The CMO’s Survival Toolkit

Whatever you think about where marketing is headed next, it’s hard to deny that things haven’t gotten any easier for CMO’s in the past 5 years. And yet the role is critical to the health of our discipline. So how can a modern CMO weather the storm, overcome all of the obstacles in their way and make great things happen for their brand—and for marketing as a whole? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • It also loves headlines about how drastically this particular c-suite role has changed.
  • No question, it’s a high pressure gig. And all of this hype and hand-wringing don’t make it any easier. So what does? The first item in our survival toolkit is a pragmatic one that has nothing to do with the specifics of the role: get really, really good at presenting to boards.
  • The second item is also highly pragmatic. It comes from Thomas Barta, drawn from his interviews with over 300 marketing leaders: “Marketing is too complicated to succeed without full alignment of product, service, customer experience, human resources, IT. Great CMOs have a knack for getting to know their peers, especially the ones who could impede success.”
  • The third item in our toolkit also comes from Barta’s research. It may be obvious, but it has to be said: “Successful CMOs know how to speak the CEO’s language (revenue, acquisition, retention, ROI) and are good at translating traditional marketing metrics into business factors”.
  • What about this whole “rapid change” angle? Our take: the fourth item in the survival kit is about forming an equally clear understanding of what’s changed and what hasn’t—and tailoring your overall approach with this balanced view in mind.
  • Speaking of rapid change and keeping up, our fifth item comes in the form of this simple tip from Kevin Chesters: “Give yourself the permission to feel a bit clueless occasionally. It’s fine to ‘not know’ or to have to ‘phone a friend’. It’s amazing how clever you can look when you admit you’re a bit stupid.”

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  • If none of this is enough to help you survive as a CMO at your current company, consider sharing this quote from Seth Godinin your exit interview: “If you want a marketing head, you need to give them the freedom to actually do marketing. The reason that the tenure of a CMO averages about 18 months is that it takes a year and a half for the boss to realize that pain-free, risk-free, easy miracles aren’t arriving on schedule.”
  • If it’s time to think about the next step your journey, here’s an interesting (and related) thought from Adam Grant: “When considering your next job, you don’t have to choose between joining a big pond and being a big fish. You want to join a growing pond, because that’s where you’ll become the biggest fish.”

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Great CMO’s make great decisions. Decision journals are an easy way to improve your ability to make decisions over time.

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Issue #73
Jul 14, 2019

Further Reading