Chief Marketing Officers have never had it easy. They’re expected to blend art with science.

Their jobs require broad skills that span everything from branding and copywriting to data analytics and psychology.

As Shane Selvaratnam, a marketer for a film and video production company, noted on Quora, marketing is naturally challenging. “You have to deal with real human beings in real time. One bad move and the client may lose interest,” he said.

Pass the Excedrin

But the demands have arguably never been greater. As marketing technologies grow — potentially opening new doors to growth and opportunities — so do expectations.

Companies expect Chief Marketing Officers to do it all. Master the unknown. Realize instant results from long-term strategies. Predict and influence human behaviors. Capitalize on every great new marketing technology … And do it all so efficiently, effectively, and consistently that it generates clear return-on-investment (ROI).

Face the Future

According to the American Marketing Association, customers expect more, thanks to the explosion of digital technologies.

Enlightened companies must view the customer experience as a strategic initiative. They need to align the right resources and focus on the right metrics to succeed, the AMA warns.

The AMA is not alone. Other organizations are also urging CMOs and marketing departments to stop, think and think again about the directions they want to go before making one more marketing technology (MarTech) investment.

Even Forrester acknowledges:

“2017 will be the year that marketers must say, ‘Enough is enough.’ We must scale back on the shiny new technological toys to focus instead of operational fundamentals: Refining customer data management and analytics, and implementing processes to coordinate message development with personalized engagement strategies.”

CMO Survey: Analytics Spending Up …

Marketers are spending more on analytics — quantitative data about customer behavior and marketplace activities. Right now they spend about 4.6 percent of their budgets in analytics. Three years from now, they’ll likely spend almost 22 percent of their budgets on analytics. That’s a whopping 376 percent increase.

However, the use of that data is less clear: marketers say barely a third of available data are used to drive decision making in their companies.

Those are some of the findings from The CMO Survey. The American Marketing Association, Deloitte, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business sponsor the survey, which has been conducted twice a year since August 2008.

The latest survey was released in February, with findings based on responses from 388 marketing executives at the VP-level or above at US companies.

Marketers cited a number of factors that prevent them from using analytics. Christine Moorman, director of The CMO Survey and a senior professor of business administration at The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, explained:

“Companies have not thought through how analytics will enter the decision-making process or how analytics will help marketers understand the effectiveness of their actions. … Firms lack people who can span the world of marketing analytics and marketing practice. This divide between rigor and relevance requires boundary spanners that are either analytical managers or analysts with managerial insight.”

Gartner: You Need a CMTO

According to the Gartner 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey (registration required), CMOs are spending more time and money on MarTech.

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CMO marketing tech spending is on track to exceed the CIO technology spend in 2017. Why? Because marketing is looking after a growing number of customer touchpoints.

“Marketing is now also responsible for critical customer-facing, revenue-generating systems and applications. It means that, if they haven’t already, they ought to appoint a chief marketing technologist in title or role equivalent to look after this growing technology estate. And, crucially, it means marketing has a responsibility to collaborate with enterprise IT.”

In addition, 24 percent of marketing leaders expect to spend more money in 2017 on digital advertising.

In general, marketing budgets are increasing. But CMOs are still stretched to do more with their resources. Marketers are heavily investing in technologies and techniques to personalize customer experiences, and improve customer engagement and conversion.

The Chief Marketing Officer Priority

Back in December, Giselle Abramovich, an editor at Adobe’s CMO.com, asked an interesting question:

“CMOs have myriad choices to make every day. Mobile, data, digital transformation, customer experience, personalization, customer journey mapping — the list goes on. But which should be the priority?”

Based on responses from 126 readers, perfecting the customer experience wins. It attracted more than 50 percent of the votes. Tying marketing activities back to overall ROI (26.2 percent) is also important, as are MarTech investments (13.5 percent).

Along with the growth of anything that makes mobile faster and easier, 2017 will see more storytelling and improved content marketing.

Other areas of focus this year (depending on who you ask):

  • The use of artificial intelligence to improve personalization and segmentation of customers
  • Development of unobtrusive forms of advertising as alternatives to ad blocking
  • The use of increasingly sophisticated ways to engage via video, including innovative formats like virtual reality, augmented reality, and 360-degree video

Of course, the selection of any of these options is secondary to the development of a comprehensive, well-reasoned brand experience strategy. What’s your brand strategy? Beyond that, what’s your vision for the experience business you hope to become?

Noreen Seebacher is the content evangelist at Arke, where she researches, writes and continues her long career in news reporting as a brand journalist. Noreen lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her husband, her dog and four formerly homeless cats.