What it Means to Be a Digital Marketing Executive Today

What does it mean to be a Digital CMO in this era? What sets today’s marketing executive on the path to success?

There is no doubt that the role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is undergoing a metamorphosis, now more rapidly than ever. The exponentially growing appeal and quantity of marketing technology products are changing the way marketers now think, work, and collaborate. From strategy and campaign development to marketing operations and reporting, it is evident that data and technology are now deeply embedded within the marketing structure of an organization. 

Faced with options to either restructure teams or reassign responsibilities, many companies are already taking action to address the growing need for technical-minded and digitally-savvy leaders within their organizations. For some, such as Uber, this means merging public-facing responsibilities under a single executive role to standardize the brand experience. While other companies, including McDonalds and Johnson & Johnson, are deciding to forego the CMO title in favor of multiple senior marketing executive roles that divvy up responsibilities. Either way, the future of the marketing executive is evolving. The impressive and intelligent capabilities of new marketing technologies are causing a paradigm shift in marketing operations and responsibilities. And the modern-day marketing executive must navigate this changing landscape with agility.

Digital Marketing Executives

So, what does it mean to be a Digital Marketing Executive in 2020?

What are the leadership skills and ways of thinking that set today’s marketing executive on the path to success? 

The modern-day Digital CMO...


Informs Decisions with Data Insights

Data is only data, collected fragments of information, until context is applied to make sense of it all and shape its meaning. When aggregated and analyzed, data can provide even greater insights as the pieces come together to tell a story. Yet, even though the importance of data to the organization is irrefutable, only 40% of marketing professionals have data analytics tools in place that show the impact of marketing on business performance. Fewer still are likely using them at full capacity. 

However, in 2020, digital marketing leaders are actively investing in data analysis for 2020, with the percentage of marketing spend on analytics expected to increase by 61% within the next three years. Executives are looking to rely on analytics to find areas of optimization, unearth operational inefficiencies, and guide their decisions on customer experience improvements. By piecing together customer data within the context of the brand experience, marketing leaders can begin to understand how and where to engage their target audiences, as they discover what compels them to take action and what ultimately builds trust. 


Collaborates and Operates Cross-Functionally

Now that digital ecosystems are necessitating the interoperability of systems across the organization, marketing and IT teams are sharing similar goals and must work cooperatively together to meet them. Marketing executives who aim to break down the walls that exist between departments make way for cross-functional partnerships that can have a tremendous impact on their organization. Increased collaboration and communication between marketing and IT teams, particularly, enable possibilities for operational improvements and unified customer journeys that promote business growth and progress. 

Sales and service teams, too, can greatly benefit from marketing team collaboration and alignment. Close partnerships offer transparency into the marketing-sales funnel and across all customer journey interactions throughout the customer life cycle. By bridging the divide between marketing, sales, and service, marketing leaders can facilitate a streamlined customer experience across touchpoints of the organization. What’s more, customer insights exchanged between teams can support the messaging behind events and collateral that actively aim to address customer pain points and answer commonly-asked questions.

Invests in Customer Experience (CX)

According to a recent survey, 8 in 10 B2B marketing professionals consider customer experience to be a significant focus, yet are hampered by limited resources, budget, and siloed departments. Without the financial backing and organizational support of the company, marketers do not have the necessary means to build and integrate the technological and strategic components that enable a unified customer experience. Therefore, CMOs and other digital marketing executives who champion the customer experience and take the initiative to jumpstart digital transformation company-wide have the greatest potential to impact change and stay ahead of the competition. 

Figuring out who owns the customer experience is a conundrum that many companies are currently attempting to solve. Recent studies indicate that the future of the CMO may ultimately reside in his or her willingness to take on new roles and/or responsibilities that optimize the customer experience. When this happens, the digital CMO must look beyond traditional marketing strategy and tactics to focus on digital transformation efforts and customer-centric initiatives that streamline the customer journey and improve CX. 


Redefines Marketing as a Growth Driver

As the scope of responsibility for marketing executives continues to expand, so does their increasing influence on revenue. Marketing now expands its reach further into the customer journey, covering much more than brand awareness and lead generation campaigns. Marketing technology and digital channels of engagement place conversion opportunities directly in the hands of the marketer. E-commerce platforms, especially, give marketing professionals a deeper stake in the business of the company with purview over product marketing, pricing, inventory, transactional processes, and other point-of-sale matters. The growing impact of marketing operations and performance on the success of the business repositions the CMO from brand ambassador to business driver.

Now that marketing executives have purchased, or are considering upgrading, the marketing technology products that they need to meet their objectives, they are now looking to fund strategy development that will support these tools. Results from the 2019-2020 Annual Gartner CMO Spend Survey show that Chief Marketing Officers are now putting more dollars behind marketing operations than prior years. By aligning the goals of their department with targets set for the business, senior marketing executives can tie the results of their efforts back to company performance and prove ROI. 


Encourages Agility and Adaptability

Agile teams can better respond to the changing tides of digital marketing, as new developments arise and take hold within the industry. Marketing executives and senior leadership, in general, are discovering the many advantages of agile methodology when applied throughout the organization. Flexible and adaptable, agile practices give marketers the freedom to make adjustments, improve processes, and even alter the strategy and direction of their operations when necessary.

To increase the productivity and capabilities of their existing teams, business leaders are encouraged to provide current employees with opportunities to develop and expand job-relevant skills through training, professional development courses, and certification programs. A recent survey of Chief Marketing Officers also predicts a planned uptick in hiring this year, as companies strive to acquire digitally adept talent who can tackle advanced technologies and fill gaps in team competencies. Beyond immediate team needs, forward-thinking executives are also considering the value of onboarding new hires who are fast learners with a more generalized digital acumen as opposed to niche specialists. Candidates fitting this profile would be resourceful additions to the marketing team, having the skills and speed needed to figure out new technologies as they come to market. 


The next career phase for the CMO and similarly-titled senior marketing leaders is promising for those eager and ready to embrace the changing landscape of the digital marketing industry. By enabling customer-centricity and cross-functional collaboration across the organization and empowering teams to leverage data to elicit impactful change, the digital CMO has a bright and exciting future ahead.