By Barbara Pellow June 7 , 2006 -- In a difficult economy, the marketing budget in corporate America typically falls victim to intense scrutiny. This should be good news for the world of digital printing, customization and personalization. To ensure continued access to the budgets necessary to adequately promote their brands, marketing executives need to focus on ensuring that they maximize the ROI of each marketing dollar spent. In a March 2006 Survey, Targetbase, a leading direct marketing agency in Onmicom Group's Diversified Agency Services Division, released a survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from 40 leading companies, including Disney, General Mills, and Whole Foods, on the intersection of marketing and corporate growth. It contains important messages for the graphic communications service provider relative to how the CMO selects media options and alternatives. According to the Targetbase Growth Survey, CMOs select marketing channels based on past results 80 percent of the time and best projected ROI 65 percent of the time. Direct mail was seen as the most important marketing channel among those surveyed, with 23 percent of the respondents reporting it has the most impact of any marketing channel on their growth. According to the survey, consumer targeted communications is the most widely used approach to corporate growth. CMOs see targeted direct mail as the most important direct marketing channel That sounds like a tremendous opportunity for the graphic communications service provider that has recently invested in digital print technology. The survey also, however, explored CMOs expectations of their external marketing partners. One respondent answered, "It's all about results. If I allow a bad campaign to run, I lose my job. Agencies (marketing partners) need to realize their role and think as if they lived in their clients' shoes." The message to the graphic communications service provider trying to break into the CMO suite is that you need to be prepared to speak to and successfully address the issues and concerns of the CMO. The CMO is the decision maker on media selection and targeted campaigns. You need to be prepared to have the right dialogue. Walking a Mile in the CMOs Shoes In today's market, the CMO's challenge is far greater than brand communications. Marketing groups must now fill the pipeline with predisposed prospects, optimize customer value, and be accountable for demand generation through market differentiation and integrated multi-channel campaign management. This requires new competency in business analytics, database management, digital marketing, field sales, channel operations and marketing results analysis. The CMO is the decision maker on media selection and targeted campaigns. You need to be prepared to have the right dialogue. Another recent report produced by the CMO Council and titled "Renovate to Innovate" highlighted the additional challenges facing the CMO including: * A 24/7 global economy and increased competition from new contenders and off-shore sources * Monumental impact of the Internet in transforming customer access and engagement, as well as expectations and attitudes * Multiplication of sales channels and customer interface technologies that need to be synchronized and exploited for competitive advantage * New sources and volumes of external marketing and sales data that need to be analyzed and leveraged * Fragmentation of markets and proliferation of media channels requiring more sophistication in targeting and reaching key audiences Online marketing in particular is gaining increased attention as CMOs are being asked for a greater degree of accountability. In that quest for greater accountability, multi-channel campaigns that blend print and Web capability are gaining increased attention and more budget. According to the CMO Web-Smart Survey by Webtrends, "Over 56 percent of marketing executives said that the Web was either the hub of their marketing organization's strategy, or it would become the hub in the next year." The survey went on to say that marketing executives and their organizations are not very savvy when it comes to their collective knowledge of online marketing trends, strategies and technologies. The Tools to Support the CMO Software and digital print equipment technologies are converging to address the CMO's requirements for interactive multi-channel performance driven marketing solutions. Digital color print technology has advanced to the level where it is acceptable for a broad array of direct marketing materials. More importantly, a full range of software tools is emerging that are starting to deliver on the promise of integrated campaign management. XMPie, BlueStream and MindFireInc have tool sets that help the graphic communications service provider develop integrated marketing campaigns. They link the impact power of direct mail with the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The objective is to convert more direct mail recipients into qualified prospects and valued customers by sustaining and integrated and evolving dialogue with those customers and prospects. These application solutions automate the creation, management and tracking of Personalized URLs and VIP Landing Pages. For the marketing executive, these tools blend the power of print and the interactivity of the Web to help deliver high quality communications that provide measurable results and higher return on investment. XMPie, BlueStream and MindFire link the impact power of direct mail with the interactive capabilities of the Internet. So How Do I Leverage the Opportunity? If you have the right tools in place, now is the time to make the most of the opportunity for your organization. You need to find a way to start a dialogue with the CMO. It means elevating your contact levels and getting into the C-Suite. Digital print service providers are using a variety of techniques ranging from illustrating their capabilities with their own customized direct mail to the CMO to networking and event marketing. Once you make the connection, the next step is communicating your value proposition to the CMO. Here are some tips on how to succeed with the CMO and become a more integral part of the overall corporate marketing strategy. * Find out what is most important to the CMO at the business performance level. If you follow the business press on the company, you should be able to build an understanding of what is important to the C-level executives. It could be revenue growth, customer loyalty or improved profitability. Understanding the business objectives will help you align program recommendations, thinking and efforts to more effectively address larger corporate issues and how they relate to your expertise as a service provider. * With the new demands on the CMO, he may not be familiar with the technologies available to him. Share your knowledge and expertise openly while looking for his guidance and the value of his experience so you can grow your own and hopefully succeed together. * Focus on the areas that are of critical importance to him such as ROI and analytics and how the tool set that you have available can help him provide demonstrable results. * Be willing to take a risk and run a trial program with the CMO to develop "proof points" for ROI. In his mind, he is betting his job on the success or failure of marketing campaigns and wants a partner willing to share some of the risk with him. * Ensure that you have mutually agreed on the definition of "success" for an integrated campaign. Clear expectations need to be set for both parties and don't promise what you can't deliver. The industry isn't perfect. The technology is still evolving. It is critical that you are clear about what can and cannot be achieved. * Measure and communicate results for programs very clearly and provide frequent updates on program status. Whether the program exceeds or fails to meet expectations, a root causal analysis should be conducted so that success can be repeated and future failures avoided. Be willing to take a risk and run a trial program with the CMO to develop "proof points" for ROI. As the economic power moves from the producers of products to consumers, the role of marketing will grow in importance. Success with marketing executives will be crucial to the success of your business. Marketing is evolving from art to science with a heavy focus on ROI and analytics. The emphasis on interactive multi-channel campaigns is climbing. As multi-channel marketing gains momentum, there will be more focus on accountability and the ability to prove how campaigns translate into growth and profitability. Marketers will want to optimize campaigns and improve their performance. These are times of significant change in marketing, and you can play a key role in successfully driving that change. It requires you to elevate contacts to the right level in the organization; ensure you have the right tool set in place; and deliver the right value to the client.