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The AI-Powered CMO: The Top Skills and Traits Needed in the AI Era

In today’s digital marketing world, where 95% of marketers herald AI as a transformative technology and 40% have already seen efficiency boosts from generative AI tools, understanding the impact of AI on marketing isn’t just beneficial — it’s imperative.

 

For Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and other marketing executives, AI development’s swift pace presents unprecedented opportunities and unique challenges. In this article, we dive into why it’s crucial to master AI right now and outline the essential skills and traits marketing executives need to thrive in this new landscape.

 

AI in Marketing

 

We can’t overstate the influence of AI on marketing. Generative AI (genAI) has revolutionized content creation, data analysis, search, and automation. From helping ideate and craft engaging content to analyzing customer behavior and automating daily tasks, genAI is a powerful ally. For CMOs, this translates into a treasure trove of new tools to turbocharge brand growth, spark deeper engagements, and better analyze your data.

 

According to a PwC survey, 81% of CMOs expect to use genAI to support new business models in their function in the next 12 to 18 months.

 

Why? Because genAI can level the playing field for marketing teams. 

 

According to Raja Rammannar, CMO at Mastercard:

“This is the opportunity I see with the advent of [generative] AI, in particular, that marketers have a fantastic opportunity to reclaim their time because everyone else has access to the same set of technologies, the competing field becomes very level.”

Marketers who aren’t learning about and implementing AI will be left behind.

 

The Modern CMO Role

 

The role of the CMO in 2024 has evolved significantly in the past decade, especially with the onset of AI. Today’s CMOs must not only lead marketing efforts but also possess a comprehensive understanding of sales, customer success, and marketing’s overarching impact on these areas.

 

The digitization and use of algorithms in marketing now require executives to have a broader range of skills, combining strategic management with strong analytical abilities.

 

Because of this shift, chief marketers are now more generalists and must balance customer insights, financial goals, and sales performance.

 

In each of these areas, AI can help: 

  • Forecast financial goals
  • Measure sentiment analysis from reviews, survey responses, and sales or customer service calls
  • Provide valuable insights to help make more data-driven decisions

 

To excel, modern marketing executives must combine their strategic vision and learned skills with a nuanced grasp of AI’s potential and use cases to improve marketing campaigns and drive brand growth. Those who don’t risk falling behind the competition. 

 

Must-Have Executive AI Traits

 

In today’s rapidly evolving, AI-driven world, CMOs must exhibit certain critical traits to effectively navigate the complexities of the modern marketing landscape.

 

This requires a deep understanding of the industry’s technological advancements and the analytical skills to harness these developments successfully.

 

1. Understand the Fundamentals of AI

 

A solid grasp of AI fundamentals is non-negotiable for CMOs. Are you familiar with AI’s core components, such as machine and deep learning, natural language processing, and fuzzy logic?

 

To learn about these essential AI concepts, we recommend a mix of the following:

  • Collaborate with your data scientists, who likely have firsthand insight into AI and can help you and your team digest the basics of AI 
  • Take online courses from renowned institutions like the Marketing AI Institute
  • Attend webinars or listen to podcasts and videos hosted by AI experts
  • Read through  white papers, guides, and research reports on AI marketing strategies and success stories

 

A strong AI foundation includes understanding how AI operates and being aware of the top AI products and their applications and use cases. 

 

Rely on your network of marketers to see which AI tools they use and their success and pain points. You can also join online marketing groups or forums to discover more tools. This AI product knowledge can help you better evaluate solutions and implement AI tools effectively.

 

2. Know and Measure the Business Impact

 

CMOs must clearly understand and be able to articulate the tangible impacts AI technology will have on the business. However, this first means understanding the financial impact of the marketing department.

 

A CMO who links marketing to sales growth, customer acquisition, and business performance can more easily advocate for AI tools to run future campaigns. This involves knowing which KPIs to measure and how to quantify the benefits of implementing AI technologies.

 

At the macro level, you need a firm grasp of your current KPIs, such as knowing different campaigns’ conversion rates, your overall customer acquisition cost (CAC), and customer lifetime value (CLTV). This info will give you baseline measurements to compare the ROI of your AI tools. 

 

To harness AI effectively, begin with a modest approach. Conduct A/B tests to compare the open and click-through rates of emails crafted solely by humans against those created with the help of genAI.

 

These A/B tests will provide concrete data on effectiveness and efficiency, enabling CMOs to make informed decisions about integrating AI technologies into broader marketing strategies and optimizing business outcomes.

 

3. Build Trust Amongst Your Team

 

Our recent research found that 7 in 10 marketers feel inundated by the current pace of AI development and its incorporation into their marketing strategies. This sentiment could be because only 39% of our respondents have received formal AI training and education, and only 19% were undergoing training at the time of the survey (September 2023).

 

Our CMO, Monica Ho, has a positive outlook on AI in marketing.

“In 2024, the partnership between AI and human expertise is poised to redefine marketing roles rather than replace them, creating a synergy that amplifies results across the board.”

