Chief marketing officers (CMOs), unlike other line-of-business executives, are in a unique quandary. Their responsibilities span across the customer journey–from awareness to engagement to sales–which makes it difficult to obtain C-level insights. Unlike sales, finance or HR functions, for example, marketing has no natural “atomic unit” which can easily roll up from individual to team to division and eventually up to the whole enterprise. As a result, even the most basic, existential questions–such as “how did we do last month?”–are often difficult to answer. And paradoxically, the massive wave of new marketing applications only makes the problem worse.

No Atomic Unit

Marketing, by necessity is a diverse function, encompassing artists and quants under the same roof. But ultimately, its mission is to drive future revenues. Unfortunately, the only metrics readily available to marketers are interim ones — such as traffic, leads, awareness, followers and attendees. This lack of visibility into the true impact of marketing spend frustrates both CMOs and their executive peers.

CIO Parallels

Ironically, this makes CMOs more similar to CIOs than it does to their line-of-business peers. CIOs have long dealt with disparate metrics such as cost, speed, innovation and security. Where the similarities end is that CIOs have many tools at their disposal to measure and manage their universe, whereas CMOs do not.

An Eight Billion Dollar Gorilla Has Yet to Emerge

Software vendors have emerged to provide CxO insights to sales, finance, HR and IT executives. But the same cannot be said for CMOs. The market simply wasn’t mature enough 5 or 10 years ago, and the CMO IT stack had yet to emerge.

The New CMO IT Stack Only Makes Things Worse

The good news is that we are now seeing a massive wave of new marketing applications emerge. This helps sub-functions within marketing–such as the demand generation team or the social media team–do their jobs better. The bad news is that it only makes the CMO’s job harder, as they now have even more data to track.

The Marketing Cloud Wars Will Sort This Out

As companies like Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle battle for the hearts and minds of the CMO, it will be interesting to watch what solutions emerge to solve this pressing problem. In the meantime, go to your local CMO, give them a big hug and say “I understand now. You’re flying completely blind.”