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Workforce Planning and Management

Why CMOs and CIOs Need a Shared Agenda

By John Kennedy 

Vice President, Corporate Marketing, IBM

What's the biggest obstacle marketers face today when it comes to connecting with customers?

It's building a productive partnership with their CIO, according to 60% of the marketers IBM recently talked with for a survey.

The survey underscores what's becoming clear to those in the marketing and technology departments. To stay relevant in our uber-digital, hyper-empowered consumer age, CMOs and CIOs need to become every bit as connected.

From tweets to pinboards, Tumblr updates and Facebook likes, every digital move a person makes leaves digital clues to understanding brand-love or early warning signs of customer defection and churn.

In learning how to sift through this dizzying whirl of insights, marketers aren't only crafting hyper-personalized ways to connect with customers. They're creating new models for doing business and providing marketing as a welcomed service to consumers, instead of a nuisance. They're rethinking what marketing means.

Yet, the marketers leading this change realize they can't reinvent their profession on their own. To avoid being buried under that avalanche of data or left behind as technology hurtles forward, they need to team up with CIOs and their tech departments.

IBM's survey shows just how much these new partnerships pay off. Some 51% of high performing companies report that their marketing and IT departments have formed tight-knit relationships—10% higher than other companies.

Yet, when marketers claim the disconnect with the CIO's department as their biggest challenge, the issue isn't only about how CMOs can work with CIOs to streamline technology needs, or to decide what flavor of technology to buy.

CMOs and CIOs have to figure out how to collaborate on crafting strategies, not teaming on individual projects. The real task they face is learning how to put today's technology—analytics, big data, social media--to work to transform their relationships with consumers and reimagine their businesses.

This change in perspective can start with nuts-and-bolts decisions. For instance, companies need to pull together the bits and pieces of information consumers are telling them across different channels. Marketers know it's important--71% of those IBM surveyed said so. Yet, only 29% said they're very effective at integrating these channels.

But what forward thinking tech and marketing departments understand is that by working together to shore up these basics, they create a new foundation for revealing an entirely new understanding of their customers.

By integrating all the information about customers -- whether from Web sites, phone apps, social networks, or email -- companies create a powerful platform. One that's then the basis for layering on predictive analytics. Or rolling out dashboards that allow employees to access data and brainstorm around new ways to connect with customers.

So companies can come to understand, on a massive scale, what each individual consumer means, wants and thinks. Because they're telling you through every public tweet and product review —if you have the ability to listen.

The result is being able to truly predict the best time to reach out to a consumer. Or what book or pair of shoes to suggest. Or what kind of impact different influencers have on a company's brand.

So instead of being part of the 65% of marketers that IBM surveyed who are only doing the basics with their data, a company could be part of the 20% who are using it to connect with their customers with personalized offers.

It's this kind of holistic approach to unleashing the power of technology that underlies strong CIO-CMO partnerships. It's an approach that can help CMOs embrace the broad new responsibilities social business creates. In a world where consumers know so much about a company's inner workings, marketers can ensure that corporate culture is in synch with the brand.

But it's also an approach that helps a company understand the broader implications of technology decisions, such as using mobile marketing and social media. So instead of releasing apps haphazardly, or chasing scattered ad hoc social media campaigns, CMOs and CIOs can collaborate on mapping out a long-term, integrated approach to collecting data, analyzing it, and sharing lessons learned.

More often than not, that's simply not happening. For instance, despite social media's ascendance, 51% of marketers aren't using the data from social media trials to inform decisions about marketing offers or messages.

That tech and marketing are crucial to the success of companies these days is clear. But now what's also becoming obvious is that as the world gets ever more interconnected, these two critical departments need to network as well.

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