Whether you’re a startup, small business, or corporation, the chief marketing officer (CMO) plays a key role in your organization. If you’re looking to hire for this position, knowing the chief marketing officer job description inside and out will give you a clear picture of what you’ll need to identify in your next CMO.
Today, we’ll be covering the chief marketing officer’s job in detail, including the requirements and qualifications for the role, as well as the challenges of attracting and retaining top CMO talents.
Chief Marketing Officer Job Description: Summary
Most know that the chief marketing officer is a C-suite position but many are unclear on the position’s job description. What is the role of a chief marketing officer and what are the primary responsibilities of the role?
Oversee marketing and advertising initiatives for an organization
The very term chief marketing officer suggests that the role is equal parts leadership (chief), marketing (marketing), and direction (officer). While the CMO is responsible for spearheading all of your marketing and advertising efforts, they are also tasked with leading in such a way that keeps all marketing-related employees working towards your organization’s short-term and long-term goals.
Report directly to the chief executive officer
As the chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking position at most organizations, the chief marketing officer is responsible for reporting directly to the CEO. With the CEO making final decisions on the direction of the organization, the CMO is ultimately responsible for buying into the CEO’s vision and implementing strategies that will help the company achieve its long-term goals.
This makes the CEO-CMO relationship a highly important one, as these two roles working in tandem can drive much of the change, growth, and culture at an organization.
Use market research, pricing, advertising, public relations
The CMO should be comfortable in multiple areas, from market research to pricing to advertising and others—leveraging each of them to influence your company’s success, growth, and revenue.
Chief Marketing Officer Job Description: Skills
The CMO needs to possess a unique and versatile skill set to perform the job properly:
Analytical and creative thinking
Marketing is both science and art. The CMO should understand human psychology, be able to analyze and apply data, and identify problems and their solutions. At the same time, they need to also possess the creativity to conjure up new ideas, develop better strategies, and build on what has already been done.
Deep understanding of the brand, product, and industry
There’s a reason why CMOs need a wealth of expertise and years of experience to take on the responsibilities of the position.
CMOs should possess a deep understanding of not only your organization’s brand, its products and services, but also your niche and industry as a whole. Without this knowledge base, you can’t expect your CMO to lead a team with confidence.
Awareness of legal, finance, marketing production, and information technology disciplines
While your CMO’s day-to-day responsibilities might not always involve disciplines such as law, finance, and information technology, they will need to at least exhibit cross-functionality—which is perhaps the CMO’s most important skill.
Knowledge of marketing principles
Of course, your CMO will need to be highly knowledgeable about marketing principles and practices. This is developed through not only a marketing or business educational background but also hands-on experience in past marketing roles.
Chief Marketing Officer Job Description: Education and Experience
When hiring for the chief marketing officer position, there are a few different qualifications you should consider listing on your job description:
Most chief marketing officers are required to have not only a bachelor’s degree in marketing or advertising, but also an MBA or a master’s degree with a specialization in marketing.
There are certain circumstances in which you might make an exception to these educational requirements—such as if you are looking to promote an employee from within. Typically, this type of employee has significant company experience to make up for the lack of education. This is usually someone who you have already begun priming for the role and see as a key part of your organization’s long-term future.
As for experience, there are two factors to consider—marketing experience and leadership experience. You should be looking at candidates who have roughly 10 years of experience (or more) in marketing or business development, and those same candidates should also have at least 3-5 years of experience in a senior leadership role—whether it’s in C-suite positions or other upper management roles.
How to attract and retain top CMOs, especially if you’re a startup
Because C-suite positions are highly coveted, it might come as a surprise that the average tenure of a CMO is just 43 months. More so than other C-suite positions, chief marketing officers tend to seek out better opportunities after just a few years at an organization.
Now think about what this might mean if you’re a startup. Startups may have a much harder time attracting and retaining top CMOs, as they are limited in what they can offer. While bigger companies can easily dangle bigger salaries and comprehensive benefits packages over a CMO’s head, startups are rarely in the financial position to be able to make the same offers.
For this reason, if you’re a startup that is looking to attract a top CMO or retain the talent you’ve already acquired for the position, you might assume you’re at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t have to be the case, as there are different ways to attract top CMOs and keep them on board at your organization:
Understand what you want from a CMO
You’re going to struggle to land a quality CMO if you don’t have a clear vision for the role or your organization’s needs. Beyond salaries, benefits, and career opportunities, CMOs want to know that you have the right organizational infrastructure in place and a clear need for a marketing head.
Offer a seat at the table for major organizational decisions
While the role of the chief marketing officer has changed with time and continues to evolve, its value shouldn’t be understated or undermined. By giving your CMO significant influence over not only your marketing initiatives but also major organizational decisions, you’ll build a level of trust that will go a long way towards helping you retain your CMO.
Provide flexibility and room for creativity and growth
At large companies, there might be checks and balances (such as other marketing heads) in place that prevent the CMO from being the sole marketing decision-maker. As a startup, it’s much more viable to give your CMO the “keys to the car” that is your entire marketing and advertising operation. This will provide a unique opportunity that they may be unlikely to find elsewhere.
With plenty of room for flexibility, creativity, and growth, your CMO will be able to lead without obstructions and without feeling pressured to collaborate with other heads on all decisions. Sure, this will give your CMO satisfaction within the role but it’s also this kind of freedom and creativity that may push the boundaries of what your organization can accomplish.
Give them a chance to achieve their full potential
The objectives we’ve already discussed should help shape an opportunity and atmosphere where your CMO can learn, grow, and push the envelope of what they can achieve. And fortunately, a startup does have one very clear advantage over many large businesses and corporations—strong marketing and advertising are essential for the startup’s survival.
Some CMOs will embrace these challenges and relish the opportunity to build something from the ground up.
CMO job description for startups, specifically
As startups are largely focused on developing the company’s brand and driving growth, marketing is front and center, making the CMO one of the more vital roles in the organization—arguably the most vital role.
It’s for this reason that startups may be looking for something different than the average business might seek in a CMO. Be sure to reflect these differences in your chief marketing officer job description:
Build a brand for an organization in its early stage
Unlike the corporation that might need a CMO to slip into a role with existing protocol and processes in place, the startup may ask their CMO to be a pioneer of sorts and help create the fabric of the budding company.
Partner with sales to drive business opportunities
In a startup, the relationship between marketing and sales is also an important one. Make sure CMO candidates know that a close partnership with sales is required early on.
Work with a small team and more limited resources
It’s important to be transparent about what your business needs so that your CMO can determine whether it’s a challenge they are willing to take on. While a small team and limited resources might scare a few candidates off, these factors won’t dissuade the right candidate.
Hire a top CMO and hang on to them
Many believe the CMO position to be the most difficult hire to get right. It may be months before you find a candidate with the right qualifications for the role and who fits your company culture.
If you need help in this area, you might benefit from investing in a recruiting agency. We have successfully placed CMOs and other C-suite executives for businesses of all sizes. By properly representing your brand and conveying your vision for the role, Hunt Club can help you land the right CMO hire so that you spend less time hiring and more time in the business.
This leading cybersecurity firm hired a Chief Marketing Officer in only 40 days.