Save CMO

Could Better Email Marketing Save Your CMO?

Many recent articles have highlighted the plight of the CMO. A recent issue of Harvard Business Review,The Trouble With CMOs,” called it the riskiest job in the C-suite, with an average tenure of four years, half that of the CEO. An article in MediaPost by Maarten Albarda pointed out that while five C-suite members share growth and revenue responsibility, only the CMO was blamed for missed targets.

These articles recommend several solutions such as redefining the CMO’s role, matching responsibilities to the job’s scope, and realigning metrics with expectations. However, CMOs may find an easy win by adjusting what is already a top performer – their email marketing. This win could be easy because most CMOs don’t realize how much better their email programs could be performing.

They may not know that their email marketing staff faces data-access issues daily that prevent them from personalizing their marketing efforts, at least partly because they’re taking a big-picture approach and not always digging their fingers into the day-to-day nitty gritty their marketing team is dealing with. As knowledgeable and capable as the CMO is, she isn’t likely to be executing the email marketing plan at enterprise organizations, and so her perception may not entirely match the on-the-ground reality her marketing director and data analyst see.

What they commonly see is data lag and a system that isn’t enabling the seamless customer experience they aim to provide, and consumers have come to expect. In many large organizations, though, the CMO is responsible for the forest, and it looks fine from the air. But the reality is the weeds are growing tall and choking out the trees. She needs to consult her boots on the ground to get a true sense of what’s going wrong, and how to fix it.

While the list of concerns for CMOs is long and complex, their most pressing issues revolve around collecting and using data. Former Microsoft CMO Thom Gruhler summarized elements of the dilemma in a recent Forbes interview, saying, “Customer experience is the new brand and winning requires data – the more the better. And yet, identifying the right data to model, predict, and improve performance across all touch points is one of the toughest challenges facing CMOs and marketers today.”

In a recent study from The Relevancy Group, digital marketers’ greatest concerns also revolved around data: access to data, the types of data they could use, the time it took to get the data they need, and how they could use it to personalize customer experiences.

When the CMO looks at the analytics reports her data analyst delivers to her, she might see what looks like a healthy email marketing program. Because email is generally effective relative to most other marketing channels — even with subpar execution — it may not be apparent to the CMO that anything is amiss. The numbers are there. People are clicking. Money is coming in. It’s a sound investment; everybody can start patting each other on the back.

Behind the scenes, though, data access issues are putting the organization behind the eight ball. Even if the profit on email looks sound, if the top competitors have stronger margins because they’re better utilizing their data in real time, that profit might as well be a loss. With more access to data in true real time, marketers will be able to focus on delivering a world-class customer experience via communications that are consistently timely, personalized, and relevant. That will help the CMO save money by making better use of her team members, and by spending less time dealing with unnecessary customer follow-up.

These savings could come at a critical time for CMOs. After years of rising budgets, especially for martech, 43% of marketing leaders expect their budget to fall or flatline this year. And while martech accounts for 27% of marketing budgets, it is ripe for cost optimization (“What Marketing Leaders Should Learn From Marketing Spend Patterns,” Gartner).

So, the good news for CMOs: You have more data than you ever imagined. New technologies like advanced analytics and artificial intelligence can help you create what your customers want. All you need now is the ability to act. You need to be responsive and nimble, and you need technology that facilitates this. As Gruhler said, “Agility is absolutely the coin of the realm for marketing performance … Brands are important, but as important is your agility in redirecting what you’re doing with customers based on real-time insights and experimentation that help marketers be more precise with the allocation of precious resources to drive measurable impact.”

Will Devlin

A 14-year veteran of the email marketing industry, Will has been focused on leading marketing strategy and execution for MessageGears since 2014. He has extensive experience on both the retail customer and service side of email marketing, and he’s interested in helping businesses better understand how they can make the most of the work they put into their email campaigns.