What to Look for When Hiring a CMO

Technology is changing how we all work, and that includes your executive leadership team. One role that has evolved more than any other in the C-suite is the CMO. Marketing is no longer considered a cost center with no way to justify their spend. Gone are the days of, “I know I’m wasting half my marketing budget, I just don’t know which half.” Today marketing metrics can provide attribution data to measure ROI. So if you find yourself looking to fill the role and asking what to look for when hiring a CMO? We outline a couple of key factors to consider below.

Something Old, Something New

Most marketing leaders with years of experience under their belt learned the discipline in an era before digital marketing. They worked with agencies on brand campaigns that featured television, print, radio, outdoor, PR, direct mail, and events. They crafted stories and had a one way communication with consumers. They owned the messaging, and in essence, the brand.

Just over a decade ago everything in a marketers world changed. Social media became mainstream, search and display advertising became a part of the marketing mix, and email marketing had come of age. In the years since, new tools have provided increased tracking capabilities and enabled tech savvy marketing teams to prove ROI with increasing accuracy, turning marketing into a revenue center.

Marketing executives with hands on experience in the digital space are either younger (e.g. leaders at smaller tech companies) or made a conscious decision to learn these new channels. They haven’t simply managed teams that know these channels, they rolled up their sleeves and actually learned how the channels operate at a tactical level. And with the pace of evolution, they have committed to staying current with new technologies.

Finding someone who is skilled at both brand building and digital analytics is difficult. Numerous articles highlight the CMO succession crisis. Because of the skills gap, turnover rates are high and there is a shortage of CMO’s. The average US consumer brand CMO is in place just 42 months, a 13% decline since 2014. In the faster moving technology space, the average CMO tenure is just 18 months. In the first half of 2017, 72% of CMO hires were external, illuminating the lack of qualified internal candidates.

Age of the Consumer

As you look for the proverbial CMO unicorn with both sets of skills, a primary consideration core to the hiring decision is how the CMO relates to and represents the consumer internally. The fundamental change to marketing over the past 10 years is the shared responsibility with consumers. The brand is no longer owned by the company.

Consumers have as much say about the brand as you do. Their buying habits have changed, they have information at their fingertips and multiple options at the click of a button. They also have a voice through social media with global reach and can share their thoughts and opinions on your products and services in real time.

The CMO needs to think like consumers. This means they need the ability to work collaboratively across departments. For all intents and purposes, CMO’s need a degree of blindness to departemental labels. Consumers don’t experience the product in this way. Instead of thinking ‘inside out’ in terms of marketing, sales, support, success, UX, product, R&D, and engineering, think ‘outside in’ terms of the consumer experience, ensuring every consumer touchpoint is consistent.

The role of the CMO has not only changed quite a bit, it’s also expanded. Per a recent McKinsey report, “To succeed in this new environment, companies must do two things. First, they need to clarify the broadened role of marketing in general and the CMO in particular. The accelerating pace of change is creating a wide range of potential new priorities for chief marketers—leading change efforts across the whole corporation, playing a more active role in shaping the company’s public profile, helping to manage complexity, and building new capabilities within (and even outside of) the marketing department. Second, as the roles of marketing and the chief marketer expand, it will become critical for CEOs to ensure that they have the right person as CMO, to understand fully how customers are changing, and to become more involved in developing new marketing capabilities across the company.”

To discuss how we can help you with your CMO search, send us a note. We have placed marketing executives across industries and are well versed in the new marketing landscape.

Hiring a CMO can be one of the most challenging C-suite openings to fill. The discipline has changed dramatically over the past decade and finding someone with all of the skills required is difficult. We outline key considerations to look for when hiring a CMO.