CMO-to-CMO: Engage with technology

Savvy marketing execs know they need to partner with the CIO to both navigate tricky technology waters and tap the power of analytics

You'd think marketing pros speaking to a roomful of marketers about the rocky CMO-CIO relationship would devolve into an IT-bashing session -- but you'd be wrong.

At GrowthBeat, a tech marketing conference in San Francisco last week, John Busman, global marketing CMO initiative lead at IBM, Cammie Dunaway, U.S. president and global CMO at KidZania, and Nadine Dietz, senior vice president of CMO content leadership at The CMO Club, gathered on stage to talk about the elephant in the room: marketing's need to work collaboratively with IT in the age of the digital consumer.

To be fair, CMOs know they need the CIO to help them navigate tricky technology waters, especially as marketing tech vendors come at them in waves. There are huge opportunities with big data and analytics that shed light on customer behavior, social and mobile marketing tools to reach the customer at the right time and place, and technology that connects the dots to enhance the customer experience and drive revenue.

CMOs: Get Excited, Drive Revenue

"If you're a CMO today and not excited and engaged with data and technology, then I question how long you're going to be in the job," says Dunaway at KidZania, which creates role-playing theme parks for kids in 16 places around the world. "It's changed in ways that are really empowering. It enables you to do much more in your company to actually drive top line growth."

[Related: How to Master CMO Word Play ]

KidZania, for instance, has over the past three years leveraged data to enhance the consumer experience. Now when a child comes to a KidZania theme park, KidZania uses an array of technology such as radio-frequency identification and historical-activities data to personalize the experience at both the physical facility and online, which, of course, leads to greater customer loyalty.

"All of these things were visions that we had but required very, very deep collaboration between marketing, IT and operations to actually bring them to life," Dunaway says. "In some ways, getting the big idea is the easy part. Getting everybody in the organization working together to make them happen for the consumer is where the challenge comes in."

IBM conducted a study on this topic interviewing some 5,000 C-suite executives, says IBM's Busman. The CEOs were asked what they thought were the top skill sets for success. The number one skill was collaboration, which came in ahead of honesty and expertise.

[ Related: The CIO and CMO Perspective on Big Data ]

This collaboration challenge comes up regularly during discussions among The CMO Club members, says Dietz. She cited The CIO-CMO Omnichannel, a study by CIO, EPAM Systems and The CMO Club as a good starting point for solving this challenge. (For more on this study, check out CIOs and CMOs Suffer From Failure to Communicate.)

"Make sure you're speaking the same language," Dietz says.

Trilogy of Collaboration Challenges

KidZania's Dunaway says she had a trifecta of collaboration challenges with the CIO spanning language, culture and geography. Not only were they speaking, figuratively, different languages, the CIO was based in another country, Mexico, and spoke Spanish as his native language.

[ More: The CIO Role ]

However, Dunaway was able to overcome these challenges by focusing on the customer as a rallying point.

"There was a great opportunity to drive revenue and making a future for engaging consumers in new ways," Dunaway says. "I brought him up to an event that CIO Magazine did right here in this room. It was an initiative on my part to try to get him to start thinking more broadly about what was possible."

Collaboration isn't a one-way street, either.

"I found that, while it's easy for me to give good direction on how to do a big advertising campaign or a big media buy, when it came to giving good direction on technology initiatives, I needed to learn that new language," Dunaway says. She adds that she needed to find project managers who could act as translators communicating and presenting the grand vision, business requirements and the technology to deliver it.

CIO and CMO Partner Up

It's a true partnership, Dunaway says. She and the CIO meet regularly to discuss project issues and take proposals to the CEO together. They have a joint scorecard covering an array of metrics, such as the number of members in the loyalty program, engagements and repeat visits.

"As a marketer, you have to dig in, show your willingness to ask questions, and go the extra mile to learn more about technology," Dunaway says.

This story, "CMO-to-CMO: Engage with technology" was originally published by CIO.

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