Gartner recently highlighted the importance of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) as key drivers of business growth. “As Chief Marketing Officers take on more responsibility and ownership of CX, understanding the impact they have on business growth is critical to success in this rapidly evolving role,” — Gartner. In some cases, the CMO is also viewed more as a “Chief Customer Officer”.
Before joining Salesforce, I served as both Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Customers Officer (CCO) for Enterasys Networks. At that time I worked with Jim MacLeod, Director of Digital Experiences and Creative Services. MacLeod is now vice president of marketing at EBSCO. MacLeod is one of the most creative and talented digital marketing professionals I have ever worked with. The biggest challenge I faced as a newly appointed CMO was my education and work experience in marketing – I didn’t have any. I studied electrical engineering at undergraduate and university level and grew my career primarily as vice president of engineering and chief customer officer responsible for global customer service before being given the opportunity to lead global marketing as CMO. MacLeod and the rest of the marketing team had to teach me the art and science of marketing. During my three-year tenure as CMO, we completed a massive marketing transformation, including renaming a $750 million public company in less than 90 days. When we were done, MacLeod and our marketing team were recognized with a Forrester Groundswell Award for our successful and highly innovative business practices.
MacLeod and I recently met and talked about successful marketing leaders and their backgrounds. So where do successful CMOs come from? What educational and work experiences are required to be a successful CMO?
The Brilliant Salesforce President and Chief Marketing Officer, Sarah Frankline, recently named Forbes #6 Most Influential CMOs of 2022, began her career as a chemical engineer. “Following 13 years at the San Francisco-based tech giant, Franklin became CMO in January 2021. Since then, the former chemical engineer has made innovation her goal – and uses her influence in marketing to drive it forward. She sees that she ran the platform in preparation for her CMO role because it provided deep insight into the breadth and depth of the business,” Forbes.
The business world has seen changes of unprecedented scale and speed. The pandemic created decentralized and digital-only, digital-first business engagement models that lasted throughout 2020 and continue to shape our future to this day. Customer expectations, purchasing behavior, interaction preferences and the expanded use of channels have redefined existing business models and created new ones. As the world changed, so did marketing. The role of the CMO has also evolved with a greater emphasis on customer experience and brand loyalty. Welcome to the trusted, experience-driven economy. Research found that 88% of customers say a company’s experience is just as important as its product or services — up from 80% in 2020. Successful CMOs have focused on sales, customer service, e-commerce, and human resources to drive marketing opportunities to develop team support with a holistic success of all participants as a guideline.
The chief marketing officer is one of the most unique positions within the C-suite. This is a position that has historically been one of the shortest average tenures among his own kind. A key factor in this is the rate of change in marketing. The role of the CMO has also evolved in recent years due to a more decentralized and digitally-focused approach to stakeholder engagement. Today, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) must lead the organization by connecting the business, adapting and predicting market opportunities, and driving purpose to drive the overall business strategy.
Marketing is an area that is constantly evolving, and with it come new skills needed to compete for tomorrow’s audiences. CMOs must be able to accurately predict the next trends that will impact their business and engage other stakeholders to join these new initiatives. Because of the ever-changing landscape, the path to Chief Marketing Officer is different for everyone in every company. Some of today’s most innovative CMOs are marketing lifebloods, and a few others “grew up” in disciplines outside of traditional marketing roles.
In retrospect, it is often possible to see a path from starting your career to your current position. But there’s no clear path for an ever-changing position like Chief Marketing Officer. In the last decade there has been an onslaught of new challenges and innovations in marketing. How many of tomorrow’s leaders are taking on entirely new challenges today? If you’re a CMO, please share your story with Jim and I on Twitter – we’d love to share your experience with our marketing community.
This article was co-authored by Jim MacLeod, Vice President of Marketing, Digital Experience at EBSCO Information Services. The beautiful infographic from The Road to CMO was also created by MacLeod. For more than two decades, MacLeod has found the best way to get audiences to take the right action. Agency side or in-house, B2B or B2C, MacLeod finds creative ways to cut through the noise, focus on the most effective message and grab people’s attention. MacLeod publishes a weekly newsletter, Marketing Podcast Recap, in which he presents the key takeaways from marketing podcasts in an easy-to-understand infographic.