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CMOs Have Digital-Marketing Anxiety, Survey Shows 2/3

Plenty of information, but what do you do with it? By Alex Konrad, reporter

Marketers have been playing catch-up on social media since the first explosions of MySpace and Facebook, and several CMOs told Fortune they believe the initial catch-up is complete. But with so much new data available through such platforms, many of the CMOs surveyed by IBM said they struggle with how to use the information flowing in.

The growth in data available to companies — whether it’s advertising results or consumer feedback from social media channels — has created both opportunities and headaches. Kotler says that too many CMOs wind up over-extending themselves by trying to shepherd an array of projects all at once. “Choose two or three things that will have a highly visible impact on the CEO,” he says, as an alternative approach.

Experienced CMOs agree that marketers must manage the C-suite’s expectations and opt to put their stamp on a few key projects at a time. Peter Sealey, former CMO of Coca-Cola (KO), stresses that the CMO must stay in lockstep with the chief executive’s vision. “It’s the best job security a CMO can have.” Sealey says he picked just two critical battles during his tenure as CMO. When a consumer considered soft drinks, Sealey wanted that person to think of Coke first. Then when choosing a favorite, Sealey wanted the consumer to again turn to Coke.

The short average tenure of the CMO position – until recently ranging from 18 months to two years – has offered a narrow window for these executives to produce big-picture results. While chief marketers agree that the average tenure of the position is steadily on the rise, it’s still a difficult seat to keep at the executives’ table. “There are a lot of things out of your control,” Maryam Banikarim, CMO of Gannett (GCI), warns. “And, a lot of times, people leave because it wasn’t the job they signed up for.”

One way to keep the support of the chief executive is to earn more trust from consumers. Erin Nelson, CMO of Bazaarvoice and former CMO of Dell (DELL), says that when she took the job at Dell, the company’s relationship with its customers was in crisis. Her immediate task was to educate the engineers and the technical side of the company on why consumers were upset. The engineers were galvanized by the information and went to work on improving their products. More …

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