Do You Have What it Takes to Be a CMO?

March 9, 2015

CMOs today require different knowledge and skills from those needed just five years ago. We are accountable for revenue and results and for crafting a compelling customer experience across the buyer journey.

CMOs today require different knowledge and skills from those needed just five years ago. We are accountable for revenue and results and for crafting a compelling customer experience across the buyer journey.

Do you have what it takes to be the top marketing leader in your organization?

Here are seven key characteristics of today’s most successful marketing executives:

  1. Pure, Unadulterated Courage

    Forget every other trait needed to succeed: if you don’t have guts, you don’t have the key ingredient to win the game. In the high-stakes battle for mindshare, you need:

    • a steady hand in guiding marketing strategy and planning
    • a reservoir of courage to suggest new ideas, new positioning, new campaigns, new processes and new perspectives
    • the belief that your ideas will lead to success
    • confidence that you can get back up when you’re knocked down, shake it off and do it all over again
  2. Data Analysis Mojo

    Crunching the numbers has never been more important. Do you have your marketing and customer analytics down cold? If you can’t recite them without preparation, the answer is no. Go back to square one.

    Live, eat and breathe your success metrics, whether that means your lead-to-close rate, customer retention ratio, average order value, total online revenue, best source/medium/campaign for customers, and so on.

  3. High Emotional Quotient

    All the math skills in the world count for nothing if you are mean to your team. Forget the days of intimidation through command and control. This was the management style du jour when I started my marketing career in 1985 in financial services: Get it done right! Get it done now! Get it done right now!

    I am here to tell you that today’s millennials don’t care about any external sense of urgency, so find another way to appeal to them. Hire carefully, cultivate wisely and understand the motivations of your team members.

  4. Digital Savvy

    Comfort with technology goes hand-in-hand with analytics wizardry — the ability to use tools to get the job done. These technologies are typically SaaS-based, such as marketing automation, experimentation, targeting and personalization, in addition to analytics, social media, video, attribution software and many, many others.

    According to Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive and editor of the popular Chief Marketing Technologist blog, more than 2,000 marketing technology vendors crowd the market today. The choices are mind-boggling. While you don’t have to know the hands-on details of every application, you will need — at minimum — a basic comfort level and ability to discuss how the technology you deploy supports your marketing strategy.

  5. Exquisite Eye and Ear for Detail

    You can’t have great planning skills without a great ear or eye for detail. What sounds right? What looks right? What will resonate with customers?

    For example, you can’t have a tin ear when describing key benefits or content in your company’s social media strategy — customers will just turn away. Learn how your customers talk, what phrases they use and what appeals to them visually.

    Experiment with your web and mobile content, navigation, and layout; test every aspect of your email marketing program, as well as advertising. Experimentation has never been easier and it will help you hone in on what customers prefer.

  6. Amazing Storytelling

    You need to tell your company’s story in a clear, compelling way. Make your buyer the hero of the story. Describe what hurdles she faced, the journey of finding your products and the benefits derived from her usage. The J. Peterman website,, does this uncommonly well. Can you?

  7. Executive Alignment

    Marketing doesn’t happen in a bubble, although some marketing leaders might wish it did. To create and implement marketing strategy, bring in the voice of the rest of the executive team.

    Being in sync with the sales team is also key — share goals, success metrics and mutual processes. Executives can no longer do their own thing, carve out fiefdoms and centralize power. Collaboration with the rest of the C-Suite, acting as one, unified team to meet the needs of the business — not of the ego — defines success today.

    Of course, there are many more skills necessary to being a top CMO. But these hard and soft skills can make or break a top marketing leader.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of CMSWire. You can read the original version here.