Meeting Demand: A Guide to Becoming a Data-Driven CMO

New technologies, unprecedented access to information, and changing buyer behavior are among the causes of a major marketing shift that's changing the rules of the road for today’s CMOs. The reality is that CEOs and CFOs are now asking more of marketing than ever before. In fact, they’re putting tremendous pressure on CMOs, giving them a new charter to drive growth, increase revenue, and demonstrate ROI.

Due to these trends—and the fact that the lines between earned and paid media are increasingly blurring while the efficacy of paid advertising continues to decrease—most CMOs are changing with the times. That often means that they’re adjusting their ways of thinking and adopting new, multi-faceted approaches to marketing.

As we’ll see, one of the best ways to do so is by embracing data and the technology that provides it. Doing so will help you glean meaningful insights that allow you to better engage prospects and customers and develop the kinds of campaigns necessary for successful demand generation. But there’s more to it than just that. As a CMO, you also have to make sure that you’re focused on the right metrics. And you need to have a plan in place to facilitate the multichannel, data-driven marketing necessary to drive demand and generate revenue

The Metrics that Matter for the Modern CMO

Not all that long ago, many aspects of marketing were difficult to measure. If, for example, you invested in a rebranding initiative or an advertising campaign, there wouldn’t necessarily have been a clear, definitive way to link those efforts back to pipeline growth or revenue. As a result, marketing was often considered more of an art than a science. There simply weren’t many good ways to measure cause and effect.

In today’s digital age, however, that’s no longer the case. With the right tools it’s possible to collect an array of useful data and metrics that not only give you valuable insights into your customers and how best to engage with them, but that also demonstrate just how well your efforts are (or aren’t) working and what their impact on the business is. The most important of these include:

  • Revenue metrics: The goal here is to demonstrate marketing’s contribution to your company's bottom line. For B2B companies, this includes demand generation and pipeline, i.e., the number of qualified leads that you’re generating, how many of them convert into opportunities, and how many of those result in actual revenue. It’s vital to tie any pipeline and revenue metrics that you collect back to the channels that drove them. Proper attribution will not only help you better understand where to allocate budget and resources, but also underscore the ROI that your marketing efforts are generating.

  • Engagement and advocacy metrics: Once you have customers in the door, your next concern is around the type of experiences that you’re giving them. You can gain a good picture of that experience with customer satisfaction and net promoter scores. To take things a step further, however, measure customer advocacy, which is an increasingly important metric, especially for B2C, where customer sentiment and conversations across the web can have a significant impact on revenue. For example, try quantifying whether or not your customers and prospects are actively engaging as company or product advocates. Indications of advocacy might include whether or not they share your content, are willing to create testimonials and case studies on your behalf, or are participating in your events. Importantly, you also have to determine whether or not that advocacy actually leads to better business outcomes.

  • Online performance metrics: These includes basic details around activity and usage, such as the numbers of unique visitors and page views that your campaigns generate, through to more valuable information around engagement such as time on page and bounce rate. Online performance metrics are valuable because they show the breadth and scale of your marketing campaigns’ impact. Here again, however, the key is linking those metrics back to results. In both B2B and B2C, being able to track web traffic back to the PR programs that drove it is vital, so there needs to be greater collaboration between PR/communications and the web team in advance of any launch.

  • Social metrics: As part of your marketing work, you’re probably building awareness in online communities, increasing your followers, or getting prospects and customers to like your content or favorite a specific page. These are all examples of the types of social metrics that you should be paying close attention to, particularly if they can be correlated to engagement and advocacy. After all, a million likes may look great, but they’re only truly meaningful if they translate into revenue.

  • Content performance metrics: In this case, you’re interested in knowing what content is driving conversions, creating pipeline, and resulting in engagement, earned media, and revenue. For example, you might examine how a specific press release performed in terms of the number of leads it drove, clicks that it got, or other calls to action that it resulted in. In addition to how the content itself is performing, you also need to look at which channels are best suited for distributing it to specific buyers.

  • Audience metrics: The information that you gather about your customers and prospects. This might include demographic details, data about their needs and pain points, and information about where they are in their buyer’s journey.

While collecting and analyzing all of this data used to be a tall (or even impossible) order, today it’s a much easier task. In fact, thanks to a variety of tools—notably email marketing or marketing automation platforms—you can track this kind of data for all of your campaigns. A high-quality provider of content distribution, media targeting and media monitoring solutions like PR Newswire can also be a valuable source of data about your PR efforts. Of course, tracking the right data is just part of the puzzle. Equally important is knowing how to glean specific insights from it so that you can make better decisions and improve your business results.

