A year in review: Key takeaways from 20 episodes of CMO Talks

ITWC and IDC introduced the CMO Talks podcast series in April 2020, hooking their listeners with a convenient and easy way to address pressing marketing challenges. Twenty episodes later, the program continues to offer engaging content designed to inform and support CMOs on their digital journeys.

“Many organizations are just getting a handle on the impact of marketing tech,” said Lars Goransson, Managing Director for IDC Canada. “With this podcast series, we are giving them a taste of what they are going to need moving forward.”

Goransson joined ITWC President Fawn Annan on December 23rd for the last CMO Talks of 2020. A reflection on what has happened since the first podcast aired in April of this year, the episode focused on the many ways technology is changing marketing.

Annan stressed the importance of understanding what the client wants. “With amazing technologies ranging from phones and tablets, to smart home systems, smart speakers and wearables, the customer is truly in charge,” she said. “Marketers had better know how to respond.”

Both Goransson and Annan recalled the words of Drift CMO Tricia Gellman, a podcast guest who likened the CMO role to the connective tissue across the C-suite. “Trisha went on to talk about the CMO,” said Goransson, “and not just for being the brand keeper, but as the person ultimately responsible for the human customer experience.”

Goransson agreed that CMO responsibility and accountability is critical to a positive customer experience. The challenge, he acknowledged, is that customer experience involves the entire value chain and is often not directly controlled by the CMO. The best way forward, he said, is for the CMO to be an executive who has a seat at the table and can work collectively across the company with the entire executive team and the board.

“In another CMO Talks episode, Peter Marston, an IDC Research Director responsible for Worldwide Intelligent Application Services, shared the same message,” said Annan. “He reminded us that CMOs need to have their finger in all pieces of the business, even with the developers.” Another guest, Ved Bhat, Wipro Canada’s Global Marketing Leader, was more focused on the bottom line, describing the role of CMO as being at the intersection of running and marketing the business.

“Some of your guests have really underscored that the customer is indeed now in control, much more than in the past,” said Goransson. “I think it’s true that successful marketers need to be very, very customer centric and business alignment is critical for that.”

From there, Annan and Goransson moved on to some of the new customer centric marketing tools described in earlier episodes of CMO Talks, a retrospective that had them recalling advice from Bev Altberg, Executive Vice President for Chandaria Family Holdings. Altberg warned against getting distracted by shiny objects and urged listeners to remember the fundamentals and the problems they are trying to solve.

This encouragement to communicate what the company stands for resonated strongly with Goransson, who sees it as a key trend in customers being able to relate to a company’s mission. Goransson illustrated his point with an excerpt from an earlier podcast, in which Gerry Murray, a Research Director with IDC’s Marketing and Sales Technology, spoke to the many advances through AI and bots and the need for marketers to embrace new skills.

Annan and Goransson referenced a number of other CMO Talks guests as well, calling up key offerings as they navigated the many issues raised during the 2020 podcast series. Alan Webber, IDC Program Vice President, said that when we talk about customer experience, it should be everything – both front end and back end – that touches the customer. Tom Seal, Senior Director for IDC’s European Services Group, shared his thoughts on net promoter scores, data promoter scores, and the importance of using data in a way that promotes trust. For Phil Bliss, founder of Perceptible, the best thing for marketers is to be able to use YouTube in a strategic way through hosting their own channels. Vinay Nair, CMO for Kira Systems, talked about how he has hired lawyers to develop AI models that will examine contracts.

Even with all the enthusiasm around AI, a few of Annan’s podcast guests cautioned that any model is only as good as the data with which it was trained. “I think the majority of models will exhibit some sort of bias, but leading edge companies are taking real steps to try to address that,” said Goransson. “As marketers, we need to tread very carefully around this issue. It may be wise to bring in outside counsel or support.”

The podcast concluded with a look at the future of virtual reality technology for marketing and a reminder from Annan that we’re really talking about a world of collaboration – enterprise wide.

“Being a CMO is going to become very rewarding, but very difficult as we move forward in a rapidly changing environment,” said Goransson. “Change is accelerating and we will need to tie many diverse components together in order to deliver a great customer experience.”

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Steve Proctor
Steve Proctor
Steve is Vice-President Marketing and Communication with ITWC. He spent 25 years in progressively senior positions as a journalist and editor with the Halifax Herald, with his final ten years as Business Editor. He has published two books and his freelance articles have appeared in national and regional magazines. He has led social media and communication efforts for two crowdfunding ventures and written and directed numerous dinner theatres for charitable endeavours.

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