CMO to have more spend power? Don't make me weep

CMO to have more spend power? Don't make me weep

Summary: Marketing and PR often measures useless things. Can you imagine the train wreck if they get control of large pieces of IT budgets?


I am no fan of "plumber"-style IT departments, but g-d help us if the CMO gets control of large chunks of IT spend. Let me explain.

Traditionally, marketing departments have been largely unaccountable in terms I understand. They run projects, campaigns and the like, the success of which is often measured in useless terms like "Our NFL ad spot was tweeted a gazzilion times--result," or "We sent out a ton of press releases and Howlett did a really great write up, we got a great spot in the FT and the WSJ. Awesome work." You get the picture.

That may well change as marketing supremos grab more IT resource and with it, greater pressure to facilitate revenue growth. However, there is plenty to get straightened out before they start wasting more money.

For example, I hear marketers salivating over the potential to mine social graphs. I hear other marketers drooling at the possibility of getting their colleagues to mine data with (name your vendor here) tools. But in advance of being able to do anything remotely useful, marketers and their bastard half-child PR, continue to rely on databases for spamming distributing information to anyone they think will be remotely interested in whatever they are flogging. It is the bane of mine and most other technology commenters' lives.

You have an active website? You address topics that comment about named goods and services on a regular basis? I guarantee you'll end up getting a flood of unsolicited email that goes something like:

Dear (first name inserted by robot)

I hope you are well.

We (or our client), the biggest, baddest provider of (robot inserts product/service name here), would love to gauge your interest in speaking to our (robot inserts name of marketing droid here) to discuss your interest in....

...and on it goes.

In case you are wondering what's happening, an agency somewhere along the line has picked up who you are, found your email address, added it to a database, and sold that data to as many people as possible. It doesn't care whether you wish to receive information. It is simply selling names.

The PR or marketing organization doesn't care who you are, as long as they can say in all honesty that they sent "X" thousand emails that produced "Y" result. If they are really, really fortunate, they'll get a 0.5 percent response rate, often less. But that can be enough to justify the investment in acting as a ramrod with which to invade your or my privacy. What does it matter if it annoys a lot of people along the way?

To make matters worse, some agencies pretend that they don't sell that information when that statement is patently untrue. But then, heh, this is PR and marketing we're talking about. Who said truth has any real place when it comes to execution? Even worse than that, some agencies may deny that you exist on their databases or that the person sending you crap is using an old list. Such was the case today.

I'll not name and shame (but you should have little trouble finding out who I mean), because the matter was finally resolved. The agency concerned, while adamant I was not on their database, had to admit to that being the case when I was able to produce a copy record from one of their clients. The client told me they were using what they believe to be an up to date record. My guess is that, like so much I see in marketing related activity, they are so used to BS, why bother actually checking the facts?

On this occasion, I was fortunate that the agency's client was happy to assist. I was equally fortunate to find an agency so stupid that it was worth pursuing. I suspect they are far from being an outlier.

My point: if marketing in whatever form doesn't understand the basics of databases, has precious few processes in place to manage problem resolution, and is getting me to do most of the detective work around their systems, then can you imagine the train wreck coming? If the CMOs office gets the kind of power which they currently covet, and which the likes of Gartner is perfectly happy to continue fuelling, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

In the meantime, I see an increasingly depressing trend where people like me find their email inboxes stuffed full of garbage that has little or anything to do with the topics in which we are interested, is 95 percent unsolicited, i.e., spam, and which sucks productivity out of my day.

In an age where we are told that our social graphs provide enough information with which to target with laser precision, has someone not thought about the current state of affairs and what needs doing to address this egregious condition? I think not. And then people wonder why I get so angry about the BS around social enterprise--go figure.

Topics: CXO, Social Enterprise

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Social Graph

    Fortunately my social graph is rather small I think. I don't Facebook, tweet, LinkedIn, or MySpace. The only place I am is on Google+ because I have an Android device otherwise I wouldn't be there either.
  • As a CMO....

