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PHOTO: Matthew Rutledge

CMOs are consistently confident in their marketing technology (martech), innovation and personalization investments, according to a Gartner CMO report. So, confidence is great, outcomes are better, but CMOs are not blind to the great challenges they face as 2020 approaches, at which point they'll be under pressure to create innovation and revenue-generating marketing campaigns. At the recent Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo six CMOs shared with us what’s top of mind, what concerns them, what their focus areas are and what challenges they feel will persist next year.

Marketing Team With Spirit of Innovation

Meredith Jurek headshot
Meredith Jurek

Meredith Jurek, CMO of Anytime Fitness, said she’s constantly working on ways to make “better emotional connections” with customers. This, she said, requires a discipline that’s “under-appreciated in terms of complexity” because of the challenge of capitalizing on the CMO’s technology tool set. The data is there to create personalized, customized interactions but pulling it together in an “actionable structure” is one of her greatest challenges.

Brent Adamson, principal executive advisor for sales and marketing at Gartner, told the audience during his keynote at his company’s conference earlier this month the reality for many marketers in terms of personalization is, “Happy Birthday. Here’s an offer.” Jurek acknowledged that reality and said, “We're better than this." To get to a better place, Jurek is focused on getting marketing technology vendors to be upfront with their offerings in terms of what works for her organization.

But, beyond martech tools that function, she wants a dedicated marketing staff that is data-oriented, thrives in a test-and-learn environment and has a spirit of innovation in which they are not “afraid to let go of things they've done in the past.”

Related Article: 8 CMOs Discuss What Voice of the Customer Means to Them

Focus on Personalized Outreach

Headshot of David Hurwitz
David Hurwitz

David Hurwitz, CMO at BloomReach, said his focus is using account-based marketing (ABM), which he calls personalization by another term. It’s about having the infrastructure to be able to do personalized outreach, personalized advertising. Who is the persona that we're trying to reach? Is it a marketer? Is it a chief digital officer (CDO)? Is it a site merchandiser? Content marketer? And what industry are they in? What company? Where are they geographically? Are they in the UK? Are they here in the US? “Are we getting a personalized message to them when they come to our site, or when they interact with us electronically?” Hurwitz asked. "Those are all high priorities.”

The CMO wants his marketing team to have the marketing instincts and savvy to get out the right messaging and not get bogged down in the mechanics. “Having from a team point of view, from a talent point of view, the right mix of people who really know the customer and know the product, people who can make these set of marketing technologies work and get good reporting from it, that's a challenge,” Hurwitz added.

Related Article: What Do CMOs Want?

Am I a Worthy Investment?

Leah Anathan headshot
Leah Anathan

Leah Anathan, CMO for Qubit, said one of her primary focuses is ensuring she’s effectively using as much of the marketing dollar as she can. “The investors of Qubit look at me as an investment,” she said. “And the question that I have to answer is, ‘Am I giving them the maximum return on investment for the many dollars that they're investing with me, and am I a good investment? And that's something I'm really working hard to do. I'm trying to drop the cost of acquisition, while increasing the efficiency of our output.”

Anathan’s past position had her in the “freemium world,” which gave her significant acquisition lessons. Today, she’s focusing on effective targeting on LinkedIn and facilitating meetings and networking with clients. “I'm still using a little bit of that community marketing, and then acquisition marketing, but highly, highly targeted,” she said.

Anathan said she’s also spending the bulk of her time making sure her company occupies a “unique space for our brand. We need to have our own authenticity, and a clear reason why you choose Qubit. … And that needs to permeate all of our content. It needs to be when you hit the website, that you see the differences very rapidly between Qubit vs. the rest. And I think that drives content.”

Related Article: What Is the CMO's Technology Strategy for 2019 and Beyond?

Becoming a Known Entity Is a Daily Struggle

Headshot of Rasmus Skjoldan
Rasmus Skjoldan

Want to know what freaks out Magnolia CMO Rasmus Skjoldan? Big vendors that come out with “brute force” in the awareness game, leaving smaller vendors like his out in the dust. “The winner-takes-all approach scares me,” Skjoldan said. “The awareness game is very important to someone like Magnolia.” Customers may praise the product but at the same time say it’s not well-known. 

Beyond awareness, Skjoldan said making sure his brand has good timing on topics and trends is a great challenge for him and most CMOs. “Getting that right is so damn difficult,” he said. “... You have all of these different signals and voices, and there are so many in digital, trying to influence you saying this trend is important or this is what matters for buyers, and so forth. And picking the right one to kind of ride today at the right time is incredibly difficult.”

Doubling Down on Attribution, Customer Data

Lynne Capozzi headshot
Lynne Capozzi

Lynne Capozzi, CMO for Acquia, spends a good deal of her time making sure her organization is getting prescriptive around personalization. She’s also working hard trying to solve multi-touch attribution challenges. “It's the age-old problem,” she said.

Figuring out how to store, manage and access customer data remains a challenge, too, Capozzi said. “I think that's still a pain point for people, and I think that's going to be a big area,” she said, “whether it’s [a customer data platform (CDP)] or whatever you end up calling it.”

Gartner reported CMOs are spending more on technology than talent, and Capozzi confirmed talent is something she’s constantly working on in her organization. "It's not only finding the talent," Capozzi said, "it's maintaining and retaining that talent once you have them. The young people that are fresh out of school, or maybe they've got two years of experience, you train them on these new tools, and then they're going to follow the next shiny object, some other, smaller organization or a startup. It's definitely a challenge."

Breaking Through a Crowded Field

Liz Koman headshot
Liz Koman

Liz Koman, CMO of digital agency Manifest, calls her firm an established agency that has been around for a long time. That doesn’t mean, she said, they don’t have to keep evolving. “We have to find the way to break through,” Koman said. “There's just a lot of agencies, and quite frankly, a lot of them do our core disciplines. We like to think that we’ve been around a little longer, we're a little smarter, but again, it's how do you get that message out?”

It comes down to, she said, finding the right fit and good targeting. “It's hard to make sure you have the right point out there for the right target,” Koman said. “It's a targeting issue more than anything else. It helps to pick a really good partner. It's all about the fit. You can be a great agency and end up with a client that doesn't operate the way you do … and you find yourself in a mismatch.”