Demand Gen Report: How has the B2B CMO role changed/evolved in recent years?
Latane Conant: The CMO’s role is broadening to include customer experience, innovation, digital transformation and even culture. This not only requires significantly more overall business acumen, but we’re also seeing CMO roles filled by people with a wider range of backgrounds and experiences beyond the traditional functional understanding of marketing.
Today’s CMOs need to be masters of understanding customer insights and putting them to use. In the B2B world, the idea of creating a marketing campaign, putting it out there, measuring results and then adjusting is really not working any longer. Modern CMOs need to be great storytellers, creating emotional connections to the brand across multiple personas, industries, buying stages and channels — all simultaneously.
Data quality and the ability to tease out those critical insights remain our biggest challenge, but recent advancements in marketing technology is allowing CMOs to tap into customer insights like never before and put themselves in the center of revenue planning, business strategy and partnering across the executive team to drive business success.
DGR: As expectations for driving revenue and growth increase, does that put CMOs at risk as potential scapegoats for failing to hit sales milestones?
Conant: As the saying goes, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan! The key to not becoming a scapegoat is to make sure you hit your numbers! Joking aside, I’ve found the best success when using a high-touch selling model where marketing partners with sales and together they jointly owns pipeline and prospecting.
In this model, three things are critical:
- A business development or sales development team — This function is where the rubber meets the road between sales and marketing, and ultimately where pipeline converts. Often, we don’t do enough to enable and invest in this team which is critical to revenue, but also our represents our future sales and marketing leaders.
- Alignment on your ICP, but more importantly your IICP — IICP stands for “In-Market Ideal Customer Profile.” Traditionally, we haven’t been able to distinguish between all the accounts that are a fit for our solution, and those that are actively looking to buy from us right now. By de-anonymizing all the research activity from across the web and applying AI, we’re now able to not only identify which accounts are doing all that research, but actually determine which accounts are “in market.” Understanding your IICP allows you to focus on the real commercial opportunities you have right now. Sales and marketing don’t ever argue of those leads.
- Create a prospecting culture with transparency — Nobody gets to sandbag. As CMO, you must have visible metrics, dashboard, prioritized activities and ensure you’re providing dedicated time to supporting prospecting activities. If you’re willing to work a booth, write ghost notes, host power hours, be active on social and prove “selling is a team sport,” there won’t be any finger pointing and there won’t be any scapegoating.
DGR: In addition to increased pressure to drive revenue and show ROI, what are some of the other top challenges that CMOs are facing?
Conant: There is more noise now than ever before. We’ve been taught content and commercial insights are king, so we’ve all gone out and created content machines. Content machines attached to automation solutions allow us to carpet bomb prospects day in and day out. Buyers are confused and overwhelmed.
So, we must evolve. And we can evolve by using the power of AI to really know the B2B buyer like never before and to answer critical questions about who the buyer is, what attracts them, what they really care about and what and engages them — this is the new recipe for success.
Marketers who can get out of the old habit of relying on bogus form fills, or sending out mountains of spam or wasting our BDR’s time with fruitless cold calls that nobody wants to answer will reap the benefits of delighting prospects vs sending them on a one way trip to unsubscribe island.
This is a challenge, but also a huge opportunity as it allows me to take the guesswork out of where we focus our time, effort and budget. Using AI-based predictive insights we know exactly not only which accounts are “in market” for our solution, but what messages will resonate, who on the buying team is engaged, and most importantly when it’s the right time to reach out. It’s a total game changer.
DGR: What do you see as the top priorities for B2B CMOs in the coming years?
Conant: Optimizing the martech legacy tech stack to go from leads to account based, but at scale. CMOs not only have to create a whole new playbook, we need to completely reinvent the game.
I think one of the mistakes CMOs often make is saying they don’t want or don’t need to get into the weeds. I fell into that trap in the past myself. Now, as things change, I have to re-learn, re-trench and get deep in the weeds in order to adopt new ideas like account-based measurement, audience-first content development, micro-segmentation, and “always-on” dynamic campaigns. You must be an old dog willing to learn new tricks.
Most importantly, brand is the new black. I believe one of the top priorities for any CMO should be to make the shift to the right technology platform (think AI to take care of the heavy lifting), and finally do away with the 37 tools in their stack. Why? Because CMOs need to prioritize spending their time on creating amazing prospect and customer experiences, making emotional connections with customers and building lasting brands.
DGR: Incorporating tech and aligning it with strategy has become a bigger imperative for marketers, but has the approach to technology changed for CMOs?
Conant: Previously I mentioned the shadow IT shop. In the past, CMOs had to cobble it all together because there really weren’t great platforms, and most legacy applications kept data siloed. Today, we have a real opportunity to operate at a completely new level. Just like Workday changed the HR tech landscape and Salesforce forever changed the CRM, marketing is ripe for disruption. With the right platform we can get back to marketing. All we have to do is define our business objective, content and budget, then define the experience we want our customers to have and today’s ABM platforms do work, from account selection, to delivering insights, to orchestrated engagement, to updating/alerting sales and measuring what matters.
DGR: Which technologies do you see as the top priorities for B2B CMOs over the next year or two?
Conant: I think we’re beginning to see the consolidation of the marketing tech stack around a single platform that can both deliver deep customer insights and orchestrate highly personalized, multi-channel, multi-touch campaigns based on those insights. This clearly puts things like AI and the B2B CDP at the center of those platforms — not something most CMOs fully understand how to exploit. I would say to make it a top priority to understand the true power of these emerging technologies for B2B, or risk being left behind. Beyond that, I think we’ll see emerging marketplaces — like what we’ve seen in the Salesforce ecosystem, where execution applications will plug into the platform, allowing you to cost-effectively enable functionality you need.