To many in the corporate world, the title of CMO seems like it’s cursed. It feels like many CMOs don’t last very long in companies—and that’s for businesses that have a CMO at all. As more organizations move into the digital space, the title of CDO (chief digital officer) has taken over many responsibilities once overseen by the chief marketing officer role. That’s not to mention that many companies’ leadership gives CMOs a ton of responsibility without the authoritative backing needed to get things done. So for many, the question is, what is a CMO, and is there a need for them anymore?
The simple fact is that CMOs are more valuable than ever. Just take a look at a chief marketing officer like Marisa Thalberg of Lowe’s. She has been instrumental in helping the brand gain more prominence. Some of her ideas include working with American Idol contestants, making content aimed at specific communities, and partnering with famed designer Iris Apfel on a new collection of home decor items. Marketing Drive reports after hiring her, “The home improvement retailer saw U.S. comp sales, a key metric, up 12.3% in the first quarter and 35% in the second quarter. Same-store sales surged 30.1% in the third quarter, topping estimates for 22.8% growth, while online sales rose 106%.”
A great CMO can drive growth and success for many years. To do so, however, you need to have a company that positions them for success. Without that support, the CMO can only do so much. This article will show you the basics of the chief marketing officer job and how they can help companies reach their potential.
- The chief marketing officer is an executive role that oversees marketing game plan, manages marketing teams, and executes the brand’s vision.
- The average salary for this important role is almost $175,000 a year, with lower rates starting at around $90,000 a year.
- Most organizations can benefit from adding a CMO position, but if you have 12 or fewer employees, this position may not be necessary.
What Is a CMO?
A chief marketing officer (CMO) sets a company’s marketing direction, builds a business’s marketing strategy, manages creative information, and leads multiple marketing teams. Additionally, they are in charge of executing the vision of the CEO, CVO, or founder of the company in a creative way. If you think of an organization like building a house, the chif marketing officer would be the architect. With this role, they must synergize with cross-functional teams such as product development and customer services to bring the business’s vision to life.
As a CMO follows through on the marketing plan and overall business strategy, they need to be able to answer the following questions:
- What is possible?
- What is our budget?
- With what we have, what can we create?
Answering those questions will help every CMO work well with other departments and get results.
What Does a CMO Do?
The responsibilities of a chief marketing officer often extend beyond the activities of the marketing department. The following information describes just what a CMO does so you can be prepared in the future.
1. Execute the CEO’s Vision
Every CEO (chief executive officer) should have a vision for the brand. It’s up to the chief marketing officer to execute it. A CMO should get the vision from the CEO or from the company’s vision statement. From there, the chief marketing officer creates a plan and gives it to their employees to execute. This involves more than simply executing a business strategy—it involves using a creative influence to turn the vision into a reality. The CMO should work closely with the founder, along with other members of the C-suite. They then take what they talk about and dilute it down to the other leaders on the team.
2. Hiring, Growing, and Leading the Marketing Team
The chief marketing officer oversees all marketing work, but they don’t actually do the nitty-gritty tasks. Again, they are like an architect overseeing the construction of a house. The members of their team are the builders. As the leader, the CMO sets the tone for how the work gets done. They are in charge of the culture, and they set the example for others to follow. To do this, they make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit and will help the team grow and succeed.
3. Establishing and Managing Brand Standards
Another part of the CMO job is working with executive leaders to establish brand standards. Once established, the chief marketing officer must also manage those standards. This includes the messaging, imagery, taglines, slogans, and more. With this in mind, the chief marketing officer must be a key part of the conversation when discussing brand development and management. CMOs can play a significant role in crafting the brand into something that will connect with audiences.
4. Building and Overseeing the Marketing Strategy
CMOs also need to build out a marketing strategy and oversee its execution. That includes conducting market research and analysis, then formulating a strategy based on the company’s overall goals. A chief marketing officer must make adjustments when needed. The strategy should reflect clear marketing communication both to every client and customer. Other parts of this responsibility include creating an effective marketing funnel and outlining brand touchpoints and social media content. All of it must fit together as a master plan for achieving objectives while maintaining a consistent voice.
