From CMO To CEO? Not Without More Data

As the economy has continued to improve, CMOs are worrying less about keeping their jobs, and more about how they’ll move into the CEO spot, according to a new survey from Forrester Research. 

But because they still lack the full understanding of customers that can come from technology, including the insights down the hall in the CIO’s office, they’re less likely to get there. The survey, conducted with search firm Heidrick & Struggles, finds that 50% of the CMOs surveyed feel they are hindered by the lack of access to technology that allows for a single view of the customer, and 40% by the quality of customer data collected.

The survey, based on more than 200 CMOs, confirms that marketing execs are increasingly ambitious: Some 40% of the B2B CMOs believe their next title will be CEO, as do 10% of those in consumer companies. (When the survey was done last, in 2011, more were eyeing lateral moves or becoming CMO at bigger brands.) And 59% are actively looking to increase their influence in the C-suite. Specifically, they’re keen to sharpen financial, strategic and collaborative skills for their next move.



“CMOs recognized their need to step up as business leaders,” writes Forrester analyst Sheryl Pattek in the report. “They are paying more attention to their own business skills, how those skills are communicated to their C-level peers, and how that relates to the organizations they run.”

But where they are feeling increasingly flummoxed, the survey reports, is in technology, and they want to know more about how it works, how it can aid the brand’s growth, and how they can assess tech vendors.

To that end, they say they are working harder to  cement partnerships with the CIO, with 51% describing this as an important relationship, compared with just 30% in the earlier survey.

“Although I’ve been doing this for 29 years, marketing has become more complex and technical,” one told Pattek. “It’s virtually impossible to keep up with everything. I tell people that every year I learn more and more and know less and less.”

And while 73% say having a single view of the customer is important, only 20% have it. Only 53% include interactive marketing teams in planning, and just 39% use technology to gather, analyze, or respond to customer data. 

“CMOs are recognizing that effective customer engagement requires technology,” she says, “with 45% believing it is essential to business growth, and 32% saying it is critical if they are to create actionable insights from data.”

"Businessman climbing ladder" photo from Shutterstock.

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