Clout-craving CMOs turn to big data, CIOs for strategic insight

A new survey finds that most chief marketing officers now understand that if they want to have more influence and power within their organizations, they need to embrace big data to better understand their customers and foster stronger relationships with their CIOs.
Written by Larry Barrett, Contributor

Chief marketing officers looking to raise their profile within the C-suite are making a concerted effort to align themselves with their counterparts atop their organizations' technology and business units and embracing new applications designed to bring them closer to their customers.

A new survey conducted by Forrester Research and Heidrick & Struggles, a senior-level executive search and leadership consulting firm, found that of the 212 CMOs queried, more than half now view their relationships with CIOs as "essential" compared to just 30 percent in 2011. Forty-one percent of respondents said it was critical that they share a common vision with their CIO as it pertains to how marketing and technology teams work together.

"…A customer obsession is the most important strategic imperative for the CMO,” Sheryl Pattek, a Forrester vice president and principal analyst, said in the report. "As a result, the key for marketers in 2014 will be ramping up effective technology across the marketing organization to create actionable data-driven insights. Those who don’t lead this charge will risk getting left far behind."

To stay on top of or at least within striking distance of customers' ever-changing preferences and demands, all C-level executives are increasingly turning to big data analytics to help bring context to the clutter.

The survey revealed that while 73 percent of CMOs recognize the importance of having a single view of their customers, only 20 percent of companies have actually implemented the big data analytics necessary to generate the holistic customer profiles they desire.

While there's still at least as much hype as hope surrounding big data at this juncture, top marketing executives are convinced they're only beginning to scratch the surface of the technology's potential.

And some might not even know what they don't know.

The survey found that many CMOs are hamstrung by the subpar quality of customer data their systems are already collecting and more than half say they "rarely" or "never" use big data to make marketing decisions and – more telling – lack access to the technology systems that can provide this single-view snapshot of their customers.

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