Corporate Eye

Chief Marketing Officers Admit Confusion and Concerns

graphChief Marketing Officers surveyed by Aprimo and Argyle Executive Forum at an Argyle event in New York City in April 2010 admitted to their current concerns and confusion, particularly related to calculating return on investment and integrating marketing efforts.

According to the survey, Chief Marketing Officers cited the following as elements that are “most broken in marketing”:

  • “Correlating marketing activities to revenues” = 39%
  • “Lack of marketing channel integration” = 27%
  • “Perceived lack of value from marketing” = 10%

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) were also asked to define “the CMO’s biggest challenges today” to which the top responses were as follows:

  • “Integrating and tracking multiple channels” = 37%
  • “Doing more with less” = 28%
  • “Accountability/measurement” = 18%
  • “Being able to control messages in light of social media” = 11%
  • “Keeping up with social media” = 6%

Furthermore, Chief Marketing Officer’s were asked “what is driving the highest degree of change to your marketing strategies” and provided the following responses:

  • “Increased requirement for ROI/accountability” = 27%
  • “Creating more compelling customer/prospect experiences” = 37%
  • “Drive to digital marketing” = 18%

Clearly the biggest problem for Chief Marketing Officers is accountability — without being able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that marketing initiatives directly drive profits, it’s nearly impossible to secure a future marketing budget, let alone keep your job.  However, so much of marketing these days cannot be accurately measured with hard metrics.  It’s not surprising that Chief Marketing Officers are typically the “fall guys” when companies aren’t making the numbers shareholders demand.

Additionally, the biggest area of confusion for Chief Marketing Officers is social media and digital marketing.  How else can one explain the low rankings in this survey for all things related to social media and digital marketing?  The reason those elements are ranked low is because Chief Marketing Officers don’t understand them enough to place value on them.  And since it’s very difficult to track social media marketing return on investment with hard metrics, it’s not surprising that social media is not considered a priority among this audience whose annual bonuses are directly tied to quantifiable results.

It seems marketers are living in a time where they’re set up for failure.  The marketing opportunities are there to leverage, but since they’re not easily quantifiable (similar to how brand value is not easily quantified but is inherently powerful), they’re ignored for easily trackable initiatives.  What’s a marketer to do?

Your thoughts?

Image: stock.xchang

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

This data is fascinating to me in that it looks like it could have been been collected 20 years ago. The old marketing adage “I know that 50% of my marketing isn’t working, if I know which 50% I get rid of it” is clearly still in play.

The data “reveals” age-old marketing challenges of ROI, accountability, and delivering great customer experiences haven’t been addressed by many marketers – not that they always can be – I truly understand that.

But marketers can only begin to address these issues by developing a clear understanding of customer segments, developing robust, repeatable marketing processes that can be continuously improved, putting the customer at the center of all activity and fully embracing the social world in which we all now operate.

Marketers set themselves up for failure by not doing these things. When marketers make it up as they go they set themselves up for failure. When marketers are alienated and/or isolated from IT, operations, and sales they set themselves up for failure. When marketers don’t have the support and buy-in of the C-suite they set themselves up for failure. When the C-suite sees alienation, isolation and lack of process all they can turn to to make a decision about anything is ROI.

Organizations must recognize that customer experience must be defined by marketing. But it must be delivered on by a collaborative effort between marketing, sales, operations and especially IT. In the age of social media marketing IT is more of a strategic partner of marketing than ever before.

Marketers also have to get over themselves and understand that they are no longer in charge of messaging and branding. Yes they can and should create strategic marketing, messaging, and branding plans and implement them as best they can. But the “reality” of their brand is being defined in the market as customers and prospects make the determination as to whether or not their experience with the brand aligns with the brand promises. It’s just that simple. Continuing to desire control of messaging indicates a fundamental lack of commitment to listening to customers. If you don’t or won’t listen to customers as a marketer or as an organization you will fail.

Now I’m not advocating spending an organization into oblivion to make customers happy. I am simply advocating that we live in the age of the customer. Everyday customers are more empowered and better equipped with new tools, data and knowledge. As marketers we all must have be listening and engaging with them in honest and open conversations or we will fail.

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