Want to be An Effective CMO? Here’s What it Takes.

September 6, 2017

Sure, it helps to have a strong grasp of analytics and technology these days. But to be an effective CMO, you have to bring a business mindset to the table, playing a critical role in growth initiatives and demonstrating marketing’s value while representing the customer at the leadership table. That’s according to the people who should know best: top marketers themselves, responding to the latest edition of The CMO Survey [pdf].

The survey presented top marketers at US for-profit companies with a list of 10 traits and asked them to identify the 3 that are most important for an effective CMO.

There were 3 traits that were grouped at the top in terms of the number of first-place votes:

  • Being the voice of the customer at the leadership table (16.3%);
  • Having an enterprise-wide business mindset and understanding (15.1%); and
  • Having the ability to demonstrate the quantitative impact of marketing efforts (14.5%).

These traits reflect some of the more profound shifts in the marketing function in recent years:

Meanwhile, the trait that was cited as being in the top 3 for importance by the largest share of respondents was playing a key role in company growth initiatives. This again speaks to the broader, more strategic expansion of the CMO role.

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    Interestingly, the ability to understand both current and future technologies does not appear to be as highly valued by CMOs, falling towards the bottom of the list of important traits.

    That’s quite surprising given the surge in use of marketing technologies in recent years, which has led up to 8 in 10 US marketers to say that understanding marketing technology is becoming a more important skill. Moreover, with Chief Marketing Technologists seemingly under-represented in US companies relative to their European counterparts, the responsibility for marketing technology purchases seems to often fall on CMOs’ shoulders, seemingly requiring a better understanding of these tools…

    Also surprisingly, languishing at the bottom of the list of important CMO traits is knowing how to use customer data and analytics. The use of analytics, at least, has been tied to the ability to prove ROI, which is one of the more important traits. Separate research has found CMOs saying that data analytics is one of the critical areas in which they need more leadership development.

    Perhaps CMOs see their leadership skills as being more important at the organization level, and feel that analytics and technology understanding can be left to competent talent. Indeed, this latest edition of The CMO Survey finds CMOs more confident that they have the right talent to fully leverage marketing analytics. On a 7-point scale, 38% of CMOs surveyed rated their talent as a top-3 box, up from 27% in 2013.

      How Does Digital Change Things?

        Presumably, the advent of digital marketing has changed things up for CMOs – and one would expect that to manifest itself in the use of data. That is indeed the case, though CMOs point to other changes wrought by digital marketing, too.

        In fact, CMOs say that digital marketing has changed the company most in terms of: the importance of marketing capabilities to competitive advantage; and promoting a customer-first focus in the culture. In other words, digital marketing has become a new competitive battlefield, fought with the customer in mind.

        Another key impact of digital marketing is the use of marketing data to drive decisions. In fact, recent research indicates that the leading goal of a data-driven marketing strategy is to base more decisions on data.

        Meanwhile, other changes that have come about due to digital marketing include the use of marketing performance metrics to evaluate outcomes (hello, ROI), and the importance of marketing leaders in shaping company strategy.

        Clearly, that’s an area where CMOs want to play.

        About the Data: The CMO Survey is fielded biennially and is sponsored by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the American Marketing Association, and Deloitte. This latest edition – the 19th – is based on 349 top US marketers at for-profit companies, 92% of whom are VP-level and above. The survey was fielded from July 18 – August 8, 2017.


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