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How can a CMO master the path to digital?
Many chief marketing officers like myself grew up in a non-digital age. As a result, we had no digital marketing training at university, and nor were many of our early formative career experiences within the multi-platform world that we now know. Yet we must now not only master this environment but also be ahead of the game in spotting new opportunities that will drive engagement and value for our brands. So what do today’s CMOs, whether they are ‘digital natives’ or hybrids like myself, need to consider in order to be effective and add value to our teams and organisations? From my experiences, here are a few tips from the ground.
Digital marketing is evolving rapidly: and keeping up with all the latest trends, innovations and platforms is our constant challenge. When I look at what I was doing even 10 years ago – as a marketing director at General Electric – it is very different to today’s mix. As such, it is impossible to keep abreast of everything and be able to predict what will work best for your business. Accept this, and make sure you can rely on a strong digital team of experts (both in-house and agency) in various areas such as SEO, PPC, content and analytics. Accepting that you don’t know everything will allow you to equip your team with the autonomy, tools and budgets they need to explore new ideas and run pilots. Not to mention giving them the knowledge that they can and will fail sometimes, in order to get it right.
Learn, learn and learn
Not having all the answers is a given: but it’s your job to ensure you stay armed with the questions. To be part of today’s discussions and make informed decisions, you must maintain a level of contemporary knowledge of new concepts and solutions kicking around today’s market. That means committing to additional training. For me, a recent one-year digital marketing course through Online Duke University was my way of downloading a mix of practical, actionable ideas and approaches to today’s marketing challenges. Rather than a high-minded strategy course, I went for the nuts-and-bolts of Digital. Plus I try to keep up with relevant books and articles, listen to podcasts and continue to take the online (and often free) courses available online. Committing to pushing the technology envelope is also a group endeavour, and involves building a strong partnership with IT in driving innovation. Co-chairing the Innovation Board at PageGroup helps me to help set our priorities, and better understand the complexities of AI, robotics and big data.
Amidst the growing buzz around digital marketing, one sometimes forgets about the effectiveness of traditional marketing tactics. At the end of the day, it’s about achieving a return on investment and growing the business. And such, you shouldn’t hesitate to suggest the ‘less cool stuff’ as well, particularly if it will prove more effective in meeting our objectives.
Segment your customer mix
Speaking of your customer, one of the advantages of digital platforms today is the access to screeds of data about their behaviour. Since all CMOs are gatekeepers of a budget, ensure that the solution you’re suggesting makes sense to that customer, and isn’t just being mooted because it’s the most exciting toy on the market. Injecting a data-driven approach into all aspects of our team’s work is a big part of the emphasis at PageGroup – and even early on, it can help give you a clearer sense of what’s working and why.
Focus on leadership
As with other leadership functions, CMOs need to act as leaders and focus on getting their teams engaged and united around a common vision and plan. This requires looking at the big picture and working with your leadership team to identify key priorities for the business. Then, it’s about steering your teams in working cross-functionally, while maintaining constructive communication throughout.
As with all digital endeavours, all these factors need to be achieved at pace – which means there isn’t always enough time to review and compare notes. These are some of the areas I’m focussing on, and hope they’re really helpful. I would love to hear further ideas as well: let me know your thoughts!
Moving on to your team, here's some advice on how to hire the best digital talent.