CMOs need to have a solid grasp on marketing technology and be able to show a return on their investments.

That’s the view of Adam Howatson, the CMO of Canadian enterprise software company OpenText.

After 16 years with OpenText and three and half as CMO, Howatson is leaving the company at the end of the month and will be replaced by Patricia Nagle, VP of Global Alliances at OpenText.

Not a marketer by trade, Howatson shared what he’d learnt about the role in a recent interview with Which-50.

“Marketing is one of those functional areas where you can waste a massive amount of money very quickly and with no effect,” Howatson told Which-50 in a recent interview.

“And it’s great to have the name up on the billboard or to have the Superbowl commercial, but is that effective? Are you hitting your target market? Are you getting to the right people and delivering the right messages?”

With stints in product management, IT and engineering, Howartson came into marketing with an analytical perspective and strong technical knowledge, hence the focus on measurement and attribution.

“You have to be careful. You’re typically the largest discretionary spender in the business,” Howatson said.

“Do your best to be certain, do your best to be analytical, and do your best to ensure that you can measure and can articulate an outcome for the privilege of that spending.”

You’ve got to show results

Howatson’s thoughts echo Gartner’s most recent CMO spending survey which found marketing budgets had receded as CMOs were challenged to deliver results.

“The growth of marketing’s budgets and accountability go hand-in-glove with a growth in expectations on marketing’s performance. The deal is simple – the more you get, the more you’re expected to deliver. CMOs and marketing leaders must accept the budget/performance quid pro quo, or face further cuts in future years,” wrote Gartner analyst Ewan McIntyre.

If marketers want their budgets to increase, they’ve got to show results, Howartson says.

“You can go spend a dollar on a paid social placements. Great! Next you’re going to spend two dollars. Well… Wait, hold on! What did you get for the dollar you spent last year?”

Howatson admits there isn’t a perfect way to measure multi-touched marketing campaigns today  — with most marketers still relying on last touch — but believes AI will solve the problem.

“I think the AI analytical platforms are going to contribute hugely to being able to articulate all sorts of outcomes.”

The CMO shouldn’t rely on a marketing technologist

The CMO role is now firmly linked to technology and that means marketers need to understand how it works, Howatson said.

“If you are in today’s day in age  — particularly high tech sector — and rely on an individual to understand the fundamental tenets of technology, you are going to be permanently at a disadvantage in the role.”

CMOs don’t need to be able to get their hands dirty with technology, but they have to be familiar with technologies, how they can be applied and what insights they provide, Howartson says.

“I deeply believe that anybody who is reliant on an individual or office within an organisation to provide every last stitch of knowledge regarding technology and its application is going to be materially disadvantaged.”

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