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

By Alex Konrad, reporter

Admitting weakness, asking for help

“Digital means more intelligent buying” and smarter customers, Kotler says. “Word will travel on Twitter about the good guys and the bad guys.”

So how do you make sure you are one of the “good guys”? The CMOs surveyed by IBM say they first need to admit to a generational disadvantage. According to Banikarim, too many CMOs simply “hire one person to do social media and say, ‘Check, I’ve got that covered.'”

To be sure, it can be difficult to relinquish control to a younger generation of digital natives, even in cases where that’s the best approach. Lee Ann Daly, until recently the CMO at Thomson Reuters (TRI), warns that “control freak” CMOs might have a hard time leaving their fingerprints off of every effort.

The solution, however, is low-tech, the marketers say: Get the most out of younger employees familiar with new media by making them feel valued at the meeting table. “I’ve handled each turn of the technology change wheel by trusting younger people who are using it,” Daly says. “I can’t be expected to be noodling around in every space.” She joins Jim Stengel, former CMO of Procter & Gamble (PG), in stressing reverse mentoring as a way to both empower younger team members while refreshing CMOs working in the digital space.

Reverse mentoring is not new, but how it is used can be improved. Stengel explains the distinction neatly: the CMO must trust younger employees while staying engaged enough to know the good ideas from the bad. Stengel wants to see more CMOs going straight into consumers’ homes to directly build relationships, either in the flesh or through the digital space.

In other words, the lip service reverse mentoring that goes on at many companies, in which an intern might “teach” Facebook to a seasoned exec over a couple summer sessions, is no longer adequate — if it ever was.

The number of CMOs in the IBM survey who were able to strike an ideal balance with technical and social media was disturbingly low to Stengel, the man once tasked with directing the world’s largest ad budget while at P&G.

“That’s dangerous,” Stengel says. “CMOs need to get personally involved. Do you need to spend 80% of your time blogging? No. But you need to put your feet in the water.”

Doing so might seem difficult to CMOs who don’t recognize, as those in the IBM survey appear to do, that exploiting digital innovation actually means improving how we communicate with other people, even if it’s through social media.

CMOs can’t pull out a crystal ball to predict the next major disruptive digital platform, but they don’t have to stay caught in a constant game of catch-up. By investing in their relationships with coworkers from top to bottom now, chief marketers can put themselves in a solid position when the next innovation shockwave hits.

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