The “Digital” CMO’s Must-Knows

1. Social Media

We wanted to ease you into this list with an easy one: social media. By now, you should at least be waist-deep in the social media world, and if you aren’t, you’re behind. Even though as a CMO, you probably won’t be on the frontlines of the various social media platforms. However, you’ll need to keep up on the latest industry changes. In addition, you should be participating on behalf of yourself! Your participation on Twitter and LinkedIn adds a valuable human element to your brand. In addition, building up your own profile will only bolster your corporation’s reputation.

2. Split Testing

Split testing (a.k.a. Bucket Testing or A/B Testing) is the marketer’s way to utilize statistics in proving efficacy of campaigns. It’s simple enough to understand and execute: two identical versions of a test subject are compared, except that one subject has a variation aimed to impact consumer behavior. These tests are commonly used in email campaigns and social promotions; however, they are useful across the board. Split testing also becomes especially useful as concrete evidence in selecting one campaign over another. It removes the human judgment element and allows you, as a CMO, to make the best decision possible.


A knowledge of HTML is critical for CMOs. You most likely have a base understanding of HTML, but the more robust that understanding is the better. You need to understand how a website is created, and how much effort it takes to consistently maintain and protect it. Without firsthand knowledge of this, you’re doing yourself and your corporation a disservice.

4. PHP

While very simple, PHP has advanced nuances for the professional programmer. But, it’s overall ease of use makes it an essential tool in the “digital” CMOs repertoire. PHP has hundreds of functions and it even powers sites like Facebook. Learning PHP allows you to create dynamic websites and web applications. As a CMO, knowing the parameters of PHP helps you better understand the process, capabilities, and workflow of your team.

5. WordPress

As with others on this list, you’re probably familiar with WordPress. What began as an open source project in 2003 has grown into one of the largest content management systems (CMS) in the world. It’s based on PHP, and incredibly intuitive to use and navigate. WordPress has evolved into a full blown CMS with thousands upon thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes to create a completely customized site. As with HTML and PHP, it’s critical for the “digital” CMO to understand the capabilities and limitations of WordPress.

6. Automation

Marketing Automation has become increasingly popular, with firms like Amazon executing it so perfectly that everyone seems to want to jump ship. What is it? Marketing Automation is similar to any other form of automation, in that it’s a collection of technologies designed to effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks. While marketing automation can be wildly successful, it also is a cost-heavy investment. That being said, if you’re sure you can make the transition successfully, the ROI will be well worth the investment.

7. Video Advertisements

Advertising via video messages is not new, but it has been giving new life with the advent of pre-roll videos on websites and social media. The “digital” CMO must understand how to best leverage these and capture consumer’s attention. Creating video advertisements may seem like an incredibly expensive undertaking. While it can be costly, there are other budget-friendly options as well. Utilizing technology like the GoPro and online editing software, a video can be created at a fraction of the cost you might expect.

8. SEO

As with others on this list, SEO is not a new concept that the “digital” CMO must know. However, with every quarter bringing declarations of the “death of SEO,” it’s worth mentioning here. As long as consumers use search engines to find information, SEO will be very, very relevant. Therefore, it’s best for CMOs to acquire a basic understanding of SEO and the tactics used to increase visibility for their firm.

9. Content Marketing

Content marketing often holds hands with SEO, but is without a doubt worthy of its own spot on this list. For those unfamiliar, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the “technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.” In the online space, brands have the capability of becoming their own publishers. Enter content marketing. Not only does this technique drive profitable customer action, but it also builds trust in your brand and portrays it as a knowledgeable and helpful source of information.

10. Mobile Optimization

The world is going mobile, my friends, and has been for some time. This means that every internet marketing tactic you’re carrying out must also be optimized for mobile. Every website, every social push, every blog post, and every email sent needs to be seamlessly viewed on mobile devices. Ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile is paramount. Having an optimized website boosts engagement and sales, and ultimately, creates the best possible experience for the customer.

11. “Real-Time” Marketing

Oreo Cookie thrust real-time marketing into the spotlight with its now-famous Super Bowl Tweet. However, you don’t need to be a globally recognized brand to excel at real-time marketing. That’s the true beauty of this tactic — it just requires awareness and quick action. It also requires common sense and tact. A poorly-timed tweet that could be construed as poor taste will do much more harm to your brand than good.

12. Wearable Tech

Somewhat a novelty now, wearable technology will soon be as commonplace as smartphones in our daily lives. Smartwatches are already gaining traction, and with Apple’s upcoming entrance to the space, it’s only a matter of time before it’s the new darling of the marketing world. As with mobile, when wearable tech becomes more popular, having an optimized experience for each device will be necessary. Wearable tech also opens up a new playing field for medical and health corporations, as many of the devices are equipped with fitness tracking technology. The “digital” CMO will need to decide whether it’s worth being a first-mover in this space, or to tread lightly.

13. Crowdsourcing

Even though the term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2005, 10 years later it’s still a vital concept for “digital” CMOs to know. The popularization of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter has only added fuel to the fire of crowdsourcing popularity. Crowdsourcing has endless applications, to everything from funding a potato salad to searching for missing planes. Leveraging this tactic can be highly useful, even groundbreaking, for your firm.

14. Big Data

Big data is simply the term for sets of data that have become so large, they are difficult to process using typical processing techniques. In other words, data that causes “analysis paralysis.” The most common buzzwords you’ll hear in the same breath as “big data” are “velocity, variety, and volume.” The “digital” CMO will understand the prevalence of big data, and the importance in analyzing the right data the right way. Easier said than done though.

