What Do CMOs Want? On Big Data, Better Focus, and Moments of Truths


Gil Press, Contributor

November 25, 2013

In my previous post, I wrote about the Poogle, the new breed of marketer, combining P&G’s and Google’s marketing skills. It’s easy to pinpoint the moment the Poogle was born. It was 2 years ago, when Google published “Wining the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT),” its take on how buyers make purchasing decisions today.

P&G’s “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT) defined the crucial moment when the consumer chooses one brand over the other, a focal point for traditional marketing (in addition to the second moment of truth, the consumer’s experience with the product). Today, however, online conversations, social network-based recommendations, the immediacy of the mobile experience, the digital archiving of the word of mouth, all contribute to a new buying behavior. Google argued that as consumers are bombarded with information about products from these and other new sources (most not directly controlled by the marketer), marketing must pay attention to ZMOT, a new critical moment that happens much before FMOT. First impressions count and could happen when they are not at all related to a specific buying decision.

The volume and variety of data influencing buyers before they actually make the buying decision is continuously increasing. A Google and Shopper Sciences study found that the average shopper in 2011 used almost twice the number of sources of information to make a decision compared to 2010. As ITSMA’s Julie Schwartz puts it, “in an age of technological disruption, buyers have become students again,” finding that nearly half of the respondents in her recent survey of B2B buyers devote an average of 9 hours per week to getting a better understanding of the application of technology solutions to business problems.

What do CMOs want in this new environment? How are they dealing with the digital transformation of the buying process? Does big data help or hinder marketing’s performance? I found out some answers to these questions in a recent conversation with Krishnan Chatterjee, head of strategic marketing at HCL Technologies, India’s fourth-largest IT company (full disclosure: I provide writing services to HCL). Chatterjee has seen first-hand the face of the new marketing, both in his own job and in his engagements with other CMOs at large companies around the world.

“In today’s market,” Chatterjee told me, “I have to offer something that is truly remarkable, something that I have specifically engineered for you to talk about, designed to ensure that in the real moment of truth, the buyer already knows about my company, having heard about it from other people.” A good example is the online and offline conversation created by the publication of Employees First, Customers Second (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010), a book written by Vineet Nayar, then HCL’s CEO, in which he recounted turning around the fortunes of the company by making management accountable to employees. With thought leaders such as Tom Peters, Gary Hamel, and Ram Charan praising HCL’s unconventional management philosophy, Hewitt Associates calling it the best employer in India, and BusinessWeek naming it one of the world’s most influential companies, the HCL brand differentiated itself in a unique way.

It’s also a good example of my definition of marketing from my previous post: Marketing is the selling of what makes a company different from its competitors. That this type of selling drives actual revenues is made clear by HCL’s experience. Chatterjee shared with me the results of getting to the customer at the zero moment of truth via the selling of the company: In its last fiscal year, HCL’s website generated a billion dollars of qualified business. “Just by flipping the communications model,” he says, “we got enormous benefit. If you can get your brand or product into the social network of the individual who has entered the research phase, you have made a zero moment acquisition.”

In his conversations with other CMOs, Chatterjee found that their work still mostly revolves around marketing campaigns. While campaigns have been targeted traditionally at the first moment of truth, says Chatterjee, CMOs today are struggling to take advantage of the confluence of new technologies and data sources so they can reach and influence their targets much earlier, at the zero moment of truth. CMOs want to use the new tools to make their campaigns “enormously more productive and cost-efficient than they were in the past,” says Chatterjee. In the context of weak economic conditions, CMOs have been increasingly pressured in recent years to prove the effectiveness of marketing and demonstrate how they improve its ROI.

To achieve these objectives, Chatterjee learned from his conversations with CMOs, they are looking to streamline all the assets at their disposal that can make their campaigns relevant and impactful at the zero moment of truth. What they want is a single view of the data, with easy-to-understand analytics that integrate multiple and varied sources; a single view of the customer that combines what they know about that individual from multiple channels and online/offline platforms; and a single view of content that collates and customizes different media assets across digital and non-digital formats and communications channels.

This holistic and customer-focused view of data and content is key to improving marketing’s performance. McKinsey’s analysts recently estimated that $200 billion of marketing spend annually (out of a total of $1 trillion worldwide) could be put to better use, starting with smarter analytics and more focused campaigns. They say: “With [a] holistic view, the CMO is positioned to lead change from systems based on traditional isolated customer touchpoints to those more innovatively designed to deliver customer journeys. Such a view addresses the whole of a customer’s experience with a company as lived from that customer’s perspective. It is this level of empathetic vision that digital technology and Big Data analytics now enable to a degree hitherto unprecedented.”

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