June 2015. In This Issue:
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editor's CUT

Editor's Cut: Have marketers become timid…or, I dare say, cowardly?

At the start of 2015, I started noticing that the word “brave” was creeping into conversations. Around CMO Council dinner dialogue tables, on conference panels and across webcasts, people were saying, “We need to be brave,” or “CMOs need to be bold.” And I admit that in a panel when the moderator asked me what advice I would have for young marketers advancing in the world of digital, I said to be bold and daring.

This call for bold behavior is typically the companion to discussions around data. It usually starts with all of the amazing insights and intelligence we can now glean from data about our customers, including their wants, needs and patterns. The conversation also includes discussions around how data has changed our view of success and how we can see the cracks along a disconnected, campaign-led journey.

But it isn’t hard to see that while we might not be scared or timid, we might be shaken. In one CMO Council study after the next, we typically ask marketers to rate their confidence levels in everything from the ability to deliver highly personalized customer experiences to their marketing technology stack’s performance. And time and again, the majority of marketers find themselves somewhere between “meh” and “okay.”

We recently gathered a handful of the CMO Council’s North America Advisory Board members, and the idea of being brave was brought up by at least three leaders around the table. Todd Landry, who leads marketing, product and strategy at JMA Wireless, had a great statement illustrating how the CMO now sits at the center of a multitude of critical functions and stakeholders—touching each, working feverishly to blend each intersection, and ensuring that there is alignment and cohesion at the seams of each of these cross-sections. It takes a certain bold vision to stand confidently at the center and tend to the seams that hold the business together.

But James Latham, the CMO of Electro Scientific Industries, shared something right on point. He is taking a gamble and heavily investing in digital to reach the APAC market, and while he doesn’t have reams of data to prove that what he is doing is the right direction to build revenue, his years as a marketer, the wisdom of his team and the results of multi-variant testing will take a gut call and convert it into success.

This drive to be bold and Todd Landry’s vision of the CMO as the keeper of the seams all point to a confidence that needs to exist with the CMO. At some point, the conversation around data has to turn away from what issues the insights reveal (not reaching the right targets, not reaching the right goals, etc.) and toward a dialogue around the confidence the intelligence gives us that our strategies are based on fact and that we can take the risk of testing in order to turn gut into proof. “Pilot” will have to stop being a dirty word. Bold experimentation can reap great rewards, and if it doesn’t, then isn’t that why we tested in the first place? Data has not replaced sound strategy based on experience and the ability to take that leap based on what our guts are telling us.

In the simplest terms, you can know everything about playing hockey. You can be a world-class skater. You can have all the research, data, insights, technology, equipment, and the best coaches and teammates on the ice with you. Each one of these is set up to aid in your excellence. You can see the exact data that shows where and how the stick-to-puck to speed ratio can translate into success. But if you don’t actually shoot the puck, none of it matters. So this month, I’m going to do more shooting and less overthinking. It’s time to be bold, but more importantly, it’s time to realize that we got here for a reason: We shot the damned puck.

Until next month!

Liz

P.S. Tell me what you think! Are you ready to shoot the puck? Let me know @lizkmiller.