Five ways to avoid being a chief mediocrity officer

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by Matt Martella, president of ZX, Zeta Global

The role of the chief marketing officer is more challenging than ever.

It is no longer enough to be a branding expert. Today’s CMOs must understand branding, PR, content, ad tech, mar tech, data management, measurement and more. Moreover, they must understand these concepts across the multitude of channels that comprise modern media.

To deal with the inherent difficulty of their role (and adapt to the accelerating importance of data management and digital media) many CMOs are turning to the marketing industry’s largest players for assistance: Google, Facebook, Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe. They are moving more and more budget toward the largest players in accordance with a risk-reduction mindset — that these 800-pound gorillas are the safest bets. 

But CMOs who place too much faith in the industry’s largest players are at risk of getting comfortable. Whereas discomfort often fuels motivation and innovation, comfort can fuel complacency and mediocrity. And when CMOs take the comfortable approach, covering themselves by partnering with the marketing industry’s biggest players, they miss out on next-generation, best-in-breed solutions — the kind that can propel brands to the next level. 

Of course, it would not be wise for CMOs to abandon the 800-pound gorillas outright. However, CMOs can’t get into a place of over-reliance. They need to diversify their partnerships if they want to maintain their competitive edge, keeping five rules in mind.

1. Maintain diligence in measurement

Media waste and inefficiency remain significant issues in marketing, so the rigorous measurement of all media must be a CMO’s north star. Any solution deployed by a CMO must provide accurate, validated measurement of the incremental impact on each dollar spent. 

2. Invest in a learning budget

The greatest gains lie in innovation. Therefore, every CMO should maintain a learning budget. This is cash set aside for the testing of new partners, new technologies or new media channels. Experimentation is the best way for CMOs to make discoveries that move the needle and materially impact their business. 

3. Implement a merit mindset 

Marketing moves fast. As such, the technology CMOs use today can easily be outdated tomorrow. Maintaining strong relationships with trusted technology partners is important. By the same token, however, CMOs should implement a merit mindset that holds all partners — both new and long-established — to an objective set of KPIs.  

4. Practice portfolio diversification

Relying on one or two major players to provide many different solutions is dangerous. Not only does it create dependency, but it leads to the cultivation of a fragile marketing ecosystem in which one pest can wipe out the proverbial crop. By practicing portfolio diversification — i.e., working with many different partners and solutions — CMOs can execute more resilient campaigns and strategies that deliver positive results even in the face of unexpected disruptions.  

5. Future-proof privacy

In a world where privacy concerns continue to mount, CMOs can’t afford a mistake. Any solution that incorporates consumer data must feature privacy-by-design engineering, as it is the only way to avoid ending up on the wrong side of laws like California Consumer Privacy Act or the General Data Protection Regulation. 

Being confident is different than being comfortable. For CMOs looking to diversify partnerships and keep their teams moving in the direction of innovation, these five roles put action and diligence together. The future of marketing is one that incorporates a multitude of tactics in the face of all the channels CMOs must address. Keeping a dynamic mindset and test-and-adapt approach is the surest way to stay in front of competition — and it’s a sure bet against becoming complacent.

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