CMOs Need To Go Digital Or Go Bust!

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 26, 2015


With digital channels empowering consumers, the chief marketing officer or the CMO’s role is undergoing a renaissance. Needless to say, he has to wear many hats in the organization. In a recent interaction with CXOtoday, industry veteran Rajesh KumarCMO at SAP India explains what it means to be a CMO and how the role is measured.

As a CMO, what role do you play in SAP? What functions within this role are your sweet spots?

As the CMO for SAP India, I look after SAP India’s marketing and communications efforts. I am custodian of the brand and responsible for developing and implementing strategies for SAP to establish its leadership as the trusted enterprise applications provider to the India market.

Personally what drives me in my role is constantly questioning how I can bring more value to the business, how do I make marketing more accountable. At a juncture when consumers have new found power thanks to mobile, cloud and the Internet, how can I champion and leverage these new age tools to deliver experience and raise ROI.

 In today’s world, what are the top issues occupying the minds of CMOs?

The marketing landscape has changed radically over the past few years bringing to the fore a new set of issues for today’s CMOs. Some of the top of mind issues for a CMO include: 

Firstly, the need to have and create an outside-in mind-set culture that includes a clear external view of the company’s customers, prospects, competitors, and surrounding market forces.

Secondly, theneed to move from an activity focused to an outcome focused approach. So basically that means linking marketing directly to the business. You will be surprised but on ground reality shows that only one in five CMOs either pursued or was able to tie customer experience initiatives with specific financial objectives (increased profitability, increased revenue, increased customer lifetime revenue). Creating a bridge between content and commerce remains one of the biggest challenges for customer experience efforts across marketing organizations today.

Thirdly, the need to be (data) insights driven. One would think data has been around for so long that CMOs would have come to terms with handling it/dealing with it – but unfortunately the answer is no. According to a Gartner report, through 2015, 85% of the Fortune 500 companies will still fail to exploit big data for competitive advantage. CMOs need to urgently step out of their comfort zones and leverage data for actionable insights.

Fourthly, the need to log on to new ways of engaging with the customer. Digital experience is the driver of customer experience today - whether it is to engage with the omni-channel customer to offer an overall improved and consistent customer experience across virtual and real worlds or interacting with their audience on social media, CMOs need to go digital or go bust!….cede control to customer, not try to control them

Finally, the need to be able to rethink, spot and develop the right talent for future. To achieve their goals, companies need employees that are highly engaged and totally focused on customers. There is a need for diversity of talent, those that have a flexible mindset and display an openness to experiment. CMOs need to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to attracting the new workforce of the millennial and nurturing them into storytellers of the brand.

What are your expectations from Analytics? How are you leveraging data to inform your decisions?

A study conducted by SAP in conjunction with CMO Club and Human 1.0 showed that while six out of 10 organizations have access to data they need, only 22% of CMOs were leveraging data insights for spending decisions. CMOs need to realize that leveraging analytics for marketing is no longer a choice but a matter of survival. At SAP we are helping businesses leverage data to deliver increased customer engagement. The next frontier is Predictive Marketing- i.e. leveraging insights to prepare for eventualities in the business.

How should a CMO balance digital and traditional marketing and still remain at the top? 

‘Think Omni-channel’ is the mantra for today’s marketers. Effective marketing in a social and digital world requires an integrated approach. Today, digital marketing has evolved rapidly to become an integral part of marketing, both in B2B and B2C scenarios. While in the B2C world consumers have access to multiple digital touch points along their purchase journey, B2B buyers are also making purchase decisions by researching products and services online. No company today can therefore afford to neglect digital marketing.

At SAP, digital forms an important and integral part of our overall marketing and customer engagement strategy. Through our digital marketing efforts we are committed to making it easy for consumers to find and act on the information they need on their medium of choice.  In fact our hybrid platform does exactly this - providing a business complete visibility to communicate, engage and do commerce with customers wherever they are.

With the rise of the omni-channel consumer, I think going forward, we will no longer even make the demarcation of traditional (offline) and digital (online) marketing.

 With newer roles such as Chief Digital officers (CDOs) and Chief innovation officers (CIOs) emerging in the enterprise, is there a threat to the CMO? What should his equation be with the Chief Information Officer in the enterprise?

I see a future full of  opportunity for marketers to lead the business- While there are some who believe the new role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) will replace the CMO or CIO in the current organization, (IDC predicted that 60% of CIOs will be replaced by CDOs), I prefer to believe the CDO will be the glue that binds marketing and technology efforts in an organization. The role of CDO is still evolving but his or her mandate is to steer the organization across the broad digital ecosystem. By ignoring traditional business boundaries he or she can unify the CMO and CIO efforts rather than alienate or replace them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had dealing with marketing in recent times?

Without a doubt one of the tougher challenges in marketing in recent times has been the fact that it has become tougher to catch the customer. We have moved from the phase of ‘the customer is always right to the customer is everywhere’. With the increasing proliferation of digital and the emergence of the omni-channel customer it has become a key challenge for CMOs to execute seamlessly across channels. Further, in my opinion, Digital as a medium is still evolving and so are the ways to measure its ROI. Key area is to find the right optimization between the final business outcomes and measuring process efficiency/ effectiveness alongside.

What new roles will smart CMOs adopt in the next 5 years?

There are three things smart CMOs I believe should adopt .While it is equally true for other functions, I believe these are time tested approaches and will help us adopt to the changes that we face today. In today’s complex world, the role of CMOs as leaders is to spot patterns ahead of the curve - first one is ‘Do what really matters and Do it really well’. So many times, we tend to get so lost in multiple pieces of information and sometimes too much of data. I think what counts is that you get to the crux of it and then do what needs to be done, and do it really well. That’s what makes it remarkable, you don’t have to necessarily do different things but how you do them counts.

The second most important concept I believe is to carry people along. Irrespective of who they are – your stakeholders, agency partners, internal or external customers – I believe making people a part of your journey. While it does take a bit longer, it surely is more successful and sustainable in the social world today. I think to do it once is success but to be able to do it consistently well is excellent. And for that you need to carry people along.

Last but not the least, get the right talent for your business. It’s an important decision which will determine the success of your business. After that ensure that the team can maintain their work life balance to be the best in their game always.