The ConnectED CMO

The next generation of CMOs are digitally fluent and data-driven, critically analyzing marketing solutions to bring integrated campaigns forward, and motivating teams and peers through the power of data. Above all else, they’re “connected.”

Throughout this year’s American Marketing Association (AM) Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education — appropriately titled CONNECTED — senior marketing leaders united to discuss the new and improved ways their institutions can attract, engage, nurture, and retain their audiences using digital channels.

We saw college/university leadership and partner organizations engaging in thoughtful conversations about advancing their institution’s marketing using data as the foundation, finding new opportunities to enhance systems, and recognizing that integration of those systems will enlighten their work.

What It Means to Be a Connected CMO

There are many benefits to attending a higher education conference as a vendor, but perhaps the most valuable aspect is the opportunity to sit down with people in the industry and get a firsthand look into different approaches CMOs take to unify their digital presence.

The conversations we had, — combined with a fair amount of eavesdropping — highlighted the following criteria for what makes a truly connected CMO:

"Search data tells us what our future students want."

  • The Connected CMO brings search data to the table as a basis for new product development and discussion of value proposition. The search data should include analysis of user demographics like region along with keyword data to provide insights on degree interest.

"There is no longer an excuse to not know what digital marketing channels worked, how they worked, and then get to the why."

  • The Connected CMO prioritizes the analysis of cross-channel attribution to determine marketing channel success. Their teams have set up lead management mechanisms, from lead performance tracking (SparkroomBizable) to a robust CRM (SalesforceSlate). The Connected CMO no longer attributes conversion to last click — i.e. the very bottom of the purchase funnel. Rather, they are optimizing the entire journey aligned to marketing efforts. And if you really wanted that A+, you’ve assigned a value to each touchpoint.

"We diverted our precious marketing dollars into digital media so we could pivot more quickly and adjust as needed."

  • The Connected CMO is being told to "do more with less." While there is ALWAYS a place for traditional media outlets for larger awareness-building and brand initiatives, digital media is flexible and results-oriented to drive users through the purchase funnel efficiently. Digital media is diversified to impact every phase of the consumer decision journey.

"'Stealth’ is the new normal for the graduate and continuing ed market."

  • How does your website tell the story of your brand? How are you making it easy to access the real core of your degree offerings, and what are the outcomes of that degree? And for that A+... are you considering integrating personalization into your digital strategy? Use that stealth data to continue to nurture like any other lead.

"Facebook is not a strategy; it’s a platform."

  • The Connected CMO knows that their team’s social media strategy is not driven by one tweet of a press release, but rather an integrated distribution of brand content, that is nimble enough to pivot to capitalize on in-the-moment opportunities.

"If your product value proposition isn't well defined, if your communication sequences aren't well structured, if your CRM is broken, no organic search strategy or display advertising tactics will even matter."

  • The Connected CMO knows that upfront investment in product development, systems, and processes will support the long-term impact that their marketing dollars will have on filling seats.

"I try to continually ask my team ‘how are we doing?’ to uncover new ways to improve our operations."

  • The Connected CMO values operational processes, and looks for their team’s input to uncover ways to be more efficient and make their work even more impactful.

As Google’s Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap, said during his keynote: "Transformation has no end point." Digital transformation is a continual process that takes institutional buy-in, steadfast dedication, education, and, ultimately, patience. The time to start that transformation is now. What a time to be alive.

Want more? Check out the conference hashtag on Twitter #AMAHigherEd for more gems! Be on the lookout for an abundance of gifs as well as a few pictures of the donut wall — which was as good as it sounds.