How Data is Changing the Role of the CMO

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In the same way data shapes the essence of a brand’s relationship with its consumers, smart leaders are recognizing it is also revolutionizing the way they manage their teams.

It’s easy to talk about the ways data helps brands to build sustainable relationships with consumers, but when it comes to organizations faced with data-driven change it can be a daunting task, and may require a change in leadership approaches.

ClickZ asked senior marketing executives, from insurance company Assurant Solutions, financial software Host Analytics, OpenTable and WeCareCard, about the ways data is changing the role of the chief marketing officer (CMO).

Here’s what they had to say.

stephen-headshot-1Stephen Ebbett, chief digital officer (CDO), Assurant Solutions

ClickZ (CZ): How has data changed your role of CDO and your leadership approach?

Stephen Ebbett (SE): Data automation is the name of the game. With automated alerts and real-time data I don’t have to hunt down various versions of reports or wait for stakeholders.
When a KPI goes below a threshold, I know that very minute. When a KPI soars above goal, I know the moment it happens. The result? I celebrate team victories loudly and publically. 
When we face challenges, I know about them before they become pitfalls.
Because the data is churned quickly and automatically, I spend more time guiding my team to success, and a lot less time working out the implications of antiquated reports.

CZ: How does data help you deal more effectively with customers, employees and other stakeholders?

SE: Data is our customers’ biggest advocate. It tells us when products and websites don’t meet their needs. It tells me how we can protect what matters more quickly, and more effectively, so policy holders keep their lives on track. Take the mobile device market. I can combine data we have on claims, average device lifespan, and user behavior with marketing and web behavior collected over the years. I run that data through some intense analytical models. Based on the output I can direct my product team to improve customer experience by enhancing visibility into the claims process, and direct the web team to gently remind some users that the device in their pocket is at risk in ways that their friends’ phones may not be. Everybody wins.

Data helps my employees and stakeholders by telling me when we’re spending our time wisely, and when we’re not as focused as we could be. Employees like it because the wealth of project management information at my disposal allows me to quickly direct projects in the direction of people who are passionate about them. Stakeholders love data because they can see how hard we’re working, and how our work is paying off. They see how development hours turn into revenue.

lance-walter-host-analytics-headshotLance Walter, CMO, Host Analytics

CZ: How has data changed your interaction with the chief financial officer (CFO) of Host Analytics?

Lance Walter (LW): It has made that interaction a lot healthier and more productive. The cliché of the past was that marketing spent big but was not accountable for the results or the efficiency of that spend. Now, I can show my CFO cost-per-lead and cost-per-opportunity for every program type and every individual campaign. That makes it a lot easier to get incremental spend when needed because my CFO knows it will be spent wisely and as a team, we can reliably anticipate the results.

CZ: Does data help you deal more effectively with customers, employees, stockholders, and other stakeholders?

LW: With customers, we can tailor content based on their role, industry, company size and more to make it as relevant and valuable as possible for them. And for stakeholders, our executive team, as well as the rest of our marketing team, data tells us what’s working and what isn’t, and where we should invest. Gone are the days when marketing would be “measured” based on the creativity of a splashy campaign. It has moved from art to science and now we measure everything from web traffic and lead conversion to win-rate and sales cycle length by customer segment. We track more than 50 marketing metrics daily or weekly and we use our “leading indicator” metrics, like new web leads this week, to inform and adjust our company financial plans.

scott-opentableScott Jampol, senior vice president (SVP) of marketing, OpenTable

CZ: How has data changed your approach to leadership?

Scott Jampol (SJ): I have always tried to be a data-driven marketer throughout my career. However, it used to be that you had to hunt so hard to get the right data, that you often would not have the time, budget or resources to get access to, understand it and leverage it. Now, as data has become much more available, the risk is having the opposite issue – so much data that it can slow your decision making down trying to wade through it to find the right insights. Data doesn’t tell you what to do; but it is essential in guiding your decisions and testing, validating and optimizing your strategies.

CZ: In your role at OpenTable, how do you leverage data to spot a business opportunity and communicate more efficiently with both consumers and stakeholders?

SJ: The first implication here is on the mindset of the marketing team. Everyone needs to be comfortable with accessing and analyzing data to be successful in their jobs. We are now all part-time data-analysts at OpenTable and this absolutely helps us better understand more about the needs and habits of our restaurants and diners. In terms of communications, data is essential for us to continue to improve the messages, methods and timing of our marketing. This is something that is a never-ending optimization process like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. We are just striving to use data to help us get faster and test, learn and fail faster. The more data we have, the better we are at powering great dining experiences.

wecarecard-katherine-mobleyKatherine Voyles Mobley, CMO, WeCareCard

CZ: How has data changed your role of CMO and your leadership approach?

Katherine Voyles Mobley (KVM): Honestly, I think it has meant getting much closer to the technical side than I ever thought was imaginable, both as a CMO and a leader. Even to the extent that I myself and many of my counter parts have taken the lead on big data projects from a strategy perspective than the chief information officer (CIO) or the chief technology officer (CTO) implement and maintain these plans. We as leaders have to work in a more collaborative manner than in the former silo approach of ‘this is marketing’s problem’ or ‘I don’t know, call the CTO’. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first that this could work, but it has taken countless hours to understand technology and get them to understand marketing, but in the end it is where we as leaders are headed.

CZ: How does data help you deal more effectively with customers and stakeholders?

KVM: I am an admitted data geek! Granted data analysis by CMOs isn’t anything new, but in my opinion the access to countless forms of proprietary and public data have helped us in regards to measuring ROI and engagement. Not only that, it is our access to real time data that has changed the way we think as professionals. Only five years ago we had to wait on quarterly reports and brand trackers, to make decisions in a reactive manner. Now with the right tools in place to measure our efforts we can not only deliver a sniper approach to target audiences, and generate call to actions that work, we can make rapid adjustments to communications in all channels (customer, vendor and employees) as needed proactively.

*Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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