How your CMO can beat the odds

The expiration date for CMOs continues to shrink. Here’s how to make your mark quickly—and keep your job.

Every day, the clock ticks down for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Not only do CMOs have the shortest tenure of all C-suite executives, but average time in the job continues to shrink. The median tenure for a CMO is now just two years and three months. To keep their jobs, CMOs need to prove themselves in less than half the time afforded to all other C-suite executives.

Meanwhile, the job continues to grow in complexity. There are vast amounts of data to tame and a proliferation of technology solutions to assess and deploy—yet few additional resources to support these channels. Digital and social media programs, the workhorses of modern consumer marketing, require constant tending to remain effective. Stakeholders expect results in aggressive timeframes, with metrics playing an ever-greater role in decisions. There’s little room for experimentation or error.

And while the CMO role—on paper—should make the greatest impact on how customers engage with the brand, more leaders find themselves restricted to marketing communications activities, with control of pricing, product development and sales strategy falling outside their domain.

In this pressure cooker atmosphere, it’s no wonder three-quarters of CMOs believe their jobs do not allow them to make a significant impact on the business.

So, when your job comes with an early expiration date, how do you move forward with confidence?


1) Fix the fundamentals.

First, make sure the basics are well-oiled and in good working order; a new platform, campaign or process will only exacerbate existing problems and give marketing a black eye. Take a hard look at the foundational elements of your sales, e-commerce and customer service channels and address the weak points immediately.


2) Understand the hype cycle.

Today, the CEO won’t hesitate to show you the door if you’re not spending wisely. To avoid the biggest pitfall—an expensive technology mistake—concentrate on due diligence. New tools and platforms emerge almost weekly, all promising smooth integration, omnichannel capabilities and measurable results. Use objective sources such as Bloomberg Technology and Gartner’s Hype Cycle to evaluate new options and invest your budget prudently.


3) Be an evangelist.

Marketers, by job definition, excel at telling your company’s brand story in the market. Yet few apply the same principles within the organization. Yes, metrics matter—but stories make an impression and get remembered. Take Guy Kawasaki’s advice and tell rich stories (with small words) to sell the marketing department and CMO’s accomplishments within the company. No one else will do it for you.


4) Choose partners wisely.

With minimal time to make an impact, how fast and how well you can execute campaigns will be key. The right agency resources will help keep you sane (and in your chair next year) by streamlining your consumer’s path to purchase. Look for tech-savvy and turnkey resources who can master media planning, creative execution and conversion in one shop. An integrated approach will reduce friction and accelerate your time to revenue.


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