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Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) – Your Go-to-Market Guide

Marketing is a strategic differentiator for businesses that get it right. And, you only need to look to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to learn if a company is serious about leveraging marketing fully.Marketing is a strategic differentiator for businesses that get it right. And, you only need to look to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to learn if a company is serious about leveraging marketing fully.

In this article, we will explain the role of a CMO, the importance of having a CMO in your company, and what it takes to succeed in this challenging role.


What is a CMO?

The CMO is responsible for the strategic planning and execution of all company’s marketing activities, initiatives, and business processes.

In this role, the effective Chief Marketing Officer:

  • Defines, refine, and grows the company’s brand
  • Creates and manages the strategy for all marketing
  • Is responsible for budgeting and execution of the tactics to support the marketing strategy
  • Hires, grows, and manages all marketing resources, including staff, agencies, and consultants
  • Work with others in the executive team to ensure marketing’s voice is heard and valued

The Importance of Having a Chief Marketing Officer

Buyers care about their experience with the company — from their very first visit to your website, interacting with your social media feeds and salespeople, through their time working with procurement, customer success, and other teams.

Your marketing leader is responsible for consistency across all touchpoints, from consistency in messaging to the brand look and feel.

And in many cases, buyers care about what the companies they buy from are doing socially and environmentally.

The role of the CMO has changed drastically over the past few years. The CMO must take ownership of these new concerns that customers bring to the table.

Having a Chief Marketing Officer that can manage this wide range of responsibilities has never been more critical.

Critical skills for the CMO

Now that we have a better idea of this role let’s explore the skills they need to possess?

  • Ability to define, communicate, and execute marketing strategies
  • As a corporate executive, the ability to communicate and collaborate across the executive leadership team with roles like the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Revenue Officer, etc.
  • Brand management – The global marketing officer must see beyond market research, marketing campaigns, marketing communications, etc., and understand what the brand brings to the marketplace and the world.
  • Strong leadership skills. The CMO often leads a large team covering a variety of marketing functions (see our ultimate guide to marketing to learn more).
  • Financial smarts. The Chief Marketing Officer is responsible for the marketing budget and needs to deliver results, not just spend the money. An awareness of ROI is critical. And
  • Appreciation of data analytics. The world is far more data-aware, and leveraging data across all go-to-market to maximize results is critical for success.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Deep understanding of the customer’s challenges and pain points, ability to ensure that all advertising, public relations, messaging, and creative elements “speak to” buyers in their language.

How do you become a Chief Marketing Officer?

A CMO position can be challenging, and it is often held by senior leaders who have experience in various management roles.

However, there are a few key things you can do to set yourself up for a Chief Marketing Officer role:

Get experience in all aspects of marketing

Throughout your career, work in various roles in the marketing department, including:

  • Content marketing
  • Conduct market research
  • Marketing communications
  • Build experience on social media platforms
  • Supporting lead generation with ABM and email marketing

You do not need to do all of these marketing team roles, but gaining experience in a few will aid you as a Chief Marketing Officer.

If you can run marketing campaigns across these various functions, you will understand the impact marketing efforts can have on the bottom line.

Gain an understanding of data

As a CMO, you will need to understand and utilize data analytics to improve your marketing strategies.

Some ways to gain experience in data analytics include:

  • Reading articles or books on the topic
  • Taking online courses in data analytics
  • Working with marketing software that includes data analytics features, such as Google Analytics, Marketo, or HubSpot

Build leadership experience

A Chief Marketing Officer manages a team.

In a small company, they may only have a few people who report directly to them; in a larger team, they will manage groups of teams.

Gain as much leadership experience as possible throughout your career; you will need it.

Note: A key to your success will be your ability to work with other company executives across sales, product development, and other functions. Managing up, down, and across is incredibly important.

Increase your understanding of the target market you want to work in

The position of Chief Marketing Officer requires an intimate knowledge of the market.

As you move through your career, take on roles that allow you to increase your market understanding. You want to work as a Chief Marketing Officer eventually.

Some ways to do this include:

  • Conducting market research
  • Working in marketing roles in companies that target the market you’re interested in
  • Studying the market, including reading trade publications and other materials

By increasing your understanding of the market, you want to lead marketing efforts; eventually, you put yourself in a better position to succeed as a Chief Marketing Officer.

Stay up to date on the latest marketing trends and technologies

To be successful as a CMO, you need to be aware of the latest marketing trends and technologies.

Some ways to stay up to date include:

  • Reading marketing publications
  • Attending marketing events
  • Following marketing thought leaders on social media

The CMO has new strategies and more technology available to them than ever before. Chief Marketing Officers need to thoroughly understand what’s available and then select what’s appropriate for their company’s needs.

Learn about brand loyalty and brand strategy

Defining a clear brand strategy: The first step to becoming a successful Chief Marketing Officer is defining a clear brand strategy.

You should break down the strategies into three key areas:

  • What do you want your brand to stand for?
  • How do you want to represent that inside and outside of your company?
  • How do you want to present that to your consumers?

Final Thoughts

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer is changing because consumers are now more aware of the impact that brands have and, as a result, are holding brands more accountable for the services and experiences that brands provide.

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