CMOs: Buy Your CIOs Lunch; Make It A Regular Date

CMOs are spending too much time on their holiday catalogs.  And not enough time with their CIOs. 

If there is one person in an organization who CMOs could use more quality time with today, it’s the CIO.  While I have no doubt that your holiday catalog generates great sales (though knowing how much of that revenue is incremental is another story), I would argue that a few hours with your CIO is a better use of time than a week watching pictures being taken of beautiful people with your product.  I imagine as CMO you have a talented person on your team who can handle the shoot, but no one can replace you when it comes to building a relationship with the colleague who should be your thought partner, collaborator and biggest fan. 

Glen Hartman of Accenture Interactive recently shared findings from a survey of CMOs and CIOs that found that only one in ten executives believe that the collaboration between the two is at the right level and, unsurprisingly, that CMOs and CIOs rank their priorities very differently.  In other words, the stereotype is that CIOs gravitate toward technology projects focused on infrastructure, POS systems and new technologies, while CMOs focus on creative and brand messaging.  What I take away from that is that CMOs and CIOs need to reframe their goals in the context of enhancing the customer experience and marketing effectiveness.  With that shared purpose, both can play to their strengths and their passions AND create value for the organization.



To be honest, it surprises me how widespread this disconnect is.  In my time as CMO of Harrah’s / Caesars, my relationship with our CIO was crucial to our success.  A staggering percentage of the work we did hinged on turning analytics insights into customer-focused action via technology initiatives.  Projects were kicked-off in collaborative work sessions, pitched to the executive team in unison, managed jointly, and celebrated collectively.  It did help that the CIO and I skied together, and we formed our bond over fresh California powder. While we challenged each other down the mountain, our best ideas and solutions were often formed on the chair lift ride up.  When he decided to leave, in order to maintain and enhance how Marketing and IT were aligned, his position was filled by someone whom I had hired and who had worked for me for 5 years. 

With that change, my CIO “bonding time” moved from the slopes to the coffee shop, but the relationship remained one of my most important in the organization and the positive collaboration continued to strengthen both our teams.

If you had a standing weekly lunch with your CIO, you could have a robust CRM database environment in which your catalog quantities were optimized and its content was highly personalized – based on previous purchase history, browsing behavior, products abandoned in the cart, age, demographics and predicted share of wallet. 

You would have the benefit of incorporating the results of ongoing analytic experiments in your catalog improving its effectiveness by at least 10%.  And if none of that seems reward enough, you would also more precisely know if and when to pull the trigger on promotional discounts, at a more refined segment level, combining customer and product data. 

While the collaboration can start at the lunch table, it certainly shouldn’t end there. CMOs and CIOs need to foster their relationship and create a culture between their respective teams so that everyone is speaking the same language.

After Harrah’s acquisition of Caesars, our combined corporate office was split between two locations 15 minutes apart.  The CIO and I pushed to have our teams co-located, while other functions would go to the new office to maximize time together.  We filled the office with highlights of our high-priority projects and resorts, and we did a monthly awards ceremony between the two teams to recognize key contributors as nominated by their cross-functional peers. 

Just think, if you start now, a weekly lunch with your CIO will have you further along the path of solving the omni-channel customer journey by next September, providing a more seamless experience for customers as they interact with your brand via the web, mobile device or in a physical store.

 While only a handful of retailers will have made significant progress integrating across channels for the upcoming holiday season, I expect customers to spend increasingly more time and more money with those retailers who make it easy and efficient to engage with a brand whenever and wherever they want.  In other words, the big winners next holiday season will be the CMOs that go out and buy their CIO lunch tomorrow.

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