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The Essential Characteristics of an Effective CMO [UML]

The Essential Characteristics of an Effective CMO [UML]

To say the role of the CMO has evolved is an understatement.  In some ways, CMO often seem pulled in opposing directions.

On one hand, a core competency in analytics and automation are a prerequisite. Yet on the other, businesses want more CMO creativity, personalization, and customer engagement, which are things that are hard to scale successfully.

So, how, exactly, can top marketers pull that off?  Fortunately, there’s been a series of studies that have examined the essential characteristics of effective CMOs.

That’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing links [UML], which is returning as an occasional series, after a brief summer hiatus. As always, below are three articles, I’ve vetted and recommended for additional reading.

1) CMO job responsibilities and leadership attributes

CMO strategic thinking

When it comes to job responsibilities the CMO is charged withfinding that sales and commercial awareness (74%).”  When it comes leadership attributes, “it is strategic thinking that most marketers (86%) believe is imperative.”

That’s according to the “Anatomy of a Leader” study by the Marketing Week, which was reported by senior writer Charlotte Rogers. The graphic nearby with strategic thinking at the top is credited to the publication, and Ms. Rogers captured some perceptive context around the findings.

“In recent years, marketing has become more and more tactical and we have lost the art of developing clear strategic direction first,” said Mark Ritson, a Marketing Week columnist, who Ms. Rogers quoted in her piece. “We like to debate the knobs and dials of communication, but do not have a clear strategy for our brands first.”

I couldn’t agree more and have forecasted that the lack of marketing strategy is a looming talent crisis.  It’s going to hit businesses hard as the unemployment rate has fallen.

Heather Fletcher of Target Marketing, pointed out that humanity made a comeback in her take on the study titled, The Most Important CMO Trait. It is where I first learned of the study.

“In addition to strategic thinking, attributes CMOs should have are relationship building skills (61 percent), followed by people management (60 percent), vision (59 percent) and problem solving (57 percent),” Ms. Fletcher wrote.


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2)  An effective CMO knows how to build a team

The tenure of a CMO might be shrinking, but their clout is growing, according to a study published by executive search firm Korn FerryTop Marketers Gain Influence and Visibility in the C-Suite.

The survey of roughly 300 top marketers found “60 percent said marketing is viewed by the Board and CEO as a revenue generator.”  The remainder were evenly split between being view as a “cost center” or remain “neutral.”

So how do you get into that 60% category?  According to the survey, you’ve got to be able to surround yourself with a strong team:

“When asked what the most important attribute is for a CMO, the top response (43 percent) was the ability to build a strong team. Last on the list of attributes was using big data and analytics to formulate strategy.”

No doubt marketing leaders need to build a strong team. However, for new CMOs, that doesn’t necessarily mean letting the existing team go in order to bring in your old staff.  Or do so, knowing that as institutional knowledge walks out the door for the last time, the cost is very high and quantifiable.

To that end, institutional knowledge also applies to the CMO role as well.

“Not having a succession strategy for the CMO could have catastrophic outcomes for organizations, as the CMO’s role is more critical than ever,” according to Caren Fleit, who leads the Korn Ferry Global Marketing Officers Practice.

3) Future skill sets of the CMO CMO-of-the-Future

Blake Morgan takes a forward-looking view of the top marketing job in a piece for Marketing News, titled, The CMO of the Future Has These 8 Skills.  It’s her graphic that’s published nearby and lists the skills she has identified.

“The CMO of the future is an even more important player in the C-suite,” she writes. “The CMO knows the customer best and leads the company into the future – a customer experience futurist predicting what customers want and need.”

Many of the things she says will be important are related to technology – CTO, innovation, AI, and data for example.  However, she still gets after the fundamentals when she says, “communication is more about engagement than a megaphone.”

Hear! Hear!


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Photo credit: Pixabay (CC0 1.0)

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