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For too long, chief information officers (CIOs) and chief marketing officers (CMOs) have been divided by objectives that seemed mutually exclusive at times. Moreover, as CMOs find themselves in a struggle to keep up with a fast-changing digital marketing landscape, the chasm widens. CMOs often fail to consider how their technology decisions might impact CIOs' domains, and CIOs tend to underestimate—and thus underserve—CMOs' rapidly evolving needs.

Given this lay of the land, CMOs find themselves struggling with a hodge-podge of rogue marketing applications that are either poorly integrated with critical enterprise data stores or not integrated at all. The situation further alienates CIOs while also underscoring their potential importance to the marketing department.

There is hope, however.

Today's data-intensive marketing environment—characterized by customers expecting every interaction, regardless of channel, to be laced with context from previous interactions—presents a real opportunity for CMOs and CIOs to bridge the gap between them.

The current business environment gives CMOs justification to reach out to their CIOs and include them in the process of identifying and deploying a marketing platform that best meshes with existing enterprise systems. The resulting flow of data then provides CMOs with what they need to deliver highly contextual marketing campaigns while minimizing the integration headaches they're experiencing.

CIOs, meanwhile, can help forge a true partnership—one that will deliver bottom-line benefits—by striving to understand CMOs' rapidly evolving needs and ultimately help them to deliver powerful, customized marketing messages.

So how can you bridge the chasm between CMOs and CIOs?

Much of why CMOs and CIOs haven't collaborated effectively can be traced to poor communication. Neither role has done a very good job of grasping the needs and challenges of the other. However, by getting better at articulating needs, developing a level of empathy, and working to understand the larger needs of the business, CMOs and CIOs can start developing a valuable and strategic partnership.

CMOs can do a few things to address these issues and foster closer relationships with their CIOs. For starters, CMOs must expand their understanding of the organization's technology stack, a critical step toward developing digital marketing strategies that employs a company's existing IT investments. CMOs also must get more familiar with the changing needs of the business, such as how the rapidly evolving consumer landscape affects every functional area of their business. In doing so, CMOs are far more likely to identify ways that their marketing objectives can mesh with other initiatives, such as dovetailing their social media marketing strategy with other social media outreach best practices being established elsewhere in the company.

Perhaps most important, however, CMOs must do a better job of looping CIOs into their technology purchase decisions. By involving CIOs in technology evaluations rather than bypassing them, CMOs can engender significant goodwill that will only help when future technology needs arise. Even something as simple as asking vendors better questions that get at CIOs' potential concerns represents a huge step in the right direction. (Moreover, CMOs will be doing themselves a big favor; more effectively looping in CIOs will also reduce the odds that they'll have to look for a new platform in two to four years.)

Meanwhile, CIOs must also do their part to bridge the gap, starting with developing a better understanding of the fast-changing marketing landscape through which CMOs are navigating. For example, Pinterest, an image-based social platform, was barely a blip on the radar just two years ago but now is quickly rising on CMOs' priority lists.

Additionally, CIOs can build trust with CMOs—who have traditionally looked upon IT as a slow-moving service bureau rather than a partner—by offering their input in vendor evaluation and selection without insisting on final approval of those selections. Giving up a measure of control like that would demonstrate faith in CMOs' abilities to make smart technology purchase decisions while also ensuring that those decisions are more likely to mesh effectively with existing IT stacks.

More specifically, CIOs also would be well advised to prioritize integration of enterprise applications and data stores with digital marketing applications. That would help to address one of CMOs' top challenges and push the enterprise closer to the 360-degree view of the customer that many CMOs consider a sort of Holy Grail.

* * *

By taking some of these steps to strengthen their interdependence, CMOs and CIOs can move closer to becoming the strategic business partners they need to be, and they can put their history of conflicting goals and non-communication to rest.
Ultimately, by taking the necessary steps to establish a true strategic partnership with each other, CMOs and CIOs will ensure that enterprises have the marketing platforms they need to operate at the speed of 21st century business. What's more, they'll be equipped to guide enterprises through the fast-moving transitions they're likely to face as the multichannel customer landscape continues to evolve.

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image of Alex Lustberg

Alex Lustberg is the chief marketing officer at Lyris.

LinkedIn: Alex Lustberg