The discipline of marketing has evolved dramatically over the past decade.  The internet has shifted most of the power into buyer’s hands.  Rather than pushing out messages to an audience, marketers need to help a customer through through the various stages of the buying process.

Think about buying a car.  Not long ago you’d walk into a dealer to learn about the various models offered by that manufacturer. The sales person’s script and collateral were designed to control messaging and positioning.  Now, the buyer comes to the dealer loaded with comparisons, virtual test drives, owner reviews, editorial reviews, comparable pricing, and knowledge of the exact inventory and options. The buyer has done more than half of the research before they even talk with a sales rep.  The sales technique and supporting materials need to be very different.  They need to be more open and consultative.

This is the same in other types of businesses.  Marketing is no longer about simply branding, image, and direct response.  It’s about preparing information consistent with each stage of the customer’s journey.

Rich Vancil, my former colleague and CMO at Individual Inc, is now Group Vice President, Executive Advisory Strategies for IDC.  He coined a great phrase:  the “black turtlenecked CMO”.  The name conjures up an image of the artsy type of designer, movie producer, trend setter that used to head up marketing — when marketing was all about presentation.  Now, the skillset need to be an effective marketer is much different.

50% of new marketing hires will have a technical background

There’s a huge shift away from artsy to analytical.  In fact, 45% of markets said that analyzing data will be their biggest challenge in the coming year according to a survey sponsored by YesMail and Infogroup.  (Infographic included below).

In an interesting twist, the product development group — the technical folks with most companies — have become more “artsy” in their approach to creating compelling products.  The Steve Jobs effect — ironically the best known person in a black turtleneck — became the archetype business leader who started with the design of the product first and then extended the brand established primarily by product experience into marketing campaigns (admittedly in Apple’s case both the product and marketing were artsy and beautiful).  But for the most part, the art of design has become the art of experience.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about the role that social media plays in decision making.  If your product is “remarkable” — in the Seth Godin sense of the word — there will be conversations that help to spread information about your services.  That’s how Google, Facebook, Instagram, Zappos, and other companies grew so rapidly with very little outbound marketing; they provided exceptional experience that customers were eager to share.

So, if you’re wearing a black turtleneck, you may want to add a pocket and pocket protector.  You’d better be expanding your knowledge of technology and analytics or you may soon be playing to an empty house.


It’s helpful to hear Rich’s other predictions for 2013 along with the shift towards a more technical mindset.


Photo credit:  lesphotosdejerome on Flickr.


Update: March 7, 2013: See this related article on Venture Chronicles about CMOs playing a much bigger role in technology buying decisions.

Here’s an excerpt:

Professionals in the marketing function will need to become more data scientist, looking for every conceivable opportunity to instrument content and then use that knowledge to drive audience and participation. Marketing budgets, as a consequence, will become less campaign and project based, more process and systems based as a result.


Update: March 27, 2013:  Digiday provides more information about The Evolution of the CMO:

And here’s the infographic from the survey sponsored by Yesmail and Infogroup:


Data-Rich and Insight-Poor