Has there always been a secret (or maybe not so secret) assumption that CMOs aren’t suited for the CEO role? Think about, I can name COOs, CTOs, and CFOs who have all gone on to become CEO but not too many CMOs in recent years.
Maybe that’s because there wasn’t much proof as to what marketers did? And then came the assumption that people who could make great products could also become great CEOs. Think about Facebook, Square, Paypal, Apple, and Twitter. The creators of these products and technology often rewarded themselves with the CEO title and that is kind of what we got used to. But a transition is once again underway. Where businesses are realizing the importance of marketing, how essential is to sales and that maybe in order to have a great product you have to know the people who are going to buy it.
Marketing was once a secret world where little credit was given because accountability was hard to find. But nowadays, in the world of marketing metrics, measurement and ROI marketers live in transparency. Marketing’s responsibilities have grown from brand awareness to market share to end-to-end customer experience, in short, marketing impacts business results. And CMOs rising to the challenges they face today are placing themselves in line to lead the business in the future.
What’s Holding CMOs Back?
Talking In Marketing Terms- Marketers get caught up in talking about marketing in terms only marketers know. They keep themselves in a bubble of talking about growth in terms of impressions, views, and fans rather than leads, sales, and revenue. It can make it hard for their peers to relate to them and also go to them for advice or look at them as a leader if they aren’t communicating in a way everyone understands.
Tenure– A CMO’s tenure is a lot shorter than a CFO or CTO. Most CMOs are staying two to three years while many CFOs are there for ten. Their short stays can make it hard to understand if they understand the business or if they even have an interest in it. If marketers keep moving around to other marketing roles and not establishing roots at a company then people kind of assume they like marketing more than running a business- which is 100% okay.
Company Investment– The truth is companies don’t always invest in marketers, especially when it comes to developing them into leadership roles. No company goes to the marketing department and says ” I want to give you more!”, if anything budgets get smaller every year and the numbers they have to hit continues to get bigger. Marketing leaders are left with little time and resources to do more than just marketing and to be honest, many CMOs are brought in to tackle these very specific problems. When your resources are limited you aren’t going to spend too much time in other environments learning about them and helping them improve or feel like you are a valued part of leadership.
CMO Skills That Tie Into CEO
Digital Marketing- Data has made CMOs more favorable for CEO role. Marketers were some of the first to use data in an effective way and understand how to use it to improve the business. Their ability to use digital channels to deliver results and prove it with reliable data has given marketers a leg up in understanding how the digital world works. Future CMOs are going to need to understand the digital and have some sort of experience working with it. Marketers are a step ahead when it comes to most!
The Focus On Growth– When have marketers not thought about growth? Especially in the digital age, it’s all about more followers, likes, leads and sales. Everything that can grow for a company almost always happens within marketing. Marketers spend a lot of time learning who their audience is and how to find them, how to grow their audience which leads to a growth in sales. Tomorrow’s CEOs are going to be growth focused.
The Role Has Changed- Marketing has changed so much. It used to be viewed at such a hit or miss function, one of which people had little control over but thanks to data that theory changed. Marketing is no longer a discrete function in the business, people know it can have a huge impact on the business and luck has little to do with it. The tools marketers use have also impacted how the role has changed. The digital tools available to Marketers ensure they have a hand in more than just marketers. Marketers have a role in almost every aspect of the consumer journey which means they are having to work with the product team, sales, and customer success. They are having to lead and direct more than just marketing which helps other departments see them in that leadership role and understand the impact they have!
Wrap It Up
Do you agree? Have CMOs been overlooked for the CEO position? Are times starting to change?
Data has certainly helped businesses in a number of ways but it is interesting to see it could even impact who’s next in line to run your company as CEO.
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