Commentary

Three Attributes To Extend Your CMO Longevity

We're just at the start of 2013 and there have already been a few changes in the CMO lineup. You say, that's not news -- CMO tenure is always a bit tenuous. Actually, that is less true today than ever. Last summer, SpencerStuart reported their latest findings for the 8th annual CMO tenure study. They found that the tenure for CMOs is now nearly 4 years compared to just 2 years back in 2006. While CMO tenure varies across industries, there are several attributes that long-tenured CMOs share.

First and foremost, these CMOs can demonstrate positive impact on the company and have impact beyond the "marketing agenda." They also tend think more like businesspeople who are able to provide strategic direction and use data and analytics to make fact-based decisions.

In addition to being an exceptional marketer who is technically proficient, there are three attributes we see among successful long-term CMOs.

1.   Customer-centric.   These tenured CMOs connect regularly with customers. They do more than conduct voice of customer research, review customer data, or meet with a customer advisory board. They are actively and regularly engaged in customer conversations.

Do you describe your CMOs, for example, as engineers with X years of experience in Y industries, Y accreditations, who attend B events, read Y publications, and use Z social media? If this example seems familiar, you may be missing the mark. These long-tenured CMOs have a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs, wants, emotional state and motivations, what it takes to engage them, and the type of experience that needs to be delivered. These CMOs serve as the window into the customer for their companies. They are relentless in their pursuit to know and understand the customer. 

2.  Outcome-oriented.    It is clear to the leadership team that these CMOs have marketing well-aligned to the business with metrics and performance targets focused on producing business outcomes rather than marketing outputs. These CMOs understand that outputs such as visitors, fans, and followers create more contacts, connections and engagements that are important.

They also understand that their job is to translate these outputs into something relevant and meaningful to the leadership team, such as how the contribution of marketing is reducing the sales cycle/accelerating customer acquisition as well as the cost of acquisition or retention, and improving product adoption and win rates. These CMOs have an excellent handle on what touchpoints and channels are most effective and effective, depending on the needle that needs to be moved.

3.  Alliance-savvy.   There has been a great deal of coverage on how important it is for the CMO to have solid relationships with their sales, IT, and finance colleagues. Our performance management study suggests that best-in-class CMOs do more than that. These CMOs have forged formal explicit partnerships with these counterparts. They invest in these alliances because they believe that the partnership will enable the organization to be more customer-centric and more competitive. As a result, these companies are able to enter new markets and bring new products and services to market more rapidly.

What is different about the alliances formed by these CMOs? They work with their colleagues to plan, form, design, and manage a formal working agreement that focuses on developing the right working relationship, considering that each function most likely operates differently. They create and execute an agreement that highlights how the organization’s committed resources will achieve a common set of objectives, how to leverage the differences to the company’s advantage, and how these differences are designed to facilitate collaborative rather than competitive behaviors among all the members of each team. Performance metrics are established to support the alliance with a focus on both the outcome of the alliance as well as the process. 

Whether it be the stream of green lights we hit on the way to work or the person who holds the door for us as we juggle groceries, at the end of the day, we are most appreciative of the people and things that make our lives easier and better. Although technological innovation and automation have given us the ability to resolve many of our woes and support our marketing efforts, we cannot forget that the human element -- the customer -- is at the center of all things marketing. By exemplifying these traits of a successful CMO, the business of marketing will become more strategic, impactful, collaborative, and customer-oriented.

 

1 comment about "Three Attributes To Extend Your CMO Longevity".
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  1. John Ellett from nFusion Group, March 19, 2013 at 12:24 p.m.

    Laura, great summary. In researching and writing The CMO Manifesto: A 100-Day Action Plan for Marketing Change Agents, I also found that these three skills were critically important to a CMO's success. I'd add two others. First is being a change agent. CMO are not put in place to maintain the status quo and they must understand and embrace their charter to make things better. Second, CMOs must be both-brained. They must bring data and science to the art of building brands and driving demand.

    If a CMO can do all five of these things, they will outlast most of their peers (unless they get bored and leave early, but more on that another day).

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