CMOs and CIOs: Partners in the New Digital Customer Experience

illustration of two profiles with brains drawn in

In 2012, a Gartner analyst famously predicted that by 2017 marketing technology budgets would be bigger than IT technology budgets.  In most organizations, budget means power, so Gartner’s prediction spurred speculation that the CMO-CIO relationship might become a testy one.  Within a year, we saw headlines like this one in the Harvard Business Review: “The Dangerous Tension Between CIOs and CMOs;” and this one in CIO Magazine: “Does the Rise of the CMO Threaten CIOs?”

Martech Hits a Growth Spurt

Remember that in 2012 the marketing technology sector was exploding while traditional IT functions were beginning to move to the cloud. According to Scott Brinker at chiefmartec.com, there were about 150 viable marketing apps available in 2011. That number soared to more than 4,800 by last year.

Brinker’s infographic alone is enough to make your head spin.  As SaaS platforms and web applications proliferated, CMOs didn’t need IT’s blessing and expertise to deploy technology—they could spin-up new solutions in a few hours or days. Vendors saw the opportunities and created thousands of new products.

Well, 2017 has come and gone, and the current view isn’t as bleak as some had feared.  More recent Gartner research pegs CMO and CIO technology spending at near equal levels today, while another Gartner study sees marketing technology spending declining in the near future, calling 2017 a “plateau.”

CMOs are “overwhelmed” by the technologies available, which to choose, and how to use them, according to the Harvard Business Review. And it seems the choice they’re making is to not choose at all, resulting in a slowdown of marketing technology spending and adoption. CIO spending, on the other hand, is still on the rise.

Partners in the Digital Experience

More importantly, smart companies have moved beyond comparing budgets and are instead focused on collaboration between marketing and IT, as both are key to what is becoming critical to businesses—the customer’s experience.

Customer experience is increasingly digital—omni-channel and omni-touchpoint. This means that marketers need to be aware of much more than how marketing campaigns use technology to attract and engage customers; they also need to be informed about every other customer interaction, even those that don’t fall under the marketing purview.

“Data from all customer touchpoints and related IT systems must now be brought to bear to create a compelling and highly personalized experience to draw in and satisfy the needs of customers,” explains Don Hinchcliffe of Constellation Research.

And collaboration can’t wait. Veteran technology analyst Zeus Kerravala put the urgency of the opportunity bluntly, saying, “CIOs need to focus on customer experience now,” and citing a study that found that great customer service is now the top influencer for B2C and B2B buyers—more important than price and product quality.

You might need to read that twice. Customer experience is more important to buyers than product quality or price. Well, you don’t need to tell smart companies twice; they’ve heard and they’re taking action.

To deliver the experience customers want and expect, rather than seeing themselves as competitors, “CMOs and CIOs are seeing that they are natural partners” says a McKinsey report. 

Goodbye Don Draper

Marketing leaders are no longer only responsible for branding and storytelling, tapping into a savant-like ability to predict and satisfy customer’s demands. Now they have data to do the predicting.

“As new technologies advance, such as artificial intelligence used in media planning, CMOs will have an easier time connecting the dots between marketing, sales and revenue,” said David Yavanno of Impact Radius. “The ability has revolutionized the role of the chief marketer and forever altered the qualifications for the job.”

This means that “CMOs must have a passion for facts and measurement, the ability to discern the specific business opportunities that big data presents, and a clear vision of how to capture the opportunities and accelerate performance,” according to McKinsey.

The Experience Is the Business

CMOs that welcome IT into the customer experience tent, and partner with CIOs to deliver an optimal, end-to-end customer experience will be the ones to succeed and will see their companies pull away from the competition.

Delivering an exceptional customer experience across all company channels could be a matter of survival. “A brand that hopes to survive and prosper must transform into an ‘experience business,’ where delivering an amazing customer experience is the top-line business,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said. “Creating great customer experiences separates market leaders from the rest of the pack.”

“Delivering on digital engagement well has even become table stakes in highly competitive industries,” Hinchcliffe said, “and best-of-breed is a high bar indeed for organizations that have underinvested for years.”

In order to differentiate a business through a delightful customer experience at every touchpoint, CIOs and CMOs will need champion one another’s role (and budget), and work together to make it happen.

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