How to heat up your relationship with the CMO

CIO CFO relationship

Recent studies have shown that CIOs and CMOs are often far from close. The net result is that the marketing function often ends up trying to pursue its own IT ideas, to avoid being stifled by the perceived inflexibility of IT. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially if CIOs work a bit harder on building a relationship.


If your relationship with marketing sometimes feels downright hostile, maybe it’s time to heed the advice of one of the 20th century’s greatest peacemakers. “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Don’t offer that thought as an opening gambit when you reach out to the CMO – unless you want to be thought of as unbearably pompous – but the lesson is important. All too often, there is a culture clash between IT and marketing.

In a world of “big data” and analytics, CIOs and CMOs ought to be the best of friends. If the job of the CMO is to deliver a strong brand and shape customer experience, the CIO is ideally placed to help. Who else knows more about how to work with the exponentially increasing flow of information available today? And who, other than the CMO, has the customer-specific knowledge to help the CIO ask the right questions of that data?

Then there’s the small matter of common interest. CIOs and CMOs both want to be taken more seriously by their executive colleagues. They want to be seen as key figures of influence within the company, who can make data-driven decisions that boost revenues, rather than as cost centers that simply provide services. By working more closely together, both the CIO and the CMO can move closer to that goal.

But such good relationships are rare. And recent studies have shown that CIOs and CMOs are often rather distant. EY research in 2012, for example, revealed that CIOs place a lower priority on developing their relationships with CMOs than any other C-suite executive.

It’s time for CIOs to work harder on their relationship with marketing. Don’t be too proud to make the first move.

  1. Move marketing up the IT agendaSpend time with the CMO and reach agreement on how IT and marketing can work together and what their mutual priorities should be. Are there technology gaps that need filling in order to achieve these goals?
  2. Recognize the need for customer insightThis is what the CMO wants from the company’s data – and the CIO holds the key. Engage with the business’s priorities right from the planning stage, rather than seeking to provide a service that is reactive to marketing.
  3. Offer your own viewsYou understand the data better than anyone. A CIO who is involved in the decision-making process right from the start can work with marketing to identify the outcomes and insights to prioritize.
  4. Set out in detail what you require from marketingThis should be a collaborative relationship, so don’t wait for requests from the CMO. By agreeing the specifications of projects at the outset, you can work together toward successful outcomes, rather than laboring alone in the dark.
  5. Agree ways to work together to generate customer valueGet buy-in ahead of time from the CMO for how IT and marketing will operate in tandem and you will reduce the risk of tension developing over process, or worse, of marketing trying to work around IT.
  6. Consider a staff “exchange” One way to build bridges between marketing and IT could be to encourage closer working at all levels – even by sending colleagues to work in each other’s departments for specific projects. This may not be practical for all organizations, but the aim should be to foster better understanding between IT and marketing.

If all else fails, at the very least, go and meet the CMO in person. Invite them for lunch, or a coffee. You may well find they’re just as passionate about IT as you are. They just happen to think about it in a different way.


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