What The Next Generation Of Star CMOs Have In Common

Marketing is not the same game it was 20 years ago. An overview of the areas that forward-thinking CMOs are emphasizing.


In my previous post, I shared insights from my latest CMO Trends 2013 study. In today’s boardrooms, marketing leaders must prove they can be tech-savvy, data-driven, strategic, and creative.

Some of the 46 CMOs who responded to my survey clearly struggle with self-management, persistent cross-departmental conflict, budget and resource constraints, and low technology acumen. These challenges may sound insurmountable, but they are not. They are actually hiding the true enemy of today’s CMO: their lack of urgency around improving their condition.

Call it fear; call it comfort with the status quo. Over time, these marketing leaders will be replaced by risk takers, thought leaders, and technology-savvy decision makers. I am fortunate to have met several who fit that latter description. I also found several qualities these leaders share in common:

1. They are committed to personal growth. Self-leadership and self-care, time mastery, and peer networking are essential, not optional, for tomorrow’s marketing leaders. This new role takes courage, not compliance. Now is the time to break free of the perceived cost center or “order taker” role. Order takers put their heads down and work harder, often as lone wolves. If you use this approach, you cannot anticipate new opportunities nor enrich your career. You will continue to focus on fulfilling urgent needs and rely on “trial and error” to solve complex issues.

2. They embrace marketing analytics, cloud computing, and big data. The market is changing at warp speed. I recently counted more than 100 community-building, blogging, and social marketing management platforms. How can one person possibly master this morass?

Seek out external advisors and analysts to decipher these nascent trends. Finally, consider hiring a data scientist to help you build automated marketing analytics tools and capabilities.

Frito-Lay North America CMO Ann Mukherjee has successfully hired data scientists from unexpected places. “We recruited beyond the traditional top-MBA schools and looked to tap different industries, such as design, consultant/analytical firms, retail, and specialty marketing agencies. Internally, we blend the art and science of marketing by proactively cross-pollinating with a variety of functions and disciplines–such as sales, finance, and operations,” she says.

Lisa Agona, SVP and CMO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, has applied scientific principles to drive higher customer loyalty. She shared that “using a proof of concept in one segment and marketing it across multiple areas, we were able to build a case for further investment in research and analytics to create more satisfied, loyal customers.”

3. They build strong bridges with every sales channel. Nearly half of the marketing leaders in my live peer groups now carry a sales quota. Find a way to work side by side with your customer-facing teams on account planning, executive briefings, and opportunity planning activities. One company that excels in this area is Yodle. CMO Louis Gagnon noted that “the size of our marketing team doubled over the last couple of years. As a result of the work done by the new team, we have cut our costs of customer acquisition in half since 2010.” Gagnon says Yodle’s success could not have been possible without a strong relationship with sales.

SafeNet CMO Tsion Gonen takes it one step further. He sees marketing as another sales channel, not strictly a field support group. He believes that “we will have to be more diligent on measuring ‘return on promise’ to our customers. I spent 40% of my time in front of customers. I love visiting these customer accounts to talk about strategy and direction.”

4. They emulate agile agency business models. Successful marketing leaders have witnessed a direct correlation between collaborative, agile team models and productivity. If your organization demands that you do more with less, these models can reap rewards. MindJet’s Jascha Kaykas-Wolff tells us that “ad-agency creative types are uniquely trained to be able to fully and aggressively attack lots of concurrent problems, and are usually really strong people and time managers.”

For inspiration, download the full report, videos, and an infographic on this page. These resources contain numerous examples of marketing leaders who are ahead of the times–are there any areas where you need to catch up?

Related Posts:
Wisdom 2.0’s Compassionate, Chaos-Reducing Brand Of Leadership
Why Marketers Need To Channel Captain Kirk
6 Questions All CMOs Need To Ask Themselves

[Image: Flickr user Spiterman]

copyright 2013, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

This post originally appeared in FastCompany.

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