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The road to becoming a pioneering CMO

CMOs are often looked upon as the main driver of change, but according to an Accenture study – “Way beyond marketing: The rise of the hyper-relevant CMO” – two in three CMOs do not believe their current marketing leads have the leadership skills or business acumen required for the role. Meanwhile, the same study showed that only 17% of the nearly 1,000 CMOs surveyed globally have been extremely successful at delivering highly relevant customer experiences, and they are being termed “pioneering CMOs”.

During a roundtable session organised by Oracle, in partnership with Marketing, Harriet de Swiet, managing director for APAC at Brand Learning, a marketing and sales capability consultancy which was acquired by Accenture in 2017, said these pioneering CMOs are generating greater value for shareholders by delivering really hyper-relevant customer experiences. Instead of being involved in measurable and repeatable tasks such as content production and managing social profiles, which form the foundation of marketing, marketers should work towards the top of the pyramid which is “blue sky thinking”.

This involves being innovative and creating new ideas and possibilities, as well as finding new sources of growth. Meanwhile, there are also a bulk of marketers “trapped in the frozen middle” because they spend too much of their time managing the basic tasks. As a result, they do not have the time to think and break through to “blue sky thinking”, unlike pioneering CMOs.

She added that pioneering CMOs are those who are thinking much more holistically across the organisation, and constantly seeking alternative sources of growth. They are taking a more transformative approach by deliberately disrupting themselves to be much more interesting.

According to de Swiet, marketers today need to be able to focus on the now and new, and this involves thinking boldly and architecting the growth, while thinking about how they can drive performance and optimise it smartly. This involves combining “blue sky thinking” of the future with measurable, repeatable tasks and ensuring they produce a positive result.

Another difference about pioneering CMOs is their ability to bring humanity into their work; to genuinely believe and care about their customers, and deeply empathise and not see them as simply a data point. They are then also able to use that foresight and boldness to drive ingenuity to find creative solutions.

Quoting the Accenture study, she said that pioneering CMOs understand they have to stay in a permanent state of change if they are going to successfully deliver on customers’ needs. “These CMOs are much more focused on their own people and really understand that they need to think about how they develop their own people to become much more customer centric,” she explained.

While it can be tough for marketers, especially those in legacy companies, to remain customer-centric throughout the journey, she said customers expect companies to constantly do so and have a single view of their journey.

“Customers expect us to use data in a really intelligent way. Our customer expectations are way ahead of our own technology and the internal capabilities available to deliver against it. Most people assume that because I can get a highly personalised service from one company, I am able to get it from everyone else, regardless of what the back-end challenges are,” she said.

Beyond just advertising

Also speaking at the roundtable was Siva Ganeshanandan, Oracle’s GM, customer experience solutions, Southeast Asia and Asian growth economies, who said the customer experience is not about ads or the communications that customers receive from companies. Instead, it cuts across sales, commerce and how consumers transact with the brand.

While experience capabilities such as payments or VR are often being talked about by marketers, he said they are normally built by other teams within the organisation instead of marketing. While such capability goes beyond marketers, they are still affected by this at the end of the day.

For example, if a salesperson messes up on their end, it impacts the brand, which falls on the marketing team to rebuild it. “To combat this, we need to get involved in all these different areas,” he said.

Referring to Philip Kottler’s quote that “the business enterprise has two basic functions – innovation and marketing”, he added that today, marketing need to play an ever increasing role in the innovation – if not technological innovation, experience innovation. Ganeshanandan said marketers need to own how they communicate with the customer.

One way to do this is to look into the experience delivered by sales and services, and see how the marketing team can play a part in making it more customer-centric and relevant for consumers. He added that when it comes to a sales opportunity, it is important to ensure the sales team is selling the right information about the company and engaging consumers in a relevant manner.

“Sales people need to be able to know which group of customers they are talking to and key that into your CRM system, and have the system make recommendations that are relevant to the customer,” he said. “By being customer-centric, companies can potentially help turn an anonymous individual into a customer and eventually an advocate.”

Also present at the roundtable was Zalora’s group director of brand communications, Christopher Daguimol, who said Zalora started out with the mindset of being a digital-first company, and as such, has a pool of data scientists and analysts to map out what consumers want in order to better cater to their needs.

“Hyper-localised and hyper-personalised campaigns are the two main considerations when it comes to marketing the brands on our platform, and they will still be important to us in the long run,” he said. He added the adoption of fashion eCommerce will be “slightly slower” among eCommerce companies in Southeast Asia.

While it might be easy to book a flight or order groceries online, the experience is different when it comes to clothes. He said this was where VR and AR comes in. “We try to merge the data, insights and cultural learnings that we have to ensure we close that gap and make consumers trust the brand, adapt to fashion eCommerce and buy from our platform,” he explained.

This post is part of Marketing’s bespoke roundtable series and was sponsored by Oracle and Brand Learning (part of Accenture). It was held on 12 September 2019 at InterContinental Singapore.