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How to become a CMO

How to become a CMO

Seated at the top of a 100-step pyramid, shaded from the scorching sun by an elaborately decorated parasol, cooled by the feathered fans of two dedicated servants, is the Chief Marketing Officer. 

A few steps from the top sits the Marketing Director, their envious eyes glued upwards. About halfway down, a group of anxious Marketing Managers pace irritably from step to step. At the very bottom, when the Chief Marketing Officer’s prized eyes are elsewhere, a swarm of junior marketers fight it out over who sits where. 

CMO: it’s the top job every marketer aspires to, but unfortunately not where every marketer ends up. A six-figure salary, a place on the board, and the power to make business-wide decisions.

But being at the very top of the marketing food chain isn’t as easy going as it might seem. In fact, out of all the seats darted around the boardroom table, the CMO’s can be the toughest and most frustrating to fill, with the average person staying put for only 4.1 years (the shortest tenure in the C-suite).

To convince any organisation that you’re worth your salt as a CMO, you’ll need to demonstrate:

  • Strong leadership capabilities, with the ability to communicate, influence and inspire
  • A proven track-record planning, developing and executing marketing campaigns with proven ROI
  • Experience working with a number of different agencies and internal stakeholders to deliver company-wide results.

But these are merely the bare necessities – to succeed as CMO in today’s fast-paced and rapidly-evolving business environment, you’ll need to adopt a forward-thinking, strategic mindset.

Become the customer champion. 

Unlike other board-level positions, the role of CMO has only come into fruition in the last few decades -with technological advancements and a shift in the customer-brand dynamic creating ample opportunity for the marketing organisation to add greater value from a strategic standpoint. 

As CMO, your primary objective isn’t to be in charge of all things marketing-related; it’s to manage the return on investment (ROI) of your organisation’s marketing efforts. 

In an era where push marketing is dead and gone, CMOs need to move beyond traditional marketing and advertising techniques and look to establish new ways of engaging customers. 

But the area where CMOs can bring the most value to the business is by becoming the voice of the customer around the boardroom table. Understanding how the customer thinks, knowing what resonates with them, and having useful evidence-based insights to reinforce business decisions will help move your role beyond the marketing function, and begin to add real value to other functions across the board.

Pair digital insights with creative expertise.

Traditionally speaking, the marketing sector has always placed a great deal of value on creativity. The process of empathising with your target audience, understanding their needs, wants and emotions, and designing a campaign that resonates with them is a largely creative task. 

But, while it might have been acceptable back in the 1980s for marketers to put their fingers in their ears when it came to utilising new technology, in today’s digital era, it’s crucial that marketers combine data and analytics with creativity in order to truly understand their customers.

CMOs that can combine data and analytics insights with more traditional creative techniques, and bring about actionable ideas, will stand to benefit the most.

Communicate and collaborate with other functions.

Despite having spent their entire careers communicating with others through a variety of channels, marketers are shockingly bad when it comes to communicating their activities, insights and achievements to people within their own business – and the CMO is no exception.

To provide the strategic counsel that is expected from your position, it’s your responsibility as CMO to translate marketing insights into a language your C-suite colleagues understand, and collaborate with them to expand your influence and value. 

For instance, there could be opportunity within your organisation to partner up with the finance department and use customer data to identify new ways of generating revenue, then develop a marketing strategy that taps into your customer’s hearts and minds.

This might sound rather obvious, but a recent study by Deloitte revealed more than 40% of CMOs are working on brand-shaping and campaign execution activities, while only 6% are actively working on growing revenue across all global business activities.

While the role of CMO is challenging, the impact you can have on your organisation has never been greater. By embracing a strategic mindset with customer-based insights and a creative approach, you’ll be able to take your organisation’s marketing efforts to an entirely new level. 

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