B2B Decision Making

July 7, 2014

Unravelling the issue of ‘CMO as IT Supremo’

By Drew No comments


It’s some time now since Gartner predicted that by 2017, CMOs would have more influence on IT purchases than CIOs. We gasped at this game changing prediction and at every event I have been to recently, someone has reminded us of this to illustrate how the landscape is changing (and how we all need to adapt fast).

The premise seemed right when I first heard it and still feels right now. In a connected Enterprise, the CMO has the opportunity, to connect its customers to the organisation and to re engineer the customer experience so tech and marketing efforts work hand in hand. The vision? A smooth experience for customers which glues them more to the brand/service and almost imperceptibly improves brand affinity and increased sales in happy harmony. Beautiful.

All of that is theoretically right and no one will argue with the premise of it. It seems to me though it is borne out of an ‘ergo’ end game vision rather than a ‘we are all human and things will change but quite slowly’ vision.

Gartner are experts at seeing new opportunities and they regularly challenge my thinking, but like many things there is a human angle that gets in the way of theory.

If I look at most of our client CMOs, they have not yet had that wholesale change in the work they do. They are still focused on brand issues, on awareness issues and (in our b2b markets particularly) on pipeline build and MQL/SQL targets. They still focus on engagement with sales and channel relationships – all of which are complex and interwoven. Of course, they are all looking actively at the challenge to connect these activities to tech and to find more efficient ways of driving brand and sales success, but it’s not all going to happen tomorrow and I question how much they are yet connected to IT infrastructure outside the marketing arena. (I have not seen an talking about financial systems or spending too much time talking about how to leverage server farms)

What I still see, (and I would say this is partly because marketers are as much left brain half right brain), is that CMOs need more time to become IT purchasing specialists. They are not naturally the people to spend days discussing infrastructure projects because that’s not how they grew up – and because they still have lots of their old job on their plate anyway thank you.

I think of our CMO clients in tech and b2b markets; becoming the arbiters of IT is a long way off and I predict 2017 will not be the year of the switch.

But what about CMOs in other companies in other sectors?

Well, I asked the data/list building guys we work with to validate that all our tech company clients (who you would have expected to have changed their targeting strategy for IT services) really are now targeting CMOs as part of their marketing strategy – guess what? No big change. Their targeting is still orientated around the anchor of IT decision makers – and where business decision makers do come in to the mix, it’s with Marketing people as one of a number of line of business targets, not as the stand out area of the business that makes all the decisions.

Sometimes wheels turn a bit more slowly and we need to make sure our marketing efforts are in sync with buying patterns and not unnaturally forcing change.