Let’s face it—Chief Marketing Officers have it rough. They’re tasked with proving their work has a real impact on driving business while managing staff, keeping up with technology advancements and dealing with more expectations than ever. And, until recently, the average CMO was destined for a much shorter than average tenure. 

What was once a position reserved for creatives and strategists has evolved to include technical aspects and data science elements. CMOs now wield more power, and CEOs are increasingly looking to them to provide strategic input, according to recent research from IBM.

The Economist calls this the age of the “entrepreneurial CMO” where a new generation of marketing chiefs will emerge, professionals known for their speed, agility, technological savvy and ability to scale on a tight budget.

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Today’s CMOs will also “step forward and take responsibility for turning the enterprise toward the customer, evolving their role into the engine that fuels customer-centric company growth,” according to Forrester Research.

The digital skill set of marketers is rapidly expanding, and, if you’re at the helm, here are six skills you’ll need to hone in order to be successful.

1) Be a Data Wizard

Technology is changing the way we market to our audiences and how we as marketers get our insights.

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It is no longer a world of focus groups and market research teams. These days marketers get insight from more technical sources; they need to be data sleuths — digging deep into data points to discover their audience’s likes and dislikes, giving them exceptional experiences on every step of their journey.

At the helm of this data-driven marketing initiative is the CMO. Not content to just have the CEO’s ear, today’s CMOs also have close relationships with the CIO and CFO. 

Research from IBM reveals that enterprises where the CMO and CIO worked well together were likely to see a 76 percent increase in revenues and profitability, and research from Gartner states the CMO may have a bigger IT budget than that of the CIO.

As a CMO in 2015, you’ve got to be able to find the right data to effect change within your organization, make an impact with your target audiences, and bring that data to life in ways your business understands. 

Data is no longer used to describe past events. It’s now a real-time currency used to shape the design and delivery of your product.

2) Be Customer-Centric

Today’s consumers don’t think in channels. They’re multi-channel, multi-device and they demand an excellent, consistent experience regardless of what channel or device they use to interact with your brand.

To win their loyalty, you’ve got to solve their problems and make their lives easier; as CMO you have unique visibility into their unmet needs.

Most CMOs, however, still concentrate on “sealing the transaction rather than cementing the relationship,” according to research from IBM.

Start by creating a clear plan for what you’re trying to achieve and design your activities around those areas you’d like to improve upon whether that’s a more consistent customer experience or greater understanding of the customer journey.

Keep in mind how you can always create value for the customer at every stage of their journey. Make it possible to have a dialogue with customers — allow them to share their experiences with you.

Use the information gleaned from your improved processes to continually delight the customer.

3) Be a Storyteller and a Storymaker

You and your team might produce the best ad you have ever seen, but none of that matters in a world where consumers can easily block or ignore ads. The days of interruption marketing are dwindling; to win the attention of today’s consumers you must educate and entertain them.

According to Forbes, this will be the year CMOs become brand publishers. They will act as heads of their brand’s publishing house, “overseeing the entire spectrum of brand engagement, increasing the quality of their output, and improving the perceived value of digital interactions with customers and prospects.”

Not long ago, all it took to reach consumers was a well placed ad in the newspaper or a commercial on TV or radio. Nowadays, consumers are more connected than ever, possessing myriad devices that may all communicate with each other. Add to that the amount of ads they’re exposed to in a day, and it’s no surprise consumers are getting harder to reach.

A good brand story has become an integral part of brand identity and cuts through all the noise to become noteworthy.

4) Be Agile

Today’s CMOs must be able to seamlessly navigate the always-changing marketing waters — effortlessly guiding their ships through the highly customer-centric, data-driven and segmented marketing landscape. They must do all of this while closely aligning marketing with the C-suite and finding the right talent for their teams.

Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles conducted research on CMOs over an 18 month period and found that:

“[A]gile CMOs don’t wait until the end of a long annual marketing planning cycle and only then analyze the results and make adjustments. Instead, their teams collaborate across marketing disciplines, turn the torrent of real-time information and feedback now available into immediately useful analytics, and make course corrections in marketing programs – and generate new ideas and test them as they go, on the fly.”

Being agile starts by doing three things, according to Agile CMOs must give their teams the freedom to experiment — and fail. Their teams must be empowered and all parties must be committed to the process. 

5) Be a Silo-Buster

Marketing silos exist in nearly every business. Your customer data is probably sitting in one, your email campaigns in another, and so on. Research from Forbes Insights reveals 65 percent of marketers are struggling with silos within their departments, and these silos obscure holistic views of campaigns and initiatives.     

Not only do silos create tension among your team members, they undermine your efforts to delight the customer by forcing you to use data that’s not unified.

Silos can lead to a company showing up as disjointed or off-message to their customers. While customers may not be able to specifically pinpoint silos as the reason their level of satisfaction has dropped or they’ve stopped using a service or a product, silos are often the lurking culprit,” Forbes’ research states.

To break down silos, Forbes recommends fostering communication and cooperation between those team members who operate within silos. Search for a technology that unifies your data and gives you a complete picture of your consumer. Rally your team around your customers, and point out that teams who are focused on a singularity are hurting the customer experience.

6) Be a Strong Leader

Today’s CMO is no longer just the leader of the marketing department. According to Forrester Research, modern CMOs have evolved to be business leaders and are expected to engage a variety of members from the C-suite — from the CIO to the CEO.

“Today’s CMOs work in a data-driven customer-empowered world. To thrive, they must be proficient in digital, immersed in data analytics, able to deliver an exceptional cross-channel customer experience, and dedicated to delivering measurable business results,” reports Forrester.

To make an impact in this new age, Forrester suggests CMOs ramp up their technology quotient, engage with the CIO, and hone their financial, collaborative and strategic skills.

The era of data-driven marketing is upon us, and the old creative hallmarks that defined marketing success are being replaced with technical agility and data points. The 21st century CMO must be able to build the right teams and select the right technology while finding new ways to create more compelling experiences that delight the customer.

What skills do you think are essential to CMOs in 2015?

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