With data, talent and tech, why do CMOs feel ill equipped?

Chief marketing officers feel less prepared to meet the challenges of their industries than they did a year ago, and knowing what to do with data still appears to stump them despite it being a big focus of investment.


A newly released survey of CMOs by Accenture finds that nearly four in 10 score their department’s overall preparedness as three out of five or below. While a majority of 61 per cent score themselves four or five, this is down from 66 per cent the year before.

The 400 respondents across 10 countries cite several hinderances preventing their marketing departments from achieving full potential – inefficient processes and a lack of funds and resources being chief among them. But access to customer data is literally the least of their worries.

Still, Accenture’s report notes: “While access to customer data is the lowest barrier, it is possible that CMOs do not have processes in place to identify the right data needed to drive customer engagement.”

The question this begs is: if not, why not?

Staffing doesn’t seem to be the problem. Out of six marketing areas mentioned, the data-related disciplines of customer analytics have more staff devoted to them than any other area except marketing operations, the survey suggests. A third of CMOs say that 21-40 per cent of their marketing staff are dedicated to customer analytics and 26 per cent allocate 41-60 per cent of workers to it. That’s a five-point increase on the previous survey.

Neither is technology the answer. Accenture says two-thirds of CMOs are planning to allocate at least a quarter of this year’s marketing budget to digital areas, adding that the “heaviest investments are in customer experience, and data and analytics”.

So it’s hard to argue that it’s a lack of data, personnel or technology that’s contributing to marketers’ growing struggles around customer engagement. If marketing departments can have all that and yet still not have the right processes in place to make use of their data it suggests that what could really be lacking is leadership, or strategic direction.

You can fill your coffers with all the data in the world, populate your ranks with data scientists and equip them with shiny new servers, but if no-one is providing the plan for what those things are trying to achieve, they’re all useless.

If you’re a CMO, before you sign off on your next round of investments in data-related hires and technology, perhaps you should ask yourself: what are you hoping they’ll do for your business? Get that right first and the rest should follow.

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