The key skills needed to be a successful CMO

The skills needed to be a successful modern Chief Marketing Officer [CMO]

Last month I wrote a blog post on how a digital marketing executive can get to a Marketing Director or CMO role. It raised a lot of debate about whether a specialist in any form of marketing can make it to the top, as well as bringing into spotlight the key responsibilities and skills a CMO needs to be successful.

I strongly believe someone from any marketing specialisation (and in particular digital) can become a Marketing Director or CMO. In fact, many great CMOs have come from non-marketing backgrounds (such as Sales, Operations, and even Engineering). The secret lies in understanding the changing nature of what a CMO does, and the skills needed to be a successful modern Chief Marketing Officer.

So what does a CMO need to do to be successful? Here are the top skills needed for modern CMOs:
  1. It’s NOT about doing great advertising. Although a lot of external media and agencies benchmark brands on this one aspect of marketing. Ads are great, but it’s only a small aspect of the overall responsibilities of a modern CMO.
  2. There’s a need to manage a very large media investment wisely. Many organisations have marketing budgets in the millions of dollars and some big brands have massive budgets in the billions of dollars. Managing a million or even billion dollars in media expenses is a massive responsibility that is often outside the skill set of most marketers. It requires a very strong understanding of finance, investment management and building the right capability with media agency partners.
  3. A modern CMO needs to have a deep understanding of technology and how it affects customer behaviour. Programs like CRM, digital marketing, social media, e-commerce and lead generation all need strong guidance from Marketing. There’s even speculation that CMO and CIO roles will merge into a Chief Digital Officer role in the near future. Regardless, modern CMOs need to be experts in technology to be successful.
  4. The modern marketing function is about change management and building capability. Running marketing campaigns is not the role of a CMO. Building the right competence in your field marketing team at regional and local country is. Capabilities include the right level of product innovation, marketing research and insights, strong lead generation and sales framework, agency and partner management, media investment management, digital and technology systems, and of course, hiring and retaining the best people.
  5. Marketing needs to have a very strong link to the Sales organisation. In some brands, sales and marketing are managed by the same leader but in many others they are separate functions. The best CMOs link marketing metrics to sales or business metrics otherwise they run the risk of irrelevance.
  6. Be an inspirational leader. Inspire and support your team and in turn attract the best talent into your organisation.
  7. Have a deep understanding of the customer and be the “Chief Customer Officer” for your organisation. This is more than doing market research but truly putting the customer first and getting a deep understanding of how customers view your brand and products – every day.

There are many other traits and skills needed to be a great modern CMO, but if you are good at several of the key points above, you have a great chance to be a top CMO of the future. Good luck on your journey!


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