Big data startup Alpine Data Labs announced today that it appointed Bruno Aziza as its first Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Aziza comes to Alpine from SiSense, another big data startup, where he participated in the company’s rapid growth (520% in 2012). He brings to his new role a knowledge of both marketing and big data analytics, a combination that may serve well other CMOs, in any industry, trying to survive and succeed in the new world of digital marketing. I talked yesterday to Joe Otto, Alpine’s CEO, and to Aziza about the state-of-the-CMO.
First, a bit of data to help draw the digital marketing landscape. In a recent survey of 1700 CEOs, the IBM Institute for Business Value found that generating greater consumer insight is the top priority for CEOs worldwide. Most of these CEOs also agree that deeper customer insight will come from a much better use of data and analytics. While CEOs expect CMOs to deliver on their top priority, another IBM study found that more than 70% of CMOs feel they are underprepared to manage the explosion of data and feel they lack true insight.
More evidence of CMOs’ trials and tribulations comes from the CMO Survey which has been talking to top marketers in the United States twice per year since 2008. Here are highlights from the most recent edition of the survey:
- 60.1% of CMOs reported increasing pressures from their CEOs (or board) to prove the value of marketing
- Approximately 60% collected online customer behavior data for targeting purposes and 88.5% expected to increasingly do so over time
- Spending on marketing analytics expected to increase 40% in three years
- Most projects fail to use marketing analytics; this is becoming worse as big data grows
- Most companies do not have the right talent to fully leverage marketing analytics.
CEOs and CMOs are struggling to turn the deluge of data flooding their organizations into insight that can improve the bottom-line. But analytics, especially advanced analytics, is a bit of a mystery to them. Says Otto: “You are talking sophisticated math, not the language of business.”
There are a number of challenges to the effective use of big data analytics, according to Otto—data is slow, fragmented, and too complex to handle. By “data is too slow,” Otto means that marketers would like to have timely access to the data and play with it in their own “sandbox,” but often have to wait for IT to get it through various processes. Another challenge is that in many organizations today, “data is not an enterprise asset.” The frustration with IT has caused the proliferation of numerous data-marts or “shadow-marts” and “data got fragmented.” The challenge now is to tap into all sources of data across the enterprise and beyond. Last but not least, marketers don’t have the right skills for working with the data and prefer talking to it in their own language, rather than the software’s.
Aziza puts these challenges in the larger context of two major shifts in the role of marketers and marketing departments, driven by the advent of digital marketing. Because you need people to talk to customers and potential customers to qualify and understand their needs, the cost of sales has been traditionally high. But with marketing automation, more responsibility for generating revenues is shifting to marketing. “Marketers are now running a big part of the sales process,” says Aziza.
Another shift is in the nature of the work itself. Marketers used to focus on the creative side of things but now they have to add another set of skills to their experience and expertise. Aziza: “While how the website looks is important it is actually the math and logic behind the website that’s going to make your marketing more efficient.” Answering questions such as what is the right time to offer customer support to someone visiting a website or which part of the marketing campaign has the greatest impact on the bottom line could prove more important than design choices.
It may well be that in the new digital world, Marketing is also emerging as a driver of data-driven collaboration across the enterprise. Otto told me about a financial services organization that has a car leasing business. The model they use to drive the rates they charge and the residual for the vehicles came originally from their Treasury department. Marketing became a heavy user of the model, as well as other departments such as sales, and the model is tweaked to serve the needs of different geographies. The input from the different functions and regions is what allows them to constantly improve the model to the benefit of the entire organization.
Are the new roles and interests of Marketing yet another indication of its ascending technology leadership? Otto: “just follow the money–the budgets are getting much larger in Marketing than they are at the IT department.” Aziza: “There’s a revolution going on here in how to run the business.”