From Stretched to Strengthened: IBM’s CMO Study Reveals Opportunities for CMOs to Lead

Katharyn White serves as IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for its Global Business Services.  Katharyn and the IBM Institute for Business Value interviewed 1700 Chief Marketing Officers earlier this year to understand what CMOs are doing to help their businesses understand, manage and lead through the transformations that are facing most businesses today.  Farland Group and Katharyn are partnering on a two-part blog series to uncover some of the findings from the IBM CMO study. In the spirit of full disclosure, Katharyn is a valued client of Farland Group’s and we hope that you find the insights she shares as compelling as we did.

Transforming the CMO and the Organization through Analytics

In my role as CMO of IBM’s Global Business Services –  I have noticed the increasing complexity in our business and that of our clients.  IBM is constantly working to understand how the velocity, variety and volume of data can be used to empower better, faster and more informed decisions.  As IBM learned from CMOs across the globe, this challenge is one that opens up enormous opportunity for those who learn to use information effectively.  Yet we also know from the CMO study that many feel overwhelmed by data and analytics overload and struggle to know where to begin.  This is a fair question and one that is even more complicated for my CMO peers who are in companies (unlike IBM) where analytics is not a core competency.

But IBM was not always in the position of using analytics in the marketing that we did.  In fact, while many of us have long believed that information-based decisions were of most value long-term to the business, we-the marketing team- didn’t always have what we needed to back up our intuition.  Now, like IBM, many businesses have more data than they can manage and the question is:  how do CMOs meet the increasing complexity with increased effectiveness?

We know that we cannot run on the treadmill any faster.  Most CMOs and executive leaders are doing all that we can in the waking hours of a day.  But yet we have to be smarter.  We must challenge our teams to use analytics to help us make better, more informed decisions.  We’ve found that by analyzing information we’ve been able to double down efforts in certain areas and even create new markets based on this new information we’ve gathered.

IBM’s recent CMO study showed that the most successful enterprises are using analytics to shape their marketing investments, new product directions and business strategies.  Below are my top 5 tips on how to use analytics effectively in your organization:

  1. Questions are the key: Having the right questions is more important than having all the data.  And, having the right questions is actually more important than having all of the answers.  We know that by asking the right questions, the data will lead us to answers that matter to our clients and our business.
  2. Relationships drive results: Relationships are even more important in an analytically transparent world/organization.  It is not the data or even the insight you have, but who does what with that data to deliver business impact that matters.
  3. Less is more: Since we know we cannot do more in the time we have in a day, we must make smart decisions.  Accessing the right insights and acting on those brings faster and more relevant results.  We don’t have time to do everything and we know that not everything will yield results.
  4. Plan for change: The intelligence gathered from analytics will open up a new set of insights that inevitably require change.  Prepare for change by considering governance and change management early in the journey.  This investment is as important as the tools you have and capabilities you build.
  5. Lead by example: It is easier to continue to use intuition to lead your decision making, but we know that your competitors are winning the day because they are using information to uncover deeper insights that your intuition won’t identify.  The single best way for me to drive analytics-lead marketing decisions is to use a data-driven approach to leadership and empower my organization to do the same.

Where does analytics fall in your marketing strategies?  What tips have you learned along the way?


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