Knowledge Center: Article

Marketing, Sales and Strategy Officers

CMOs and Big Data: Getting ready for the next tidal wave


Make no mistake about it, senior marketing leaders were definitely talking about data and analytics but most seemed to confine the discussion to advanced market research techniques.  This leads me to question if CMO’s truly recognize the potential impact of “big data” and are structuring their organization in a way that prepares them for the potential opportunities of harnessing the onslaught of new customer information. The exception at the conference was Stephen Quinn, CMO for Wal-Mart; he declared how academy marketing companies were being overtaken by a new academy of technology and big data companies like Google, Amazon and Apple.  These firms are redefining best-in-class marketing  with their deep knowledge of their customer base and the monetization of that insight due to the application of big data.

So what should a CMO do to get educated on big data?

Here are the 4 steps that I’ve seen utilized by some leading organizations:

  1. Work with your CIO and develop a “Big Data” advisory board
    A technical platform and real time analytics engine will be imperative to leverage the terabytes of data and provide meaningful insights that drive value for the firm. Marketers will need to align closely with their IT counterparts to best develop and build that capability.

  2. Obtain the best intellectual capital from the leading consulting firms
    Through their work with a myriad of clients, in various industries, professional services and management consulting firms are at the forefront of the “big data” phenomenon. Firms like McKinsey & Company, Accenture and Heidrick & Struggles, have created intellectual capital that would help any CMO get up to speed on big data.
  3. Hire the talent needed to develop in-house big data competency
    As I mentioned in my last blog post, half of the searches I’ve conducted in the past nine months were very senior level appointments in insights and data analytics for major organizations. Organizations need the right talent and skill sets to build out an effective and strategic big data competency.

  4. Pilot an “early win” commercial application
    Define a pilot project with “like-minded” internal business stakeholders. Be sure to clearly define your success metrics which will help to justify additional investment to other executive stakeholders.

Does this process sound familiar? Well it should because it’s the same approach most marketing leaders adopted to become conversant on the last tidal wave of digital marketing and social media. In this sector, the war for top talent is intense and demand is outpacing supply in a significant way. Big data is the next tectonic shift in marketing and CMO’s that are prepared for the oncoming wave, will ultimately be best positioned to benefit and drive value for their organizations.

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