Marketing StrategyAs CMOs go full-force into planning mode for their 2012 marketing strategy, a recent report suggests that they are ill-prepared for the changes taking place in the larger business world. This is according to the Global Chief Marketing Officer survey from IBM.

The survey interviewed more than 1,700 CMOs from 64 countries to gather insights into the forces changing the marketing and business landscape. The key takeaway: Change is coming to marketing and most marketing executives feel unprepared.

The CMOs concluded that market and technology factors were the major forces driving change within their organizations.  These forces are adding to increasing levels of complexity not just in marketing but in the larger customer and business landscape, according to the introductory note from Jon Iwata, IBM’s SVP of Marketing and Communications.

The report highlights the major challenges CMOs are facing. But IBM named the report “From Stretched To Strengthened” based on the practical approaches that were identified to help guide marketing executives through the tough road ahead.

Here is a summary of the survey that includes my take on what you can do right now to stay ahead of the curve…and a final comment on the use of Thought Leadership in Content Marketing.

The biggest takeaway from the report is that marketing executives feel unprepared as represented by the 31% “credibility gap” pictured below. And although “market” and “technology” factors were listed as the biggest drivers of the coming complexity, “people skills” was listed as the 5th largest concern after “regulatory” and “macroeconomic” concerns.

Source: IBM "Global CMO Study" (Oct., 2011)

My Key takeaways: Focus on your organizations’ people and their skills to stay ahead of the increasing pace of change in the way we define marketing strategy and execute marketing plans. Set a clear vision for the role of marketing in your organization and gain a seat at the leadership table as the customer advocate and voice of customer needs.

Major Challenges

The report states:

000000;">“The digital revolution is transforming the marketplace. Empowered customers can see – and say – more about the organizations that serve them than ever before. But this revolution has also left CMOs struggling to respond.”

Clearly digital is driving much of the top challenges:

  • 71% cited data explosion from the higher levels in the amount and types of data available due to digital channels
  • 68% said social media marketing was a major challenge
  • 65%  mentioned the growth of channels and device choices
  • 63% agreed with concerns on the shifting consumer demographics
These four issues were also listed as the challenges most likely to cause massive amounts of disruption. All but 2 of the challenges listed below were cited as major challenges by more than half of CMOs.

Source: IBM "Global CMO Study" (Oct., 2011)

My Key Takeaways: IBM suggests CMOs focus on delivering value to the customer, fostering lasting connections and measuring results.  But I like the approach Brian Halligan uses at Hubspot in hiring and training their marketing organization for the new digital reality: They call them “DARCs” in that they hire and train marketers to be Digital-savvy, Analytic folks who understand how to achieve Reach with compelling Content in a Strategic way.

Calls-To-Action for CMOs

  1. Start investing, supporting and leading your teams in the use and focus on digital channels.
  2. Make it a mission to transform your organization into a social business. Make sure marketing is leading the way but include all functional areas of the business.
  3. Use analytics to measure and drive customer value, investment decisions and customer engagement.
  4. Put all of the above on your “people agenda.” Make sure you are hiring and investing now in the skills and talent you will need to support the needs of a more digital, social and mobile business environment.
PS - Lately I have been pointing to great examples of Content Marketing including the use of Thought Leadership content. This post includes another great example from a respected peer company. Customer insights and research are important tools to help drive effective marketing strategy. But this kind of research and insights also present an opportunity to showcase your understanding of your buyers, your perspective on their toughest challenges and become a source for inspiration for the solution. I predict this piece will drive leads and pipeline for IBM. It will reach new buyers who will become future customers.

So: Are you surprised by these results? Do you agree with the calls-to-action? Is this a good example of thought leadership?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on TwitterLinkedInFacebook.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

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