The marketing function has undergone a major transformation over the last decade, playing an important role in the increasingly competitive business landscape. Challenging economic conditions have made it vital to attract new customers and retain existing loyalty, while the digital world has reshaped customers’ habits and increased expectations. It falls on the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to facilitate growth and sales, determines the brand’s direction and marketing strategy, ensuring their team can develop and execute successful future focussed marketing strategies.
This future will be shaped by leaders who are empowered by technology, consumers who adjust their habits with the times, and businesses who embrace digitisation quickly to avoid being left behind. Much of today’s customer journey takes place across digital touch points and will become increasingly virtualised over time. The CMO must prepare their team for this shift, generate support from related functions such as sales, and marry the best of the old ways with rapidly advancing market and business practices.
Here are some of the top skills required to be successful in the CMO role for the foreseeable future, challenges faced, and factors to keep in mind if a CMO role is your next career objective.
At the time of publication, a LinkedIn search for profiles bearing the title of ‘Chief Marketing Officer’ yields 747,000 results globally, and 30,000 in the UK alone. A search for the same title in the Jobs section of the site results in just shy of 800 vacancies in the UK. Just as with many other C-suite roles, there is no blueprint for what a CMO looks like. However, demographic research helps provide a glimpse of where things currently stand.
Analysis of CMOs from FTSE 100 companies and the Inc. 5000 list found that a typical UK CMO is male, British-born, and 44 years old. Separate research from Korn Ferry finds that the average CMO is older at 54 years old, but still usually the youngest in the C-suite. On average, marketing chiefs in the FTSE 100 will have worked within their companies for approximately 8-9 years and had experience working for at least three other companies beforehand, spending around 5-6 years at each job prior to ascending to the CMO seat.
However, after ascending to the top of their organisation, the CMO is the least likely of their C-suite peers to stick around. This role has the shortest average tenure of any C-suite function at 3.5 years. This is notably higher turnover than seen amongst the average tenures of CEOs (8 years), CFOs (5.1 years), and CHROs (5 years).
In recent years, there has been a rise in businesses introducing what is called a ‘Fractional CMO’ as an alternative to having full-time marketing leadership in the C-Suite. These highly skilled experts are brought in from outside of the organisation to help with customer acquisition, developing and executing strategy, mentoring the marketing team, or delivering a specific campaign. This type of arrangement can benefit both the business and the individual executive. On the organisational side, the business gets to introduce much-needed marketing expertise and fresh, outside perspectives without the commitment of a full-time sitting CMO. For seasoned marketing executives, it offers the opportunity to enrich their career, seek out new challenges, or introduce more flexibility into their working life.
For those taking on the CMO role full time, according to Glassdoor, the national average salary in the UK is £106,552. The average additional compensation for the role is £20,901. The top-end salary for this role is approximately £201,000. In London, CMOs will earn slightly higher with an average salary of £112,125 and an average bonus of £16,000 per year. That said, compensation for the role will vary by experience, geography, business size, and other individual factors.
Marketing is the primary communications function of the business, but there is more to being a successful CMO than simply being a skilled and effective communicator. Given the evolving needs of the marketplace and ever-changing consumer habits, our experts have identified the following top skills for marketing leaders to focus their attention on.
Emotional Intelligence and the Human Touch: A global survey of 935 senior leaders and direct reports and over 1,100 members of the workforce suggests that human emotions are a key determining factor in the success or failure of a business transformation.
A successful CMO is one who truly understands and can put themselves in the shoes of their customer, and who allows that perspective to guide their strategy. Instead of imploring your customers to flock to you, you need to be able to meet them where they are and offer a solution to their pain points. This can at times be difficult, as CMOs will face pressure from the organisation to deliver results at all costs. But the ability to be realistic about who your customers are, what they care about, and what they are going through will make you better able to relate to and effectively communicate with them. Having this understanding at the top of the marketing function helps to shape the activity and the mindsets of the rest of the team. This is now more valuable than ever with digital taking over so much of the customer experience. Being able to provide a human touch to all marketing activities helps to fill a crucial gap that technology cannot and can add rationality and reasoning to all communications decisions.
The skills above will be critically important as CMOs attempt to navigate the challenges of the current business landscape. Some of the top factors that these executives should be aware of are:
Marketing will likely be a major area of focus for many businesses’ AI adoption efforts. The CMO will have the responsibility of pinpointing which areas technology can improve and making those recommendations to the rest of the C-suite. CMOs should expect to work alongside other business functions to help create a unified omnichannel customer experience across multiple marketing, sales, and service platforms. New generative AI solutions like ChatGPT, Bard, and DALL E have already raised questions about what the role of the human marketer might be. It will fall on the CMO to decide where and how their people use these types of tools day-to-day and guiding the team through that change.
Oftentimes, the deciding factor for loyalty is the experience that businesses can offer their customers. Marketing is a very CX-focused business function to begin with, but digitisation has upped the stakes and the expectations. Customers can easily draw comparison between you and your competitors on price, quality, and so on, but these do not always drive decision making. According to Salesforce, an astounding 97% of marketers witnessed a rise in business outcomes as a result of offering their customers personalisation. CMOs need to keep experience at the forefront of their strategy and
Given these challenges, our expert Rialto Executive Career Coaches recommend that current and aspiring Chief Marketing Officers focus their attention in these key areas:
If you are a current Chief Marketing Officer looking for your next executive role, or an executive looking to transition into a CMO role, we can help. The Rialto Consultancy offers a range of career strategy services including Executive Outplacement, Executive Career Coaching, and Personal Branding. Get in touch with our team to discuss your options to make a game changing transformational career move.
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