There’s a “C Change” Underway: CMOs and CIOs Are Aligning for Digital Disruption

Modern Marketing


The phrase “sea change” is used to indicate significant transformation, usually for the better, and is derived from William Shakespeare’s work “The Tempest” (“nothing of him that doth fade; but doth suffer a sea change; into something rich and strange”). Today, it’s often used in business to describe a change in strategy or direction of a company, or a new disruptive product or business model that instigates growth.

There’s a change underway in the world of marketing right now—a “C change”: the CMO, continuing to rise in prominence, is now interacting with the CEO and CIO in more strategic, meaningful ways.

Just last month at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit, our President and CEO Phil Fernandez and our CMO Sanjay Dholakia spoke about Tomorrow’s Marketer and how imperative it is that the CMO partners with the CEO and CIO to enhance the customer experience and drive growth like never before.

This week, I had two more encounters that highlighted this rapidly emerging trend:

  • I was working with a partner at a major Systems Integrator (SI) firm, and he commented about the changes underway. He explained that nearly two years ago, a partnership between them and Marketo wouldn’t have been of interest because “Marketo was aligned to the CMO, and we are aligned to the CIO.” Fast forward to today, and we both see these worlds merging at a rapid pace, portending significant opportunity for improvements and change.
  • And again, at an event about digital transformation, where I saw several presentations featuring “dynamic duos”—CIOs and CMOs of major Chicago-area-based corporations together discussed how digital disruption, the need for enhanced customer intimacy, and a need for “startup-like agility” have driven them to work more collaboratively than ever.

It’s clear that this is not a fad and may not even be a trend. Rather, it’s a new reality—a reality that requires adaptive thinking from marketing and an opportunity to lead and participate more fully in company strategy and direction.

So if you’re a marketing leader, what can you do to harness this new reality? Let’s take a look:

  • Use technology to never leave the side of your customer. Big Data is all the rage, and it drives significant insight into customer patterns and allows you to target ads and offers more effectively. But a one-way strategy (you talking to them) is not enough. You need to employ technologies and processes that allow you to “listen” to your customers—understand their digital footprints, preferences, and activities—and tailor interactions accordingly on a 1:1 basis, but at scale and volume, to improve the customer experience.
  • Partner with your CIO. Cloud technologies have been a great disruptor and have enabled various lines of business to drive innovation on their terms without much IT interaction. But as the cloud matures and businesses adopt more and more solutions, there’s a need for greater governance and strategy across departments. Additionally, the explosion of data volumes and sources necessitates a different look at engagement technologies. It’s is no longer just about sending email campaigns—it’s about leveraging volumes of data to create personalized engagements for every customer in a manner that’s scalable, secure, and automated across multiple channels.
  • Realize that digital customer intimacy isn’t just a marketing strategy. Companies that will make the next leap (a true “sea change”) will utilize digital transformation as an overall corporate, strategic direction. The CMO needs to partner with the CEO and CIO to make this an overall transformative effort across the company, not “just another marketing project.”

There’s tremendous cause for optimism among the ranks of marketers as this movement grows. As customer intimacy and digital transformation rise in prominence in boardrooms and strategy sessions, the CMO will continue to grow in importance. But, he or she needs to adapt to this new prominence by partnering more across the C-suite to drive change at speed and scale. That’s the new change required—the “C change.”

Have you started to see this “C change” happening in your organization? How do you see it changing the way marketing is seen in the organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.