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The Remote CMO: A Good Idea or Not?

Working remotely is on the rise in America. In an article from CMS Wire we learn that some 25 million professionals will be working at least semi-remotely this next year. This trend towards remote work is growing especially in the field of marketing. Much of the work is analytically driven or focused on creative, which means marketers are not tied down to an office. All they need is a computer and a good wireless connection. This has actually proven to be extremely beneficial for low-level marketers as they report higher job satisfaction when they have the flexibility of working remotely. The result, higher productivity in the workforce, and a focus on performance rather than hours spent in the office. This type of environment has been proven to encourage higher performance and more results. What does this mean for the modern Chief Marketing Officer though? Will we see CMO’s following this trend and working remotely? Should they even work remotely? Those are the questions I am hoping to provide some insight to in this blog post.

As I’ve done research on this topic and various companies and their CMO’s, there seems to be a resounding “No” to the questions I just posed. It makes sense really; the CMO is the leader and driving force of a marketing team. If they are not around or in the trenches with the team they could be viewed as out of touch with the work the team has. They will become un-relatable and could, over time, find resentment built against them from the workforce that doesn’t ever see them. CMO’s need to get down and dirty with their team and become part of the company culture so they can lead effectively. The fact of the matter is, if they aren’t around, they can’t do that well. The team will break apart from the top down and you will see both a drop in retention for your employees, and a drop in productivity across the department. That is the basis for why CMO’s shouldn’t be remote workers. If you aren’t actively involved with your team, and easily accessible, you can’t lead well. Is that how it will always be though?

I think there is a shift coming for the field marketing that could change both CMO’s role, and how they do their job. The first factor leading to this change is technology advancements. Social media, phones, the ability to travel at a more affordable cost; all of these things make people more accessible to one another. Right now, you can have an effective videoconference meeting with multiple people in different parts of the country. This accessibility is only going to improve as technology continues to develop. A great example is VR. A few years down the road we could be having meetings in virtual reality with our team members in another country. Technological advancements will result in the ability to make yourself extremely accessible to your marketing team, even if you’re not in the office five days a week.

The next factor that will change marketing for CMO’s is the rise of artificial intelligence. In an article from Internet Retailing they project the AI market to grow from $420 million to $5.05 billion by 2020. In the next three years AI is going to improve exponentially, and be a game changer in marketing circles. AI will have the computing power, and the knowhow to manage much of the analytics for our marketing campaigns. AI will also be able to help reach our target markets at scale. This powerful force will begin changing the structure of marketing departments. AI can cut down on the manpower needed for a traditional marketing program. Instead, teams will start being reoriented towards creative, and directing AI programs. As a result, I think we will see smaller marketing teams that are more specialized in creating targeted content. What does this mean for CMO’s working remotely? AI gives us the ability to work in smaller teams, and a smaller team means more employee interaction, and less negative repercussions from being disconnected. The negatives, which are primarily related to the CMO’s ability to lead, will no longer be as much of an issue.

So, can a CMO work remotely? The answer currently is no, or at least not yet. Working remotely should be saved for lower level marketers. We aren’t at the place yet where a CMO can manage his team effectively if he or she isn’t physically accessible and interacting regularly with the team to become part of the company culture. I believe it is coming in the future though. Virtual marketing and design is increasing productivity among the businesses that utilize them for their general marketing employees. Changes in technology, and in the marketing field in the future could allow CMO’s to be both more effective personally, and with their team while working remotely.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and we would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Do you think remote CMO’s are something coming in the future?

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