    ..I don't take offense to your comment, especially since the concepts you are describing are old. Most companies today do not use spam as they understand you must develop a conversation only with those who have interest. The book "Digital Body Language", by Steven Woods is only one of a large set of current marketing styles that says that spam does not work, is a waste of time, and more often than not, is a deterrent to sales. The article by David Skok, "How JBoss Did it" (google that) is years old and describes the same current methods used by most. Marketing departments want to build a relationship through trust, with those who fit their well defined target market, for whom their product has been specifically designed.

    But then why is there still spam? That is either because the company is outsourcing to an ill trained PR firm or because they are intentionally using a form of phishing.

    For the first, those emails should have an "unsubscribe" link at the bottom which should work. And you may have accidentally agreed to get their emails when visiting their site or signing up for a new account. If it does not then they are contracting perhaps with multiple PR firms and as you say, when you unsubscribe from one, it is not sync'ing to the others. If that's true, when companies outsource, they should ensure they require each PR firm to sync to a common "self subscribed" database.

    The other reason, could be they are phishing for a demographic who can be captured by purposely poorly advertised products. One of the reasons we still get emails from Nigeria about a $7Million inheritance, is because the senders only want the really unsuspecting people would ever be fooled by such emails. They are the exact demographic who will be easy to scam, therefore, they want to continue sending the same wacky emails.

    Maybe that is why you are getting emails from that provider, they are looking for the lowest intelligence buyer. Or maybe they've outsourced to one too many PR firms. Wait, what were those ads for anyway???
  • Marketing is most data/tech savvy dept in many companies

    Dennis, I think you are extrapolating from PR groups and email marketing. Marketing in major brands has long used Nielsen ratings of ads, mountains of POS data and increasingly tons of Google and SEO analytics and now social, sentiment, influence data. I would say the CMO is in some ways more analytical than the CFO.
    Vinnie Mirchandani
  • Incorect Concept of Marketing

    Wow Dennis. I thought ZDNet provided more informed and educated commentators than what you are displaying here. There are many marketers taking a more analytical and ROI focused approach to marketing than your opinion would leave the casual reader to believe. Let me explain.

    I have been in Marketing now for almost 20 years, employed mostly in CRM and Direct Marketing, having sent millions of pieces of email and direct mail, texts, etc. to my customers and prospects who have either raised their hand to receive communications from the brands I worked for (almost 90% of what I do) or indicated that they were in the market (via third party lists) for the services/products we provided. And while I bought lists at some of those other companies, there was usually battery of questions I asked to discern the validity of the list and how the list and data were compiled. If it smelled bad, it was bad and I did not partake.

    Every dollar I spent was accountable to our Finance team and/or senior management and every dollar of revenue was measured against expense to determine ROI. If ROI was not there the marketing activity either ceased or was revised to get to an acceptable ROI or proftiablity hurdle.

    Once and a while we would get calls, emails or unsubscribe clicks/requests asking to be removed from our list. And given the millions of marketing contacts I have initiated each month over the years, this list is extremely small, a few hundred a month, indicating that content or offers sent were relevant and appreciated. Open and click rates were significant for customers too, indicating content that is relevant and not spammy. And I even had customers or proaspects respond back to me to thank me for the content or offers I delivered.

    I also know that I am not alone in taking this approach to marketing. I could probably name a few hundred individuals who take this approach, I know there are probably tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands more in the USA alone.

    So please do not label me and others who practice as I do as "Spammers" and take up your valuable time writing this ill-informed piece slamming those unfortunate few who may not practice this profession with the care they should. I agree- they should practice it better. Instead, perhaps you should take the time to learn more about what marketers do today and perhaps congratulate and highlight those who do get it right, so that we can inform those who may be practicing it incorrectly. and be a little positive. If I want to generalize, as you have done, then I would label all commentators as ill-informed and highly negative.