There are several key differentiators between most marketing department heads and most Chief Marketing Officers. Although there obviously are exceptions, typically, the former manages a marketing team, and the latter serves as a true business leader.
So what specifically does it take for a marketer to be an effective business leader in today’s chaotic, fast-paced world? In my view, there are five keys:
1. Strategic leadership: True CMOs fuse strategic, long-term vision with a strong bias for sales and marketing integration, and they balance creativity with hard financial data and marketing analytics. They also take responsibility for the brand, customer experience, and product/service management, and they are key players when it comes to making decisions involving mergers and acquisitions.
2. Business results: Many CMOs say that thinking and acting like a business leader is the single most important driver for their success. As business leaders, CMOs must earn their seat at the revenue table with the other C-level executives and board members. No doubt their CEOs would agree.
3. Focus on the customer: Leading CMOs pay a lot of attention to the customer and are obsessed with understanding the nuances of their target markets. High-growth companies are significantly more likely than their low-growth counterparts to incorporate customer satisfaction metrics into their marketing executive’s compensation formula, as these brands know their long-term success depends on their CMO’s intimacy with customers.
4. Innovation: Disruption and innovation go hand in hand with a CMO’s ability to position an organization to be intimate with its customers. It’s about transformation, reinvention, and leadership. But this can be painful, because in many cases, it means moving away from the very things that made the company successful in the past. Being willing to take calculated risks is key.
5. Continuous improvement: The effective CMO continually asks, “How can I improve our marketing and our business?” But this focus on the journey from good to great has to permeate not just the marketing team, but the entire organization. And it must be ingrained into the company culture.
So if you want to become a successful CMO, think and act strategically, focus on driving measurable business results, pay close attention to the customer, disrupt and innovate, and through it all, remember to improve every step of the way.
A final thought: “The emergence of the CMO position signals a change in the role of the head of marketing in the corporation, as well as a transformation in the tasks of marketing overall. From a traditional, right-brain discipline with a focus on creativity, marketing is moving toward an analytic, left-brain approach, largely due to the emergence and widespread adoption of IT–facilitated systems, such as CRM technology that suggests strategic and tactical marketing options. These changes then get reflected in the role of the head of marketing. Thus, the modern CMO becomes responsible for a long-term vision of the firm and is held accountable for all organizational stakeholders, including both the traditional responsibility for customers and an ultimate responsibility to shareholders. That is, we are witnessing not only a change in the nomenclature, from VP of Marketing to CMO—which accommodates the need to acknowledge the voice of the customer in the C-suite—but also a transformation in the expectations of the head of marketing and the marketing function.” ~CMO.com