What does it take to be a truly great CMO?

Anyone who bares the title CMO will know first-hand how mercurial a position it is. Not only are they required to oversee all marketing activity, the job is also heavily involved in Analytics, and a technological know-how is required. It is a highly sought-after role but is often misconstrued as a position that will take control of solely large-scale Marketing operations and noting else. But there appears to be more to the position than just Marketing. 

Many would assume that this role would involve running advertising campaigns, but this is only a minor aspect within the role. There are many parts to it, as will be discussed further on. In the past people doubted the durability of this position, as outlined in this 2009 Forbes article. Mike Linton, featured in this piece, stated that:

A good CMO, like a good sports manager, will be able to improve today while building the capability to win in the long run.

Very true, and no better example of this than legendary football manager Alex Ferguson. He went through an endless amount of players in his squad all with differing capabilities, as well as having his own personal issues with them, and managed to, more often than not, make them champions. People consider the role of the CMO somewhat short-term, but it is clear that if it's done right, it can remain pivotal overtime. A good CMO should have a good capacity to adopt change, have the right level of product innovation, and strong lead generation. CMO's run the risk of becoming irrelevant if they don't manage to link marketing metrics to sales or business metrics.

To many people, especially those about to graduate in Marketing, the CMO position is a highly sought after one, as it embodies the highest position of leadership in the marketing department of many organizations. It is high in demand simply because it is the go-to personality for a firm's customers, and these customers are among the few shareholders who provide the revenues to keep a company afloat. But with this responsibility comes setbacks. The job itself is only expected to last a total of 23 Months (McGirt, Ellen, 2007). It's fair to say that at times CMO's can feel there's a target on their heads, simply because marketing outcomes cannot be easily quantified, and rather than be praised, CMO's the brunt of the blame.

But how could it be so in demand if the apparent lifespan is so short-lived? Simple. By playing a number of roles rather than just Chief of Marketing the position can have longer durability. For example, by being either informational, decisional, or relational, a CMO can help firms increase their competitive capabilities in ways that enhance firm value. Many researchers still doubt that CMOs can add value to businesses, as in many reports the results are mixed. In more recent times, CMOs who have displayed a clear knowledge of technology and its affect on customer behaviour, have had more taste of success. This was done through practicing good CRM, understanding how social media works as a Marketing tool, and generating valuable leads.

For those who wish to someday become a prolific CMO, it may be worthwhile having a better understanding of the obstacles and opportunities presented by the position and have better sense of the impact of powerful customers on their plans and initiatives. Also, working closely with CIOs to eventually become into what is being labelled as "CDO", Chief Data Officer. Another acronym to add to the list is CCO, having a good understanding of the customer as well as gaining good insight into their view of your brand and products.

Faithfully yours,

The Captain.