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Liz Miller, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council
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The CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative: Integrating Digital to Drive Insurance Enterprise Performance

For insurers to maximize digital opportunities, marketing and IT leaders must collaborate to create an integrated digital marketing and technology road map, says Liz Miller, CMO Council.

The dynamic between marketing and technology has become intertwined to the point of dependency -- but it also has become strained and challenged to what often feels like the point of breaking. Gartner reports that by 2015 the chief marketing officer will control more technology spend than the CIO. Meanwhile, customers are more connected and dependent on digital channels to research, react and transact.

This technology boom has increased the strain on IT departments, which are entrusted with keeping the proverbial technology lights on across the organization. Marketing simply doesn't always make the IT priority list. But rather than wait in line, marketers have decided to make an end run around the technology blockade and set up their own systems and solutions.

In the end, marketers more often than not fail to drive real digital marketing performance by leveraging the right platforms, people and processes and instead are amassing a patchwork quilt consisting of random acts of marketing. This disconnect is further challenged in the insurance industry, which relies on a more complex business-to-business-to-consumer model that includes managing and embracing a complex distribution model of agents, each with varying degrees of marketing and technological savvy.

In a recent study, "What's Critical in the Insurance Vertical," the CMO Council revealed that the insurance industry is in the enviable position of having consumers who are actively investigating where and how insurance organizations could become more involved in their lives. But the study also uncovered that insurance marketers did not have programs or strategies in place to truly exploit this opportunity through robust retention, cross-sell or upsell strategies.

In truth, this is a systemic problem that plagues a majority of industries. In a separate CMO Council study, marketers admitted to skirting IT assistance and deploying tools and solutions that continued to fall short of expectations. Just 9 percent of the marketers surveyed said they had a highly evolved digital marketing model with a proven and clear path of evolution, while 36 percent reported a random embrace of marketing point solutions that are not well integrated or unified.

Marketing admitted that it was partnering with IT only to leverage existing infrastructures or to understand legacy systems; only 27 percent of respondents were including the CIO in a joint taskforce to identify technologies, and only 24 percent were teaming with IT to assess marketing platform needs. Rather than embracing the expertise of the in-house tech guru, an astounding 77 percent of marketers turned to internal marketing teams to evaluate and deploy technologies -- only 17 percent turned to the CIO.

But the report also revealed some significant best practices offered by leaders such as Chartis Insurance. According to Richard Stamets, a strategic marketing executive with the specialty solutions group at Chartis who was interviewed as part of the report, insurance remained a predominantly person-to-person business, but technology could be effectively used to open new doors and support discussions with clients about products and services. Even across a complex, distributed network, Chartis was actively leveraging technology to connect business to agent and streamline the conversation between agent and local customer.

Regardless of industry, the collision between marketing and technology is inevitable. The difference between success and failure will be how deeply and comprehensively marketing and technology executives collaborate to create a fully integrated digital marketing and technology road map. This map must put the customer experience at its center, ignoring issues of ownership or internal politics that threaten the simplest points of execution. While marketing may hold a growing technology budget, the partnership between the CMO and the CIO holds a growing power that will shape an organization's growth, effectiveness and efficiency. n

Liz Miller is VP of marketing programs and operations at the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

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