8 Ways CMOs Can Improve Their Tech Skills

Technology and marketing are more intertwined than ever before. CRM software, social media, and device-level data usage have transformed the ways we engage with brands. As a result, the role of the CMO is rapidly changing, too. What was once a position primarily focused on public relations and advertising is now heavily associated with technology. In the words of IDC Vice President Kathleen Schaub, “No CMO today can be a good marketer unless they become a good technologist.” Unfortunately, most CMOs struggle to make this shift. But it is, in fact, not an impossible transition. 

Why it matters: Big data

The world’s data is said to reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. To help conceptualize, one zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes. 

Because of this, many CMOs realize IT is not only a key component of effective marketing but also a strategic partner in achieving marketing and business goals. Today’s chief marketing officer simply cannot go it alone. However, the path to partnership is both attainable and rewarding. 

With that in mind, here some are some tips on how CMOs can improve their tech skills and strengthen their relationship with the IT department.  

Prepare for a shift in mindset and responsibilities 

A CMO is already accustomed to delivering creativity and strategizing with vision. Today, they also need to be data maestros. Specifically, the modern chief marketing officer must be able to evaluate data in terms of revenue growth. From there, they are in the best position to spell out their marketing game plan. 

CMOs aren’t the only ones who have to modify their approach. Simultaneously, an IT director must view technology as the business’s new revenue nucleus. In other words, today’s chief information officer must work towards seamlessly integrating technology with an organization’s marketing efforts. 

Furthermore, both marketing and IT are accountable for business growth. Grounding this accountability in specific key performance indicators, such as revenue growth, can keep both parties on track.  

Formulate clear and specific goals

In order for the CMO-CIO partnership to work, there must be concise and specific goals. As a chief marketing officer, make sure you are completely clear on what you want your strategy to look like and what you want it to achieve. From there, you and your team can see what is possible and what is needed. 

Establish decision governance

A successful partnership also requires a transparent decision-governance system. Without decision-governance, marketing and IT can run into conflict, confusion surrounding responsibilities, and even politicking. 

Some chief marketing officers and chief information officers use the RACI model to help delineate who is responsible for a decision, who is accountable, who is consulted, and who is informed. Remember, the most effective choices balance stakeholders’ proficiencies and abilities. 

Regardless of the decision-making system, a CMO should be prepared to meet the CIO halfway. It’s expected that both parties will have to compromise and make changes to how they usually approach work. 

Establishing decision governance will allow the CMO and CIO to focus on what matters: getting the job done. 

Practice transparency and promote open communication

The CMO and CIO should be transparent with one another, not just about work, but also about how their partnership progresses. What is going well? What needs improvement? 

Scheduling regular meetings can help safeguard alignment. Having a decision-making process in place will also reinforce accountability. It’s a better business protocol to have frequent updates and check-ins than to let too much time and energy be spent in what will turn out to be the wrong direction. 

A CIO appreciates it when a CMO communicates in a proactive manner. Take it from Adobe, which advises chief marketing officers to “loop their technology departments into buying decisions early.” This creates for a seamless integration of marketing and technology. 

Honor and acknowledge the CIO’s expertise, and they will do the same for you. 

Recognize that there may be a language barrier 

Those who work in marketing and those who work in tech can find it difficult to understand one another, resulting in substantial errors, project delays, and mutual frustration. A CMO may be used to communicating their vision in a few short sentences while an IT professional is more accustomed to receiving page long briefs. 

To avoid misunderstandings and frustrations, a CMO should take the time to learn how to best communicate with the CIO and IT department. Getting to know their preferences when it comes to briefings and feedback will go a long way in the partnership. Adapting to different communication styles is a pivotal component of succeeding in today’s modern workplace. 

There are so many resources available to CMOs to grow their technological knowledge. There are also countless opportunities for formal and informal socializing. Consider positioning the CIO and CMO in nearby offices (when it’s safe to return, that is!). Ultimately, the effort a chief marketing officer puts in will pay off in several ways. 

Foster across-the-board cross-functional collaboration 

Collaboration among different departments is becoming more common in the modern workplace, and a productive CMO-CIO partnership can positively impact an entire company. In fact, you can encourage cross-functional collaboration with all of your marketing and IT professionals. 

Some organizations formally create hybrid teams, bolstering the CMO, CIO, and company revenue. Additionally, working with different departments and expertise can help boost company morale. 

Organizations that create more opportunities for cross-collaboration find they are able to streamline projects and unlock new potential in their employees. CIOs and CMOs will also find new ways to cultivate leadership and mastery among their workers. 

Encourage tech development and their personal development 

In addition to being committed to working alongside IT, a chief marketing officer should also encourage their colleagues to invest in their careers and grow their skill sets. Look into virtual IT conferences and events they can attend. Be an ally where and when you can. 

Encouraging professional development among IT will increase their confidence and better prepare your entire organization for disruption. At the end of the day, investing in your talent is a surefire way to stay relevant. 

Your CIO-CMO partnership is aiming for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Data should be the starting point and end point. It is your equalizer. 

Be patient

Understand that merging marketing with technology is still a learning curve for everyone involved, and digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. CMOs, along with practically every other position, has been forced to adapt this year. 

We recommend CMOs and CIOs start small, first focusing on a few easy-to-manage projects before moving on to tackle more significant initiatives. This kind of “test period” allows both of you to see how you can best collaborate. 

One thing is certain: consumer behavior and technology will continue to change and change again. Because of this, all marketers need to learn how to keep pace with the demands. As a CMO, the information technology director is your strategic partner. Ultimately, a chief marketing officer’s ability to work well with the information technology department will separate the good from the great. 

ABOUT SHAMA HYDER

She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.

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