15. Social CRM

Social CRM, also called Social Media Monitoring, is the term used to describe a brand’s engagement with their customers via social media platforms. Paul Greenberg sums it up quite eloquently in his definition: “It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.” The value in Social CRM is derived from the trustworthiness and transparency your business displays when engaging. However, as with any activity on social media, it must be highly controlled and thoroughly thought-out before undertaking.

16. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion Rate Optimization sounds a bit daunting, but the folks at Qualaroo did a fantastic job of breaking it down for us: “Conversion Rate Optimization is finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.” Any firm that has a website (so, ALL firms) should be concerned with CRO. The “digital” CMO must understand the importance of analytics, user feedback, and KPIs in the optimization process.

17. Mircotargeting

Microtargeting was originally reserved for political parties to track individual voters and identify supporters. But with social media, all marketers have the opportunity to participate in this wildly reliable tactic. Microtargeting is the process of putting your content/firm in front of the right audience, albeit a smaller one. However, this tactic ensures that you’re going to get the highest engagement and click-through rates possible. Social media’s targeted ads facilitate this process wonderfully, and are worth a look if you’re still in the shotgun-style mentality.

18. “YouTility”

Jay Baer published “Youtility” in 2013, and it still serves as an amazing entrance into understanding the importance of helping, not selling, in the digital age. If you haven’t read the book yet, you need to put it on your to-read list. “Youtility” teaches a style of marketing that’s so useful, “people would pay for it.” In this information-overloaded society, it’s the route all brands should take going forward.

19. Influencer Outreach

Since social media continues to be a powerful channel, it comes as no surprise that influencer outreach made this list. Influencer outreach is the process of identifying existing users on various social media platforms that function as “influencers” in their space, and then building a relationship with these influencers in hopes that they will become evangelists for your brand. As of now, influencer outreach is a very “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” process, which makes it alluring for those with small budgets. However, it’s really only a matter of time before these “influencers” start demanding a bit of monetary reimbursement.

20. Email Marketing

Some less-than-stellar marketers might have you thinking that email marketing is an antiquated technique. That school of thought couldn’t be further from the truth! Copyblogger provides an excellent viewpoint of email marketing: “It’s what you use when you want to move from ‘conversation to commerce.’” The key difference between successful and futile email marketing campaigns comes down to the relationship with your audience. The “digital” CMO should understand and allow his team to understand the importance of crafting subject lines, brand voice, and quality content.

21. Paid Amplification

Paid amplification is simply the process of promoting your company’s content via Facebook promoted posts, LinkedIn sponsored updates, promoted Tweets, and YouTube’s Trueview ads. In the growing world of algorithm feed changes and dwindling organic reach, paying for expanded content distribution is nearly necessary. Microtargeting, another member of this list, and paid amplification go hand-in-hand. It’s through paid amplification that you can microtarget, thereby building an engaged audience and passionate community of users that actually care.

22. Native Advertising

Native advertising is not a new marketing tactic, but its explosion in popularity in recent years merits its place on this list. As you know, native ads match the format and blend seamlessly into the existing user experience. However, this is the cause of native ad’s success AND its problems. A portion of internet users feel as though native ads are misleading at best. So, when looking at this as a potential strategy, transparency is of utmost importance. Successful native ads have a thorough understanding of the target audience and what makes them tick, which mitigates any negative responses.

23. Storytelling

Storytelling might be the oldest marketing skill in the book. But, technology and the new spotlight placed on content marketing re-emphasize the importance of perfecting this skill. The “digital” CMO should take his or her dictionary, scribble out “selling,” and put “storytelling” in its place. When each company communication is rooted in a good story, it’s difficult for consumers not to be enthralled.

24. Employee Empowerment

As we round out the list, we wanted to end with “bigger picture” views on marketing that are critical to the “digital” CMO. The first of which is employee empowerment. Again, this is not a new concept but is worthy of revisiting in the digital age. In the pre-internet era, employee empowerment was generally thought of as the company culture that allows employees to have input and control over their work. While it still stands for this, its definition has now broadened to include employee activities online. Companies have gone so far as to have employees sign “social media contracts” that dictate what they can and cannot do online. This may not prove to be the most beneficial route to travel, however. Instead of restricting employee activities in the online world, turn each employee into a brand evangelist. When the “digital” CMO empowers employees to act proactively and in support of their brand, the brand’s online presence grows exponentially.

25. Customer Empowerment

The final element of this list, customer empowerment, is a true culmination of every aforementioned tactic. The digital landscape empowers customers in a way that could never be accomplished before. Consumers are no longer content with being herded through a traditional funnel, therefore empowerment becomes critical. You must arm your potential and current customers with the knowledge and power necessary to make informed purchasing decisions. True customer empowerment requires an understanding of big data and social CRM, among other things. It also requires systems of automation, paid amplification, and the like to effectively empower customers.

Transforming into the “Digital” CMO

Unfortunately, we cannot wave a magic wand and instantly transform you into an all-knowing “digital” CMO. The rest is truly up to you. But the good news is that the digital world is full of helping hands and valuable insights from individuals that have been where you are now. All you need to do is look for them. Now you know where to start. So, get out there and become a “digital” CMO!]]>

TJ has worked in the digital marketing space since 2006. He has worked at a number of agencies and and helped hundreds of clients grow their business through SEO, PPC, Social Media and Content Marketing. He currently lives in Lehi , UT and enjoys spending time with his family.