The Nine Traits of Highly Effective CMOs

Blame it on the pace of change: A new study cited by the Wall Street Journal shows the average tenure of a chief marketing officer of a major brand is only 42 months — shorter than the typical life span of a goldfish. In fact, the field is changing so rapidly that many simply find it tough to keep up.

Why is the turnover rate for chief marketing officers so many times higher than that of most other C-suite jobs, including the CEO? Customer expectations are evolving at a rapid clip and entire industry segments are cropping up — or dying off — overnight. Marketing, sales, data, digital, and technology now move quickly on paths that are intertwined and often erratic. A CMO must stay in the vanguard of this evolution and steer her or his company in whatever direction the industry is headed next.

Given these new challenges, what qualities enable CMOs to perform well over time and maintain their hard-won spot in the C-suite? Having spent my career working with marketing leaders, I’ve come up with the following nine traits.

1. An understanding of the power of perspective. The field of marketing can feel like a Baskin-Robbins these days — there are so many flavors of skill sets. The best CMOs are connectors who know they are dependent on — and share responsibility with — the whole of an organization. A successful digital marketing strategy requires input from colleagues as diverse as the chief information officer, the chief financial officer, and the chief security officer. CMOs must be multilingual — able to speak the language of multiple disciplines. And they must understand how to bring together experts from various backgrounds to orchestrate harmonic collaborations.

2. A passion for the work. CMOs must be passionate about the industry in which the business operates and know how to evangelize a marketing strategy that differentiates their company from key competitors. Passion isn’t simply about motivating a group of colleagues at an annual meeting. Rather, a leader’s energy fuels the team’s energy. The CMO must continually demonstrate a zeal for the work in order to inspire the same level of commitment from the team. Passion has a tremendous influence on the quality and creativity of the marketing.

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Source: Strategy + Business