Author’s Note: It’s a new world since we wrote this blog and with events canceled this spring, we predict CMOs will shift budgets to be even more focused on digital marketing.  So I believe this blog is more relevant than ever.

Save the CMO: Part I of a 3 Part Series

The practice of B2B marketing has changed profoundly over the past couple of decades. Virtually every job in every industry has evolved in response to the rise of data and technology, but it has arguably hit marketing the hardest. B2B marketing was more art than science from its inception, and it has been transformed with new tools that uncover insights, automate tasks and measure performance.

The changes haven’t been confined to new tools to do the job; the job itself has changed. Back in the day, CMO skills focused on building and managing brands. Marketing segmented audiences and used research (if they had the time and money to conduct it) and intuition to create campaigns targeted to each segment. Modern marketing is highly personalized, enabling targeting at the individual and company level.

The changes to marketing operations in general and the CMO role specifically are so significant that they have prompted some people to wonder if the CMO role is becoming obsolete. The truth is, CMOs are more necessary than ever, but they need all the CMO skills they brought to the profession initially plus a whole new skillset to succeed.

Moving Targets

The CMO role today still requires all the skills it did a generation ago, including the ability to tell a compelling story, understand market research and choose great creative. But now success demands additional skills, including the ability to generate and analyze real-time data, gain insight from performance metrics and apply those insights to future campaigns to improve results.

Less than a decade ago, there were approximately 150 martech solutions available. Today, there are more than 7,000. The new tools enable data-driven decision-making, but they also heighten C-suite expectations, which are that every operating unit demonstrate its contribution to revenue generation, including marketing. Accounts of activities aren’t enough: CMOs have to show results.

And if the changing role wasn’t sufficiently challenging, the pool of potential customers has also changed, especially on the B2B side. Prospective buyers have access to more information than ever, sales cycles are lengthening, and more people are involved in buying decisions. CMOs used to focus on creating awareness at the top of the sales and marketing funnel, but with buyers conducting their own research, marketing has to create content to help them at every stage of the customer journey.

Bringing the CMO Skills Up to Date

The scope of modern marketing’s responsibilities is incredibly vast, so it’s not possible for one person to master all facets of it and understand how each set of tools function, but it is essential for a modern CMO to have a big-picture understanding of how component parts contribute to the whole. For example, the marketing operations and digital marketing teams might engage in all of these areas and more:

CMOs might be an expert at one or several of these areas, but chances are, they aren’t adept at all of them, and this is just a sample of the types of operations happening in modern marketing departments. The good news is, CMOs don’t have to perform all these functions themselves: they need to hire competent people, set the right strategy and let their team execute it.

For CMOs who have been in the marketing business for a couple of decades or more, choosing a digital-driven area of specialty and doing an in-depth study on how it works and what tools enable it is a great idea. It provides a perspective the CMO may otherwise lack, but the key to success is building a great team and understanding how all the moving parts work together to create value.

And that’s really the bottom line for the CMO role and why it will remain vital in the years ahead: successful marketing requires a team with diverse skills, and someone needs to understand the big picture and that someone is the CMO. Those in the CMO role who embrace the complexity and create and manage a top-notch team to handle it will remain relevant for the next decade and beyond.

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