Knuckle-Draggin' CMOs

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Kudos to Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles for their recent report on The Evolved CMO. It’s a good report (that’s a glowing review for Mr. Cranky here) and I wanted to share some of the highlights with my takes on their findings.

Before I do, though, I wanted to point out that I did find it odd that they would hold out the model CMO as an “evolved” CMO. That paints a picture of most CMOs as knuckle-draggin’ cavemen types from the Stone Age. (Maybe that was intentional, who knows). Seems to me there’s a better label to connote the CMO they’re trying to describe (“catalytic” comes to mind).

Some of the findings involved CMOs’:

1. Top marketing objectives. Number one was acquiring new customers, listed by just over 60% of respondents. But only about one-third listed increasing customer retention. And less than 30% of the senior marketers surveyed said increasing customer lifetime value is a top marketing objective.

My take: This is a worrisome finding. Increasing customer lifetime value should be towards the top of the list. A coherent and effective strategy for increasing CLV will result in the acquisition of profitable new customers, guide customer retention tactics, and help marketing better measure the impact of its efforts and investments.

2. Views on the skills important to their personal success. Vision and strategic thinking was cited by more than three-quarters of marketers as the most important skill/competency. When asked about self-improvement areas, of the 17 attributes listed, the most popular area was “personal knowledge of your customers” and the third most popular was “technology-savviness.” But customer knowledge was only mentioned as an important skill by about 10% of respondents, and technology-savviness by less than 20%.

My take:
There’s a disconnect here. On one hand “strategic thinking” is listed as the most critical skill, but only 16% desire self-improvement in this area. Which implies that they think they’ve got this nailed down. And the attributes that rose toward the top of the self-improvement list — customer knowledge and technology-savviness — were ranked towards the bottom of the importance list. If they’re not very important, then why do so many CMOs want to improve in those areas?

3. Career development resources.
Among a list of 16 resources to help CMOs build their skills and competencies, marketing publications, conferences, and organizations were ranked at the bottom. Forty percent of respondents found marketing conferences to be of little to no value — just 10% said they were of great value.

My take: No surprise here (see my comments on why so many conferences suck). It would be interesting to know, though, why so many (40%) marketers see great value in business publications, but so few (~15%) see great value in marketing publications.

4. Marketing tools and tactics. When asked which tools and tactics are the most important to their marketing organization’s future success, the top three are: 1) customer trends and research; 2) marketing measurement; and 3) CRM/customer data analytics. Despite all the hype, social computing/Web 2.0 was second from the bottom, just ahead of user-generated content [note to self: resist urge to call UGC “dumb”].

My take: Many CMOs are missing something here. Social computing and customer community development are techniques to help them better understand customer trends and do customer research.

The next few years will interesting times for CMOs. I hope I get to work with the ones that walk upright.

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