The Rise of the "SaaSy CMO": How SaaS is Reshaping the CMO Role

by Dustin J. Hall | 3 MIN READ
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This week, Hubspot's Arjun Moorthy wrote a great article about the relationship between the IT community and the inbound marketing world.

In the article he addressed the impact marketing software has had (and should have) on the way IT providers make marketing and technology decisions.

This got me thinking about how the role of today's CMO has expanded alongside the rapid adoption of new technologies. As the intricacies of IT and marketing merge into each other, CMOs are adopting more technology-driven strategies and are also more empowered to call the shots when it comes to new technology spend.

They are a new breed of CMO. They are a smarter, more agile breed I like to call "SaaSy CMOs," and they're quickly becoming one of the most valuable additions to a company's leadership.

What's a SaaSy CMO?

A SaaSy CMO is today's new business driver. Notice I said "business" and not "marketing." That's because the role of today's CMO is no longer strictly confined to the world of marketing. It couldn't be, even if they tried. SaaSy CMOs are technology savvy, silo-smashing, inbound marketing bad asses that have earned an invaluable seat at the leadership table.

How has this happened and why?

With the explosive adoption of IT trends like Software as a Service (SaaS) within the SMB market - as well as the similarly rapid adoption of marketing automation software like Hubspot, Marketo, Infusionsoft, etc. - CMOs have become more immersed in the world of technology than ever before.

In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2017, CMOs will be the primary decision makers for all IT related purchases. And, even if that prediction is off, the trend itself shows the CMO has grown into a staple partner of the CIO. In some cases, even merging into a new position entirely.

Integration beyond three letter acronyms

CRM software like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and SugarCRM are in integration hyperdrive with marketing software providers. Even the well known inbound marketing software company HubSpot, has recently developed their own CRM to provide CMOs and businesses of all sizes with a well-rounded SaaS offering. This trend is good news, as it means the traditional sales and marketing silos of yester-year are being broken down into more aligned and agile approaches.

However, these integrated SaaS products bring their own technological baggage - and today's CMOs are the bellhops.

CMOs are becoming "SaaSy" by default, understanding more about software and thus, influencing more of the decisions surrounding business technology, IT spend and vendor adoption. This influence naturally bleeds into other areas of the businesses they work for, like finance and operations.

A parallel can now be more clearly drawn between (a) the integrations of mandatory marketing technologies like CRM, CMS and automation and, (b) the inevitable convergence of the CMO and CIO role within the leadership team.

SaaSy CMOs & the future of marketing

Technology and marketing are in a state of evolutionary overdrive and never shall the two be separated again. If software is the wood and marketing is the flame, CMOs who are most familiar with their tinder will deliver the hottest results (strange analogy, but I couldn't resist).

And much like businesses that have been stifled due to late adoption of cloud computing or digital transformation, traditional marketers also risk being left behind should they fail to quickly adapt to this SaaS-laden ecosystem.

SaaSy CMOs, on the other hand, are thriving in this same ecosystem - adapting to new software as quickly as they adapt to marketing trends. Their influence reaching far and wide within their organizations, affecting everything from budgets to strategy and even company culture - their ideas becoming more valuable as they are continually backed by quantifiable performance data.

So, are you SaaS savvy?

If you're a professional marketer, the question now is, "do your current technical skill sets guarantee your efficacy within this new 'SaaSy' ecosystem?"

If you're a business leader, the question is, "is your company and staff equipped to handle today's tech-savvy and agile landscape?"

In either case, I hope your answer is yes.

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Originally published October 15, 2014. Updated November 20, 2017.