To achieve this collaboration, it’s imperative that marketing leaders properly train their teams on the fundamentals of AI and how to spot hallucinations (inaccuracies generated by AI). You should host trainings on the best AI practices and how to use AI effectively and ethically. Additionally, we recommend having AI guidelines for your marketing department and company.

 

Together, this ongoing education and training will foster trust around AI and help your marketers feel better equipped to adopt genAI tech.

 

4. Champion Change

 

While marketers feel that the pace of AI development is moving quickly, most are excited about AI. We found that 69% of marketers believe that marketers leveraging AI will replace those that don’t. We also found that 41% of marketers expressed concerns about over-dependence on AI technology.

 

CMOs need to champion change by addressing their teams’ dual sentiments of excitement and hesitation toward AI.

 

You must help your marketing team see AI as a comarketer rather than a replacement. As a marketing executive, you can create a collaborative and innovative environment by assuring your team that AI tools are meant to enhance, not replace, their skills.

 

It’s also essential to keep the “human in the loop,” ensuring that while AI can handle large data sets and automate repetitive tasks, the creative and empathetic elements of marketing must remain distinctly human.

 

Duolingo CMO Manu Orssaud, reminds us that AI is a tool to support marketers:

“AI is, first and foremost, a tool that helps increase productivity. With more than 50% of spending on performance marketing, getting more time to be creative is critical, because that’s where a marketer has more control… what we’re really interested in around AI is the ability to help us optimize ourselves.”

The human-in-the-loop approach not only alleviates AI fears but also underscores the value of human intuition and creativity in driving successful marketing outcomes.

 

5. Make Better Data-Driven Decisions

 

AI technology empowers marketers to sift through vast quantities of customer data, uncovering insights that can lead to more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

 

However, the adage “garbage in, garbage out” is particularly relevant to genAI technologies. You must use high-quality, clean data to leverage AI’s full potential. Unclean or “dirty” data — such as incomplete, incorrect, or too narrow — can skew AI analyses, leading to misguided decisions and strategies.

 

As discussed earlier, knowing your baseline data and KPIs is critical for marketing leaders and teams. If not, you’re unable to measure AI’s effectiveness accurately, which can lead to issues when you’re basing future strategic decisions on this information.

 

Maintaining data integrity is both an initial step and an ongoing necessity for effectively leveraging AI in marketing strategies.

 

If you want tactics for implementing an AI marketing strategy, download our guide, “A CMO’s Planning Guide to Navigating AI Transformation in 2024.” This working guide will help deepen your understanding and application of AI in digital marketing.

 

Banner call-to-action CTA for the CMO planning guide with a icon image of a woman holding a phone and a green and black background with a blue download button.

 

As AI technologies evolve, so must the strategies and tactics CMOs employ. Monica Ho, our CMO, believes marketers must be “nimble, and stay attuned to AI developments and even policy changes… They [marketers] must ensure their approaches are adapted to responsibly leverage the transformative — and ever growing — potential of AI.” 

 

Navigate the AI Era With the Right Technology

 

For CMOs navigating the complex terrain of AI in marketing, developing these skills and traits is not just about staying competitive; it’s about leading the charge in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

 

At SOCi, we understand the unique challenges faced by multi-location enterprises and their marketing teams. That’s why we created the CoMarketing Cloud powered by SOCi Genius, our AI automation layer.

 

Our CoMarketing Cloud is designed to help all marketers from the CMO to local franchise owners collect and analyze data more efficiently while automating daily tasks. Our CoMarketing Cloud enables not just a more innovative marketing approach but a more strategic, data-driven framework that positions your brand for success in the AI era.

 

We’ve already implemented SOCi Genius into our pillar products, Genius Reviews and Genius Social, and recently released Genius Search, which uses AI to tackle local search optimization.

Example of Genius Social media calendar on a laptop with a gif of an AI response to comments on Facebook and Instagram overlaid on a smartphone.

 

Our clients are already thrilled with what SOCi Genius can do!

 

Sheryl Butler, a Marketing Manager for Ascent Hospitality Management, stated,

“SOCi Genius Reviews has solved the impossibility of responding to all reviews, which was the main goal. We saw a 450% increase in our review response rate, from 18% before Genius Reviews to 99% afterward.”

Additionally, the Kumon marketing team loves the Genius Engagements aspect of Genius Social. “We’re thrilled with Genius Engagements! Its efficiency is remarkable, saving us so much time. The inclusion of emojis and the unique, personalized responses are particularly impressive. We haven’t needed to adjust any directives, as the current AI model is working nicely.”

 

Request a personalized demo today to learn more about our Genius AI products and how SOCi can help automate and support your multi-location marketing efforts!

 

 

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Chi Whitley

Chi Whitley is a content marketer who specializes in local SEO. He’s passionate about helping multi-location businesses grow their brands and online presence in the ever-changing world of localized marketing.

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