In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of conducting many CMO searches for companies ranging in size from $50M to $1B+. Over my executive search career, senior marketing searches have been a clear emphasis, and each marketing search has not only been an opportunity to spend time with some of the premier marketers out there, but also to deepen my understanding of the differences between functional, tactical and strategic marketing. No matter how many individuals I have interviewed and irrespective of their grounding and experience in one industry or market segment versus another, it still amazes me that true strategic marketing executives are by far in the minority.
Don’t get me wrong here. I know that many individuals regardless of whether they have a title of CMO, SVP or VP Marketing are the senior-most marketing executives in their respective companies. However, over the 27 years of my recruiting career, where I have spoken with and interviewed hundreds of CMOs, and in my recent experience of conducting several CMO searches, I would categorize most of these individuals as either strong functional marketing executives, or as tactical CMOs, not as strategic CMOs.
The Functional Marketer
A strong functional marketing executive has deep expertise and a more singular focus in one of the sub-disciplines of marketing, e.g., marketing/communications, analyst relationships, lead-generation/online marketing, product marketing, or the more creative side in terms of managing agency relationships and creating content. Even if they have responsibilities extending across several of these sub-disciplines, it is clear that they think about and manage the breadth of their duties predominantly through the lens and experience of their specialization. In my experience, close to half of the marketing executives out there fit this description.
The Attributes of a Tactical CMO
A tactical CMO is someone who, while having more of a broad-based focus with an experience set that encompasses several of these sub-functional areas of marketing, nonetheless does not approach their duties and the enactment of their responsibilities from a strategic perspective. They are at best, highly efficient and creative order takers. They generally have a holistic view of marketing, but they look at their job as taking a given strategy and then positioning it in a way that best communicates the message.
A tactical CMO clearly understands the reality that today, marketing is no longer a black box. That the impact of most, if not all marketing activities can directly be measured, and part of the role of a CMO is to drive activities that to the greatest degree possible can be measured, as opposed to those that cannot, and use the tracking and management of results to adjust as necessary – from messaging to lead generation activities, to drive better results.
While this description might fit the bill when considering how companies look at what they want from marketing, this does not describe a strategic CMO.
The Strategic CMO: A Rarity
A strategic CMO does not view their job as just the tactical execution of a given and pre-formed strategy and positioning, no matter how developed and time-tested this may be. A strategic CMO believes that to put in place marketing activities that can as directly as possible measure and be attributed to driving growth, their job starts with developing a more refined understanding of the value that their company is delivering. While driving the process of developing this understanding, a strategic CMO makes discoveries that clarify how to more powerfully and better communicate this core value proposition. How can this be achieved? A full understanding of the vision senior leadership has for the company and how value is delivered to customers. Also crucial to strategic success is an understanding of customer usage and perception of value being received. It also helps to understand the broader cultural context, trends, conditions and forces at play that change and evolve how people think about what they do, and change what they actually do.
A strategic CMO refines a more powerful value proposition that resonates strongly across all areas and hierarchies internally within a company, and externally in the marketplace. The messaging and content that embody this value proposition are foundational expressions of a company’s brand. A powerful brand is created when this value proposition and messaging are so well understood internally, that it is expressed at every external touch point, regardless of department, function or hierarchy.
If you are looking to hire a chief marketing officer, think about what kind of marketer would make sense for your business. The best executive search firms who specialize in sales and marketing talent also have an innate understanding of the differences between functional, tactical and strategic marketers and are adept at identifying which bucket marketing candidates fall into. Outsourcing the hiring process can ensure that you get exactly the kind of marketer you desire – whether it be to expertly execute on marketing initiatives or to take on a more strategic role.
- Posted by Stuart Glassman
- On December 5, 2017
- 0 Comments