7 Must-Have Skills for Today’s CMO

by Jennifer Beever

CMO SkillsThe role of the CMO has changed dramatically in the last six years as companies struggle with new buying paradigms and increased competition. Here are the top skills an effective Chief Marketing Officer must have to produce marketing results.

I met with several marketing professionals last night to discuss a pending CMO search. It was a very interesting conversation, and it got me thinking about the breadth and depth of skills today’s CMO has to have to effect change and growth for their organization.

1. Customer Focus

A lack of understanding of customers is a recipe for marketing failure. I put this as the central quality for CMOs, applicable to all situations. However, if a certain business or organization has specific problems, I suppose the leading skill for the individual hire could be different. For example, maybe the marketing department has poor morale. Leadership skills and passion might be the driver to turn the department around and improve morale.

2. Strong Leader

Marketing folks are a curious lot. They take a lot of pride in making their imprint on a business or marketing campaign. Agencies and creative directors want to “win” and have their favorite design used in their client’s marketing. Egos and “cool designs” can override what is best for the business or even the customer. CMOs must be strong leaders with an ability to steer the marketing department to working in the right direction – focusing on customers and getting results for the business.

3. Strategic

Marketing without a strategy closely follows #1 as a sure recipe for disaster. Strategic marketing means that you understand the customer, the industry, the competition, and direct your brand, your culture, your people and your marketing activities and communications accordingly.

4. Creative/Flexible

CMOs must be open to ideas and new tactics. Clinging to the past, lack of openness and lack of receptivity to new ideas will limit a business’ marketing results. This is especially true now. As technology and social media evolves, the CMO is in a position of having to accept some risk and experimentation (it can be controlled) in order to test new approaches.

5. Analytical

With the rise of marketing technology and big data, a knowledge and appreciation of analytics is critical. Business-to-consumer CMOs have been using consumer research data more than Business-to-business CMOs, but now the technical aspect of online marketing has added heaps of analysis to the marketing function. Add to it big data and the increasing use of predictive analytics for marketing.  The CMO can hire analytical staff, but most importantly they need to drive measurement, analysis and careful evaluation of every activity in their department.

6. Persuasive

Marketing has always required persuasion. But now CMOs need to have more say in how their company or organization is run. They need to have a seat at executive management meetings along with sales, finance and operations. CMOS need to persuade up the organization, down the organization, and laterally to other functional areas. This need to be persuasive requires that CMOs speak in business, not creative, terms.

7. Change Agent

Change isn’t easy for organizations. But in marketing how people buy has changed, marketing channels have changed, availability of information has changed, markets are global, speed of innovation has changed, what marketing employees want has changed and competition has increased. All of this means that marketing must change. In an organization that has existed for a long time, the need for change can present a challenge to the CMO.

I wondered which skill to put in the center of this CMO skill diagram. I think customer focus is a key factor, but, again, I think some organizations may have critical issues that require another dominant skill. What do you think? Do you agree customer focus is the central skill CMOs need?

If you need a CMO to drive change and results at your business, contact New Incite today. We provide outsource CMO services for companies that want to grow faster, don’t have the right resources onsite or have an interim need.


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