What to Look for in Your Next CMO or Senior Marketing Leader
November 2016 TorchLight
By Ron Torch, Founder, President and CEO - Torch Group Inc.
Like many other business functions, marketing’s role and significance can vary from one company or industry to another. Depending on the circumstances, marketing can either extend or be confined to functions that range from market definition and product management to marketing communications and sales support. However, most marketing functions and the CMOs (chief marketing officers) and marketing vice-presidents who lead them have a common characteristic: they are squarely focused on customers-on determining who they are, where to find them, and what best to offer them. As such, they are not only responsible for overseeing or defining key elements of the company’s marketing mix — such as its new product introductions, messaging strategy, awareness objectives, and lead generation goals — but also for identifying unmet customer needs and capitalizing on market opportunities that enable it to meet its growth, sales, and profit targets.
A Lot on the Plate Sometimes Means Many Entrées
The mission-critical nature and multiplicity of a CMO’s responsibilities can make it challenging for companies to identify and to hire individuals with the requisite skill set. This challenge is only increased by changing market trends, shifting buyer preferences, and rapid technological advances in marketing automation and digital communications. Indeed, marketing is evolving at a rate formerly reserved for software development, which is itself one of the forces driving these changes. As marketing technology becomes more powerful and grows more sophisticated, it has enabled areas of marketing such as database marketing, marketing analytics, multichannel marketing, behavioral marketing, and account-based marketing to move to center stage, pulling in their wake associated sub-functions such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), e-mail marketing, lead nurturing, social media, and other areas of digital marketing.
A Marketing Chief of Staff
Obviously, a CMO cannot be an expert in all these areas. Marketers who present themselves as such are either exaggerating or don’t even know how much they don’t know. This problem is not unique to marketing, nor is its solution. Just as a chief financial officer (CFO) cannot be familiar with every aspect of corporate finance, from the finer points of the tax code to intricate internal audit requirements, the CMO cannot possibly know all the minutiae associated with accurately structuring marketing databases, building content hierarchies, or creating pay per click campaigns. Nor should he or she.Rather, the CMO’s role is to synthesize market and customer information, to develop an analytics-driven marketing- and sales-oriented strategy, and to ensure that his or her expert staff executes it in a manner that delivers both a consistent customer experience and outstanding results. To do this, the CMO must not only be steeped in the tenets of classical marketing and the realities of the sales process, but must also be conversant with emerging trends in digital marketing and how they affect the company’s ability to prevail in its target markets. He or she must also be able to attract, understand, work with, and lead senior-level managers and practitioners from areas of marketing as diverse as market research, product management, exhibitions management, and digital marketing. This is a tall order that is made even taller by the makeup of the typical marketing team, which might include creative and analytical personnel at various stages of professional development-from interns and entry-level personnel to middle and senior-level managers.
Marketing Leaders Usually Don't Rise Through the Ranks
Surveys show that over the last few years, in part because of the velocity of marketing’s analytical and digital transformation, the majority of newly placed CMOs have not been promoted from within but instead hired externally. In fact, one 2013 study conducted across a broad range of industries by a major leadership consultancy indicated that, over the preceding 18 months, only 2 percent of the surveyed companies had promoted their new CMOs from within, whereas the remaining 98% had been hired from external sources. These numbers were markedly different for the CMOs they replaced, 29% of whom had been internally promoted. Interestingly, other data indicate that over 79% of new CMOs are experienced in digital marketing compared to 69% of their predecessors, while 80% of current CMOs have analytical experience compared to a mere 48% of past CMOs.The apparent dearth of internal CMO candidates with the range of skills required for companies to keep abreast of current marketing trends has rendered CMO recruitment more demanding than ever and made employers open to new approaches and options. As the marketing function has become more methodology- and technology-driven across most if not all business areas, marketing experience has become more transferable across industries. Accordingly, companies are now more willing to consider candidates from other industries, sometimes preferring candidates with up-to-date marketing analytics and digital marketing skills to those whom, despite industry experience, have a less well-rounded skill set.
One Size Does Not Fit All
This is not to say that companies in all business areas prize CMOs with marketing analytics and digital marketing skills above all others. For example, capital equipment manufacturers and professional service firms, which rely heavily on personal-referral marketing, continue to value CMOs who have industry knowledge and broad networks of industry contacts. This is also true of companies in highly regulated industries — such as healthcare, the life sciences, energy, and pharmaceuticals — where CMOs are expected to be well acquainted with the constraints imposed upon marketing by the regulatory environment. Finally, the premium placed on CMOs with contemporary skill sets is greater in consumer or B-2-B industries where classical or operational marketing-such as branding, promotion, and lead generation are more greatly valued than it is in industrial manufacturing or technology sectors where business development and direct vertical industry experience still carry great weight.
Finding the Elusive "Perfect-Fit" CMO
In contrast to the past, when companies might have found their next CMO through referrals from professional associations or personal networking on the part of members of the C-suite or the board, the increasing demand for CMOs with broad, up-to-date skill sets has led many companies to turn to executive retained search firms as a source of new CMO talent. Generally, a qualified retained executive search consultancy will provide its clients with access to a much broader candidate pool than they would otherwise have. This is particularly true if the search consultancy is a “boutique” firm with internal competence in the marketing function or an impressive track record of related placements in the client company’s own industry. Such a firm will typically have an internal database and extensive network replete with potential marketing leadership candidates upon which it can draw and will likely perform further external research to uncover additional passive candidates. The best firms will also conduct competency-based behavioral interviewing to help determine if the selected candidates will be a “perfect fit” for the client’s marketing organization. This is an important consideration when one recalls that the CMO must lead and inspire a diverse mix of creative, operational, and analytical personnel in order to make the company’s marketing vision a reality — which, in the end, is what a CMO’s job is all about.
This is the first in a series of articles that will examine the characteristics employers should expect to find in candidates for executive and senior-leadership roles in mission-critical functions such as business development, digital marketing, product marketing, loyalty marketing, direct marketing, marketing communications, and public relations, as well as sales and other types of channel management.
ABOUT TORCH GROUP, INC.
For more information, contact Ron Torch, Founder, President & CEO, Torch Group, at email@example.com or 440-519-1822 x 101.
- Posted by Cassandra Greaves
- On November 7, 2016
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