5. Leading Product Management and Development
The CMO role is also responsible for managing the sales and marketing of new and existing products. That can include any rebrands or new product launches the company has planned. Developing the marketing strategy for these items must be a top priority. That means CMOs will need to work closely with research teams and the C-suite so that the messaging is on point right out of the gate.
What Makes a CMO Effective?
The above are simply the responsibilities most CMOs will have throughout their careers. Being effective at overseeing those responsibilities takes a specific set of skills that the best CMOs possess. The following are just some of the skills you’ll want to have.
- Observing those around them: Since the CMO heads up the marketing department, they need to have their finger on the pulse of their team members. Are they succeeding? Do they seem burned out or stressed? Pay close attention to how people act, and change up strategies when necessary.
- Leading, not managing: A CMO needs to be a great leader, not just a manager. Their goal should be to help others reach a new level of excellence. Great CMOs listen more than they speak and raise up other people. To put it simply, CMOs should make everyone else around them better.
- Collaborating: An effective CMO is a team player who loves to work with other people. They know that good ideas can come from anyone. Through collaboration, they execute the best ideas, resulting in the greatest outcomes.
- Practicing good decision-making: CMOs must make crucial decisions that affect the future of the company. Their decision-making must account for the short- and long-term impacts their strategies will have. They must know what to do and when while also pivoting seamlessly without much in the way of repercussions. Modern marketing leaders also know that data is a critical piece of the decision-making process. Data allows brands to make strategic decisions with the customer in mind.
- Staying true to the vision: A CMO will likely face a lot of outside pressure to stray from the company’s vision. Their success will largely depend on resisting these pressures and staying in alignment with the vision the company has established.
What Are the Qualifications to Become a CMO?
There are many paths to becoming a CMO, but it all starts with getting a good education. Begin by getting a marketing-related bachelor’s degree, which can include majoring in advertising, public relations, journalism, business communications, or even marketing itself. On top of that, most executives like to see CMO candidates that have a master’s in a related field or an MBA.
Additionally, business owners want someone with job experience that shows they have a good handle on the marketing world and know how to get results. Very few people make the leap from graduate student straight to the CMO role. Instead, many follow a similar path of starting in roles like marketing assistant and working their way up. This can include becoming a specialist, then a marketing manager, to show they know how to work with other people. Some candidates follow that up by becoming a marketing director for several years, then the vice president of marketing. With this type of job experience, they can show they’re ready to tackle the responsibility of becoming a chief marketing officer.
How Much Do CMOs Make?
The salary of a CMO can vary widely, and it largely depends on the type of company they work for, the size of the company, and the industry they are part of. For example, the CMO salary for Microsoft stands at about $400,000 a year. CMOs that have been with their company for years can make even more than that, such as the CMO of Marriott International, Stephanie Linnartz, who made more than $5,000,000 in 2016.
Those are the major examples, though. Most companies aren’t as big or wide-reaching as Microsoft. Even so, CMOs do make good money to start off with. According to PayScale, the average chief marketing officer salary is almost $175,000 a year, with lower rates starting at around $90,000 a year.
When Is It Wise to Not Have a CMO?
As helpful as a CMO can be, it’s not always necessary for a company to have one. For most large-scale businesses, it makes sense. However, if you’re in an organization with less than a dozen employees, having a CMO doesn’t translate well. The services they provide may not be enough to justify an entire position in an org chart. In that situation, it’s just a title. It turns the chief marketing officer into a status position or a ceremonial role, which doesn’t fit with the job description. There’s no need for ceremonial roles in a well-run company.
For smaller companies, a lot of the stuff a CMO does actually comes from the CEO. In this case, a CEO takes the lead in managing marketing efforts and solidifying the company’s voice. Once the company grows, business leadership can then discuss hiring a chief marketing officer.
The CMO is the leader of all marketing, so they need to be in a company large enough where they can’t be involved in the day-to-day tasks, but rather they can be focused on leadership. To help them, make sure they have what they need to be nimble. A chief marketing officer will fit when the system is large enough and the complexity makes one necessary. Once you get to the point where you’re building out multi-million-dollar marketing flywheels, you’ll know you need a chief marketing officer and not just a marketing director or manager.
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