cmo-of-the-futureThe world has been digital for quite some time.

The role of technologists in organizations has drastically shifted from the IT guy making sure everyone is connected to the printer to visionaries that are leveraging state-of-the-art platforms to put a brand at the center of a consumer’s experience.

Gartner is predicting that by 2017, the CMO will spend more time than the CIO on technology. We're seeing this already happening with progressive brands shifting budgets towards digital.

Technology can no longer be kept in a vacuum. When technology and creative marketing are kept separated, it is impossible for innovation to thrive.

The ability to syndicate content across all the relevant channels is as much a technology challenge as it is a marketing and communications one.

Who Is this CMO of the Future?

I believe the CMO of the future is going to be a hybrid of a CIO and CTO; they are grounded in marketing strategy but willing to execute by any means necessary. The CMO of the future will fear no man, beast or technology.

With so many responsibilities, it is integral that the walls within the C-suite are removed — preferably metaphorically, but physically couldn’t hurt.

The CMO of tomorrow will be a hybrid technologist, full-time dreamer and responsible for owning innovation for a brand. The big ideas can come from anywhere: from working with agency and innovation partners to tapping into marketplace trends themselves.

A strong understanding of web and social analytics is also going to creep into the CMO’s day to day. Big data platforms crop up daily, and the CMO of the future needs to be familiar with the landscape. The future of big data isn't collecting it — it is being able to attribute and leverage it. Brands are beginning to hire data scientists and mathematicians to really harness the mass amounts of data.

The CMO role has always been a management centric one by definition. CMOs need to understand what is possible and roughly what it will take so they can red flag it when the team or partners aren't getting it done. These new CMOs will be able to tell the difference between true digital partners and snake-oil salesmen. Agencies need to recognize this and act accordingly.

What Skills Must the Modern Marketer Acquire?

Know Code or How to Speak the Language: Having an engineering and programming background is becoming more and more common. A recent prediction from the IDC states that 50 percent of the new marketing hires in 2013 will have a technical background. Does this mean that every marketer should jump on Codeacademy and start making apps? No, it just means they need to understand how the pieces fit together. If you don't know what kind of stack you have or the difference between front-end and back-end code, you should start spending more time with your team and agency partners.

Digital Media Buying: Surely every marketer has their troops focusing on media buying — both internally and externally through media companies. Knowledge of the digital ad landscape and what's possible from an ad-serving perspective helps. Companies like Right Media, Media Math and Audience Science take what you can do with digital media to a whole new level. Are you exploring behavioral retargeting, custom day parting and multi-variant content? If not, ask your media partner about where that makes sense for your marketing mix.

Analytics: Data from market reports and point of sale is just the beginning. Everyone has data. It's taking action on that data that will differentiate between leaders and those fighting to stay alive. Adobe's Omniture Site Catalyst, Google Analytics, Kissmetrics or Hubspot are just a few examples of web analytic packages.

SEO: Search isn't dead. Far from it. It's actually more important now than it has ever been. Discovery is a fundamental part of the human condition; we are curious beings. Modern marketers need to be skilled in creating content that will propel a brand to the top of a consumer’s discovery process.

API: For the non-tech savvy marketer, the concept of an application programming interface (API) can sometimes be tough to grasp. Connecting platforms, databases and functionality together is made possible through an API. Facebook, Google and almost all major platforms today have web services available to read and write from. Location data for mapping and logistics is offered through Google or Bing’s mapping platforms. Social media connectivity through Facebook or Twitter has become almost ubiquitous to any online campaign these days. The combination of two or more platforms is frequently used to add an additional level of engagement to an online experience.

Sensors and Future Devices: Some of the most fun I've been having lately is using Wi-Fi-enabled devices like Arduino and Raspberry Pi to build interesting installations and brand experiences. Couple that with more context-aware sensors like the Microsoft Kinect and you have yourself the power of an engineering R&D team for a few hundred dollars and some programming skills.

Marketing Automation: Dynamic, behavioral-driven content makes a difference. Marketing products like Eloqua, Pardot, Salesforce and Marketo are platforms that enable these things to be possible. However, a tool is only as good as the strategy behind it. Nurturing your prospects and customers with the right experience is an art form. Once that art is mastered, a marketing automation platform will allow you to perform at scale.

Digital Marketing is Still a Growing Beast

There is still time for traditional marketers to grow with the trends and adapt. If you're already doing everything above, then pat yourself on the back. You are winning the battle already. If you aren't, it’s never too late to learn. Look to your CIO, CTO and agency partners for assistance because the time’s they are a changin’. Follow me on Twitter @petesena and let me know what skills you think are necessary for the CMO of the future.

Originally published Mar 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

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Marketing Trends