As B2B marketers, we are continually challenged with being innovative, driving results, raising the bar for customer experience, revolutionizing lead generation, improving the bottom line, and so on…endless pressure! While consistency, best practice, perseverance and team work are all important, you also need a good measure of inspiration from time to time. Every now and then you come across an inspiring leader who offers much to learn from. History has many that we can learn from but I strongly believe that the complexities and daily challenges of our current times are unique. Leaders who are successful in dealing with the same problems we face are better positioned, in my opinion, to offer the Alexandrian solution to our Gordian knot. I want to take the opportunity to turn the spotlight on some of these leaders of our time on my blog.
Let me introduce you to Jim Davis, CMO of SAS. Why did I choose to take a peek into this CMO’s mind? For two reasons: one, because while many C-Suite executives talk about organizational transformation, Jim has demonstrated his success at taking SAS on the journey from tools provider to software solutions provider. Two, because he propagates the need for a ‘data scientist’ and a ‘marketing technologist’. He also shares the same name as the creator of one of my all-time favourite comic characters—Garfield—and that could be the third reason, but I dare not admit it!
What Can B2B Marketers Learn from Jim Davis, CMO, SAS? Plenty!
Jim Davis, Senior VP and CMO has been with SAS since 1994. While his training is in technology and software development, what I find interesting is his ability to steer his company and teams to bridge the divide between technology and marketing. He is a strong advocate of CIOs and CMOs being able to perform each other’s roles interchangeably. In his own words, Jim says, “Think about it: What makes a relationship work? It’s that keen understanding of each other’s interest. If CMOs and CIOs don’t have that keen understanding of each other’s interest, they won’t stay married, let alone date.”
In my experience, this ‘marriage’ of CMO and CIO positions is still rare in the B2B world. But that’s what makes it all the more desirable. Typically, we see that in most organizations, the CMO’s relationship (or lack of it) limits the access to relevant data and technology expertise. Yes, IT may provide reams of data analytics reports, but this Big Data is often of Little use because it is not in context of value-creation for the customer or employees or both.
Below are a few ‘secrets’ of Jim Davis’ new-age CMO mindset…summarized into a succinct list for your reading and reference.
- Gain a deep understanding of your organization’s product portfolio. Not just knowing the product’s tangible features and benefits but studying how each product meets buyers’ needs.
- Strive to ensure data-based decision making but don’t black box the results and execute on them blindly. Take the time to include data modeling and predictive analytics where the human factor comes into play. Interpretation of data and using it to enhance business value and outcomes is critical. Jim advocates bringing in ‘data scientists’ and ‘marketing technologists’ who can bridge the knowledge divide.
- Stay on top of technology innovations and the competitive landscape. “You can’t think because you studied it in January, that you don’t have to look again until November,” Jim says. “Things are changing too rapidly.”
- Focus on real-time customer interactions. The best way to do this is through digital marketing where online interactions can help you optimize customer experiences. And then take it to the next level where every channel, every customer touch point is optimized to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience.
- You don’t have to love technology, but you do need to know what it can do for your business and all its stakeholders—employees, channel partners, associates, customers, shareholders and the community at large.
- Today’s technologies are highly adaptable and flexible. Partner and work closely with the people that know and adapt the technology to fit your organization’s needs. This interaction will help them understand what you want the technology to achieve and why.
I plan to feature more CMOs and other inspiring business leaders on my blog. Are there any you would like to see featured here? What leadership traits do you find inspiring in these executives? Leave me a comment.