To do that, you need to set you and your team up the right way.

How to Become a Data-Driven CMO

As a CMO, you’re only as smart as the data you have about your buyers. But simply collecting the types of data outlined above isn’t good enough. You also need to know how to clean your data, augment it, govern it, and ensure that you’re able to collect even more of it in the future. Plus, you need to figure out how to package it up in the best ways and deliver it to the right people to support decision-making. In short, you need a way to manage your data effectively.

That means re-orienting your approach to marketing so that you become a data-driven CMO. Fundamentally, the key to doing so is focusing your attention on six key areas:

  • Content: As the lifeblood of most marketing campaigns, content is your primary tool for communicating with prospects and customers. Yet to create good content, you’ve got to do your homework about the audience it’s intended for. That means understanding your buyers, including their needs and pain points, at every stage of their buyer journey through to the moment when they decide to make a purchase. You also need to know how to group those buyers into similar segments and personas. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to create much more targeted content.

  • Data: Having clean, up-to-date information about your customers is vital. Some of this information you'll gather while studying your audience; most, however, you’ll collect by engaging with them through actual campaigns. When you do, make sure that your data is accurate and contains as much information as possible. This is critical to optimizing your performance over time, be it for a one-off invitation to a live event, a limited-time offer or sale, or an ongoing drip nurture campaign. Having enough data to be able to segment your prospects and customers in various ways (e.g., by gender, age, marital status and more for B2C, or department, title, industry, company size, etc., for B2B) will make it easier for you to serve them with right the content to shepherd them down the path to purchase. Conversely, marketing to customers with out-of-date or incorrect information only renders you less effective and credible.

  • Technology: To market effectively today, you have to use automation. Ideally, you’ll do so to create an engagement hub so that no matter who’s interacting with a particular individual buyer or corporate buying committee, your brand representative will have the right information and is using the appropriate piece of content to help move that interaction forward. You can’t have effective interactions with prospects and customers without automated data that’s integrated into a variety of tools and platforms to maximize visibility across departments.

  • Process: You need to have a defined demand generation or campaign process so that you are able to track, map, and plan for interactions with prospects and customers in an intelligent way. That process needs to ensure that every channel you have for reaching your targets is covered, that there’s adequate communication between teams, and that there’s alignment around expectations and goals.

  • Distribution: It's important to figure out how you are going to get your message out via your various channels. For example, what’s your event or sale strategy going to be? How are you going to use paid and earned media? How will you use press releases and social media? Distribution is a critical, and often overlooked, component of any content strategy, and one that you need to be focused on so that customers and prospects actually get to consume your messages.

  • People: Think about how you’re designing your organization and what you can do to make sure that everyone is focused on the buyer and able to move as swiftly as possible. That could mean designing your team to match your buyers’ journeys while maximizing collaboration. It could also mean making sure that you’re investing in professional development so that your people have the skills necessary for successful demand generation.

Becoming a data-driven CMO isn’t easy, but to thrive in today’s digital world, it’s essential.

What Next?

If you’re a traditional CMO, the time has come to evolve your thinking and embrace the reality that there's been a game-changing shift in marketing. Here's how you can get started:

  • Adopt a buyer-centric, outward approach by taking the time to truly understand your audience.

  • Always start with the data, including buyer insights and market research. You’ll need a data management program, with a dedicated resource to run it.

  • Embrace technology. The right tools will make your team much more effective and efficient.

  • Use data insights gained from A/B testing to help you reprioritize and reallocate your budget dollars where they’re most effective.

  • Move away from traditional metrics like awareness and brand preference and toward advocacy, engagement, and other indications that your customers have taken an action as a result of what you did.

By taking these steps, you’ll be much closer to becoming a data-driven CMO who’s capable of driving demand and achieving better outcomes for your business.

As a CMO, you have to make sure that you’re focused on the right metrics. And you need to have a plan in place to facilitate the multichannel, data-driven marketing that drives demand and generates revenue.


Ken Wincko is the SVP of Marketing at Cision and PR Newswire, where he manages the company's global marketing strategy. He is also a member of the Executive Management Committee. He has more than 20 years of marketing, product and business development experience in bringing innovative marketing programs and solutions to market for both B2B and B2C organizations.

Prior to Cision and PR Newswire, Ken held senior-level marketing and product leadership roles at Dun & Bradstreet, ADP, Citigroup, and IBM. Ken is an advisory board member of the CMO Council. He is a frequent speaker at major industry conferences and has been covered in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, TechTarget, Information Management, The Demand Gen Report, and MarketingSherpa


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