Nicole Beidler, CAE
Nicole J. Beidler, CAE, is director of e-commerce and marketing technology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Maryland.
Marketers striving to be the next CMO will need more in their toolkit than just creative skills. They’ll need to build relationships, understand data, cultivate digital know-how, and embrace lifelong learning.
Technology has played an increasingly important role in marketing over the past decade and continues to be a crucial element that chief marketing officers (CMOs) need to have a firm grasp on to succeed. There are over 9,900 marketing technology solutions available today—a 24 percent increase from 2020 and a 6,521 percent increase over the past 11 years, according to Chief MarTec.
Even though the marketing technology space has rapidly changed, the foundations of marketing remain the same, according to Leslie Katz, CMO at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Dave Bornmann, CMO at Association Analytics. These principles are understanding the member, delivering a product or service that fits the member criteria, personalizing the messaging to the member at the right time and place, and tracking and evaluating your project or campaign.
However, current CMOs and those aspiring for the role in the future must go beyond embracing new technology and holding true to the foundations of marketing. According to Katz and Bornmann, there are four competencies required for all CMOs. Here’s an overview of each of them.
At the core of marketing, you must understand your members. Over the next decade, CMOs must harness the power of seeing members behave in real time, develop data-driven insights, and be able to move quickly. This involves being knowledgeable about current and future technology solutions and building relationships with other departments within your association to have a broader perspective. Understanding each department’s focus, while keeping the 360-degree view of the member at the forefront, is critical in advancing the association.
Even with data at your fingertips, the CMO must possess a good balance of creativity and digital skills.
In addition to building relationships with other units, a CMO must have a strong and solid relationship with senior leadership, so marketing is included in strategic conversations. The CMO can bring an understanding of the member’s point of view, along with data that can help inform decisions and ultimately improve member value, said Katz.
Both Bornmann and Katz have seen interactions with members move from one-way to two-way conversations thanks to the accessibility of new tools and data. Collecting data through surveys is helpful, but now marketing pros can couple that with collection of data and member behavior in real-time. This type of information was not readily available a few years ago. Bornmann and Katz said collecting and utilizing this data is critical for today’s CMO, as well as developing analytics and technology aptitude.
Even with data at your fingertips, the CMO must possess a good balance of creativity and digital skills. Finding someone strongly skilled at both can be difficult since they are so different, but this should not deter someone who wants to become a future CMO. There are several ways to develop these skills. For example, if you’re not strong in the creative area, collaborate with departments that have creative team members and a more innovative focus.
Being a lifelong learner is another key attribute for the current and future CMO, say Bornmann and Katz. Continuous learning benefits everyone in the association, no matter what position they hold. If you’re not learning and keeping a pulse on what is changing, you will be left in the dust, Katz said. On the flip side, trying to learn everything is not feasible. That’s why it is imperative to hire team members who have experiences and skillsets that differ from yours. As a CMO, Bornmann said it’s more important to know the right questions to ask at the right time.
Katz and Bornmann suggested some place current and future CMOs can go for professional development:
No matter how much the marketing landscape changes or how many more technology solutions come into play, CMOs should always have their eyes fixed on the member. It’s the core of every association. In addition, having solid relationships with other departments and a good balance between being creative and analytical will prepare you for the CMO role of the future.
Thanks to the following members of ASAE’s Marketing Professionals Advisory Council for their contributions to this article: Eric O’Connor, Laura Sparks, and Ross Brown.