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How to succeed as a CMO: Leading marketers share their insights

What does the role of a chief marketing officer look like today and how do you succeed as a CMO?

Average tenure in the position is relatively short for a C-suite position at 40 months according to the latest Spencer Stuart survey).

Press Gazette spoke to CMOs at PensionBee, Mindshare, Deloitte Digital and more to discover how they view the changing landscape and what CMOs can do to ensure they last more than the 40-month average in their role.

Business-first, marketer second

Teresa Barreira, CMO at Publicis Sapient: “Today, CMOs are uniquely positioned to drive strategy and growth. They have access to incredible marketing insights and must leverage these insights and act as the ‘chief collaboration officer’ across the company, partnering cross-functionally for the benefit of the entire organisation.

“Where I think CMOs can add greater value is in advising the CEO on a company’s strategy, while helping other parts of the enterprise understand the customer more deeply. The CMO should be a business person first, marketer second.”

It’s not Mad Men versus maths

Paul Knegten, CMO at Outbrain: “It’s become a lot more data-driven and accountable thanks to innovation in the way data can be easily moved around and visualised.

“At the same time, there are new limitations in how we can track and attribute, which means the creative side is becoming more important than ever. It was never just ‘Mad Men’ vs ‘maths’ – ignoring either of those disciplines doesn’t set a CMO up for success.”

Get involved in product development

Jasper Martens, CMO at PensionBee: “These days CMOs are much more involved in product development. I’ve seen many more companies involving marketing professionals in their product development, moving away from a strict top-down product to marketing model.

“A good product doesn’t sell itself so input from marketing in your product development is key. No wonder product marketers are so in demand. It makes sense.”

Scope of role getting ever broader

Robert Jay, CMO at Southbank Research: “For a start, the name is constantly changing, but that’s nothing new. Look at Coca Cola five years ago.  But the scope is also changing, with a much broader and greater focus on growth and directly impacting revenue – more so because this is something that’s getting easier to show.”

Role has become all-encompassing

Alex Latham, CMO at Chip: “I think the role of CMO has become a lot more all-encompassing over the years. Gone are the days where CMOs were just ‘media planners in-chief’. Now, the CMO is expected to focus on the product, the customer and everything in between.

“With near-perfect information available on how good a product or service actually is across social media (at scale), the CMO must focus on the product as well as getting ads out to the masses.”

Growing importance of demonstrating ROI

Dirk Wischnewski, CMO at B2B Media Group: “One way the CMO role has changed is the growing importance of proving ROI to stakeholders within the company, from management to sales. It’s important to demonstrate worth through lead generation, client base growth, website activity, whitepaper downloads, quality of webinar participants – the list is endless.

“But they need to be communicated in a way that’s clear and understandable so people can comprehend marketing’s role in the broader business. And they need to link to the wider business goals to deliver value.”

Lines between marketing and commercial have blurred

Greg Brooks, CMO at Mindshare: “Marketing is now ‘more’. It’s more than advertising, it’s more than CRM, it’s more than channels. It is every experience your customer has with your brand. It is also more measurable than ever before and, as a result, has a bigger seat at the table when it comes to driving the business.

“A good example is Unilever, which doesn’t have a global CMO anymore, it has a chief digital and commercial officer, which reflects the blurring lines between digital marketing and commerce.”

Focus is now on revenue rather than awareness

Becky Skiles, CMO at Deloitte Digital: “When I started in marketing, the core skill set for a CMO was to have strong written and visual communication skills, focused on advertising and direct marketing channels in particular. Today, CMOs are driving conversations around data, technology, creativity and brand purpose, all at the same time.

“In fact, our recent CMO Survey showed that 53% of CMOs feel an increased pressure to enable revenue growth – making this the biggest change to their teams’ responsibilities over the past few years. When I started out, it was really all about consideration and awareness, so we’ve seen a seismic shift in recent years.”

Company champion who helps with recruitment

Michelle Goodall, CMO at Guild: “There is now an increased alignment with HR and the chief human resources officer around the employer brand.

“The competition for talent is fierce across most roles – not just in marketing. Marketing teams today play an important role in talent attraction and retention and the CMO is now not only the champion for the consumer in the organisation, but increasingly working with HR as a champion for potential employees.”