It’s been hard to ignore over the last 12 months the repeated claims that at some stage in the not too distant future, that the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) will be the dominant buyer of software and services in the enterprise. Whether it is because many wish to believe this is the truth or due to the fact that it neatly underlines some vocal vendor’s current marketing strategy, it has now become seen as a truism. And it’s just plain wrong.

That being said it is easy to see how it came about, because like many things that we believe are true -- but in fact turn out not to be -- it is because we have a tendency towards seeing correlation and invent a causation to match it.

Undoubtedly, marketers are key business users and sponsors in an increasing number of deals. The office of the CMO is using more software than they have ever done before, as they struggle with the addressing the contemporary challenges of multi-channel marketing and multi-channel measurement. As a buying center within organizations, it is one which is increasing in influence. So we have some correlation.

What this is indicative of is, the continuation of the increase in overall market spend towards digital marketing channels. But it is a shift in spending, not an increase in overall spend. It does not equal a causation that would suggest that the CMO will continue to spend more and more until they burst open spilling 1s and 0s all over the carpet. And there are few good reasons why any CIO (Chief Information Officer) worth their salt won’t let that happen; Salesforce, Yammer and Dropbox -- the poster children for “Shadow IT.”

Aligning Lead Generation with Compliance

Those names represent three generations of the same problem when it comes to the compliance of organizational information being spilt in an uncontrollable manner outside the firewall without any real control being exerted. For each, department level purchasing was a selling strategy. In the world of contemporary digital marketing technology, virtually every piece of the CMO’s toolkit can be provisioned via the Cloud.

But having felt the pain of bringing those prior generations under control --  often at no small cost -- there’s little appetite to repeat the exercise. Instead IT and Marketing should be more commonly to be found working together. Whilst it might be a Digital Marketing project, a Digital Marketing budget and a CMO who says yes, if the CIO says no, then nothing will happen.

The flip-side to this is that the CMO has no interest in becoming an IT specialist. In the main what they are interested in is lead generation that in turn leads to customer acquisition, anything which inhibits that focus is likely to be shipped off to another party to fix, increasingly that party being an external digital agency.

Indeed, as the multi-channel complexity continues to baffle even digital-savvy marketers, they are coming to rely on these agencies as extensions of their own departments; with the agency taking responsibility for managing day-to-day tasks around campaign management and subsequent analytics.

Analytics in Demand

The analytics part of this is becoming paramount. As spending on digital marketing takes a greater share of the overall marketing budget, greater scrutiny is being brought to bear upon the CMO to justify these investments. Attributing revenue to a specific channel or combination of channels, rather than just attaching it to the “last click” is a challenge which is beyond the capabilities of most.

When attempting to do this across both digital and physical media, it requires detailed and highly complex modeling to understand what part(s) of the “marketing mix” contributed to the cash. Looping that attribution back in to planning future spends -- to make more efficient use of budget -- is vital for the CMO and the agency/vendor alike as all wish to protect their share of the pie.

Enterprises are increasingly looking at their CMO to be an Über field marketer; being able to generate well-qualified leads through a process of scoring and nurturing with consistent quality across all channels on which they engage. The attraction of digital is the speed and reach achievable at a lower entry cost, but maintaining the lead qualification quality required by sales across far larger volumes than can be dealt with manually is only possible using automated solutions. That is where the increased interest in software and services lies -- it allows the CMO to scale up to what is being demanded of them.

Year Ahead for Digital Marketing

Technology to support the demanding world of the contemporary CMO is certainly hot right now; 2013 will see large, highly visible marketing campaigns from suite players such as Adobe and Oracle in the space and probably another slew of acquisitions.

It’s a real area of innovation too, especially around marketing analytics and mix modeling. However, what is driving this is that the CMO is now operating very close to the point of where the rubber meets the road; revenue generation via customer acquisition.

The study of the success of these multi-channel digital marketing approaches -- often dubbed “Marketing Analytics” -- has begun to emerge as 2013's hot topic. Not only does it have the capability to help marketers measure the effectiveness of a digital campaign and to help future multiple channel campaign planning, but it also has the capability to measure the effectiveness of the actual tools employed in each of those channels. In essence, it is another tier of data for the CMO to work with and yet another tool for the CIO to help integrate.

Image courtesy of RetroClipArt (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more from this month's focus on better web experience with marketing automation.