborative relationship between CMOs and CIOs: transparent communication and time,” says Mr Phair. “The relationship will thrive as long as both make time to sit down regularly and clearly communicate the goals and needs of each team.”

Successful marketing will increasingly rely on data that is accurate and accessible, so the CIO and CMO must ensure there are clear lines of communication between both teams. The IT team’s technical knowledge of what is working with customers and what the target audience looks like can strengthen the marketing strategy considerably.

Data has also enabled CMOs to move into roles with a broader set of accountabilities, whereby strategic thinking, commercial awareness and vision have become even more important skills. However, many are not digital or data natives and so to maintain an informed but agnostic perspective they are reverting to reverse-mentoring to keep up.

CMO and CIO must complement each other, not compete

The challenge, therefore, is to cultivate the right team and learning culture to have the full range of skills and expertise required for the CMO to thrive in the digital age. Where the CMO and CIO are competing, rather than complementing each other, investment and effort are wasted on things that simply don’t matter to customers.

Closer collaboration comes from an understanding of how both fit into the board’s objectives for the brand. CMOs must be able to communicate the commercial benefits of marketing to the board. Once this has been achieved, it’s then a lot easier to have conversations about the value of aligning the objectives of the CMO and CIO.

“CMOs needs to work with their CIO colleagues to ensure new technology opportunities are understood and harnessed,” says Mark Evans, marketing director at Direct Line Group. “Companies perform at their best when there is a high-level alignment. It’s a common but apt idiom in the business world for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing. The stronger that relationship, the greater the clarity both have and are able to effect change together.”

The volume of data that CMOs and CIOs have access to is only going to grow, and as it does, so will the demands for more immediate results. Businesses will see a direct impact if a collaborative and transparent relationship between the roles is established. In a fast-moving business landscape, companies with a CMO and CIO who are closely aligned will deliver a more formidable marketing strategy that trumps the competition.