CMOs: Get Off Life Support

Today the average life expectancy of a CMO position is 3-5 years depending on the industry, the shortest lifespan of any of the members of the C-suite.  The reason for this? Too often CMOs find themselves in the unenviable position of having to make an impact shortly after they take the role.  As a result, they act tactically to get quick wins and sacrifice long term, strategic goals. Once a marketing executive focuses on the tactics, they rarely can switch gears and quickly become a second class citizen among executives, with little clout to have a significant impact on the business. The unfortunate issue with this all too common scenario is that marketing should be the engine driving the business strategy, not the caboose.


So what's the most common culprit hindering the success of the CMO today?  Poor communication of the goals and limited measurement for tracking success which results in poor planning and budget management.  Time and time again marketing teams fall into the trap of busy-work activities with no alignment to the objectives. 

Busy-work marketing usually starts after a sales team declares, "we need more leads" (at some companies these words feel like an everyday ritual).  Next, we find CMOs and their teams scrambling to validate their existence. In many cases, we will see marketers execute some quick fix lead generation activities such as webinars or a series of dinners to get engagement.  Unfortunately, running a set of aimless lead generation activities with no goals, understanding of the target audience or messages that need to be conveyed in order to inspire action is a fool’s errand. Tragically, this knee-jerk approach seldom works and the death spiral toward irrelevance for both the CMO and the overall marketing team continues.

When executed to the letter of the law, marketing strategy should be a central component for driving significant parts of the business.  Marketing needs to define the who, what, when, and where of a company’s strategy. Due to marketing’s external lens, it’s essential that positioning, messaging, market segmentation, market research, product strategy, product definition, pricing, packaging, distribution, and customer experience all be driven by the CMO and team.  When marketing is at full throttle, the CMO should be influencing other departments within a company such as product development, sales, customer service, and partnerships. Too often we see marketing relegated to lead generation, branding, and PR, all extremely important parts of the business, but just pieces of the overall puzzle.

So how does a CMO last 44 months?  Just like in life, you need to have goals and a plan.

In order to be successful in the early days, CMOs must work with their teams and other key executives to first determine what is most important for the company to accomplish, with whom, and what differentiated message provides the biggest benefit to the target audience.  Measurable goals are essential to help a CMO and marketing team build effective plans, and must be the nucleus of every campaign, program, and activity that they run. Below is a checklist to make sure you get off on the right foot when taking a new CMO role:

  • Truly understand your market, buyer, and how your product fits
  • Set your goals, make them measurable, and align them with company initiatives
  • Build a comprehensive marketing plan with built-in check-points with your team
  • Align your campaigns with your goals, no busywork marketing
  • Allocate 90% of your budget (don’t leave money lying around or it won’t get spent)
  • Constantly measure against goals and adjust for optimization

And if CMOs do this, they may just have a shot at outlasting the CRO.  

Look out for our blog post series on building the perfect marketing plan and budget.  The first post of the weekly series is on Thursday!

Check out how CMOs can have full visibility of their marketing plans and budgets!

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