Mobile, social media, analytics and CRM — the role and responsibilities of the CMO have changed drastically in the last decade. Increased complexity, disruptive technologies, and customers who are both more savvy and more distracted than ever have made the CMO role immeasurably more complicated and demanding. In the latest CMO Survey by the Fuqua School of Business and Deloitte, 81% of respondents said marketing’s role has broadened in the past five years, and 11% said it has broadened significantly.

CMOs are under tremendous pressure to deliver, and the challenge is proving difficult to face. According to The Wall Street Journal, average CMO tenure is currently just 42 months — down a full six months over the last two years. In the UK, the average tenure of CMOs is only 18 months. It's by far the shortest in the C-suite: CEOs average 7.2 years, for example, and CFOs 5.7 years.

What qualities do today's marketing leaders need to be successful over the long term? What separates the most successful CMOs from the ones who are out the door in a matter of months?

1. They Balance Right & Left Brain

Too many marketers see themselves as artists, and not as demand generators. Effective marketing is a science—and that means tracking numbers, analyzing data, and measuring results.

Successful marketing leaders aren’t only artful, they’re analytical and methodical. They establish a hypothesis, A/B test, analyze results, and repeat.

While many marketing organizations rely on basic metrics like lead volume and website traffic to measure their effectiveness, successful CMOs know the right metrics to watch, and they understand how to use those insights to refine strategies and improve campaign performance.

2. They're Excellent Communicators

CMOs need to work with every team in the organization, from sales to IT. Being able to communicate effectively with each of them — sharing ideas, negotiating resources, and aligning around key business objectives — is critical both to the company’s success and to their success as a marketing leader.

Great communication is even more important within the marketing team itself. Your team is swamped with incoming requests, shifting priorities, and changing deadlines, and when everything is urgent, communication tends to be hurried and haphazard.

Successful CMOs are able to effectively establish goals and priorities, clarify responsibilities, and sustain motivation on their team. And even more importantly, they understand communication means listening more than you speak. They listen to their team’s ideas, ask for feedback, and uncover roadblocks in order to improve processes and empower their teams to perform their best.

3. They Create a Collaborative Team Culture

Marketing teams don’t work in a vacuum. They must collaborate internally, as well as with other departments company-wide — including sales, customer success, and product development.

If you’re like most marketing leaders, you’re trying to figure out how your team can deliver more in less time and with fewer resources. CMOs that are able to build marketing organizations that move fast enough to keep up with changing customer needs are those that recognize the importance of collaboration for streamlining processes, sparking innovative ideas, and producing higher-quality work.

4. They Advocate for the Customer

Wise CMOs know that marketing isn’t about selling a product — it’s about understanding customer needs and goals at every stage of the funnel. They establish their teams' primary focus as creating value for both current and prospective customers.

Keeping the customer front and center helps effective CMOs prioritize projects, build authentic brands that resonate with audiences, and create the best possible customer experience across every touch point.

5. They Ask the Right Questions

Why are we using this channel? What is the goal of this campaign? How does this initiative serve and grow our customer base?

With so many new channels and technologies popping up every day, it's easy to get caught up and jump on board without bothering to ask whether it's the right approach for your specific organization and audience.

Smart CMOs don't just jump on the hot new social media channel because their competitors are doing it — they take the time to investigate and evaluate whether it's the right move for their brand.

6. They Indulge a Healthy Curiosity

The best marketing leaders aren't content to stick with the same old tactics and outdated tools. They’re driven to surround themselves with smart people, soaking up new ideas and perspectives. They're eager to try out new tools, explore new channels, and experiment with new strategies.

Marketers driven by curiosity look beyond what is to discover what could be — to challenge existing marketing models and to innovate. And what's more, they inspire the rest of their team to do the same.

Marketing Leadership is Crucial to Success

Leadership of the marketing function in any organization is a critical role, one that can make or break a company. So a CMO with the right traits and values can help increase your company's market share and bring life to your sales and lead funnels.

Get advice for improving the efficiency of your marketing operations from fellow marketing leaders. Learn their tips in this post: 15 Suggestions to Improve Your Marketing Operations from Leaders


Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Salesforce.com/blog, Marketingland.com, CMO.com

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