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What Does a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Do?

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December 13, 2022Executive Search Job Descriptions Marketing

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Executive talent is critical for success in any organization. The oversight of an experienced leadership team can make a huge difference in overall outcomes. But in today's fast-paced businesses, you may need more than just a CEO, COO, and CFO. With markets becoming ever more competitive, a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can be a critical hire. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what a CMO does below, including the skills required for the job. You can use this information to inform your executive search for a CMO who will create positive marketing results that will drive growth for your firm.

What Is the Role of a CMO?

A CMO oversees an organization's marketing, advertising, and other relevant departments. While business-critical missions are unique for each organization, the CMO is typically responsible for driving growth, leads, and sales via comprehensive marketing plans and efforts.

According to Deloitte's annual CMO survey, some of the most important efforts CMOs and their teams may be involved in include:

  • Optimizing business websites to support traffic, positive on-page behavioral metrics, and conversions
  • Using data analytics to better inform marketing and other business decisions
  • Directing digital marketing, including management of online advertising efforts
  • Overseeing, implementing, and managing marketing technology systems and platforms to support automation and other efficiencies

Navigating digital transformations is also essential for today’s marketing organizations. This is why CMOs need a holistic approach, fusing the ability to understand and lead in technological landscapes while utilizing traditional methods like radio and television advertising, print media ads, and direct mail.

Ultimately, it’s the Chief Marketing Officer's responsibility to demonstrate that their efforts and initiatives drive enough ROI. This is one of the biggest challenges of the CMO role. According to a recent report from Allocadia, a staggering 84% of CMOs and other marketing professionals feel pressure to justify their marketing spend and/or make a case for budget increases.

CMO Qualifications

Chief marketing officers oversee organizational marketing activities, including brand management, market research, marketing communication, product management, and more.

Basic qualifications found in a Chief Marketing Officer job description may include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field like advertising, public relations, or communications (although many companies also prefer or require an MBA in marketing, business, or another post-grad degree)
  • Several years of experience in marketing, often in the same or a related industry
  • Management experience with direct supervision of a team of staff
  • Expertise in digital and social media marketing
  • Familiarity with a broad range of marketing tools pertaining to market research, product branding, data analytics, website development, public relations, and others
  • Proven ability to design, implement, and coordinate comprehensive marketing campaigns comprising both traditional and modern channels

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of a CMO

A CMO’s primary goal is to design and implement a comprehensive marketing strategy to raise awareness about their organization’s products and services while simultaneously driving demand for them. While no two days are ever the same for a CMO, a typical day might involve the following:

  • Brainstorming and developing innovative marketing strategies aimed at promoting brand recognition and increasing revenue
  • Orchestrating processes to boost organizational efficiency
  • Inspiring and leading marketing teams to create and implement marketing solutions for clients
  • Working collaboratively with sales, service, and other departments, as well as the executive board and external stakeholders, to ensure alignment of marketing efforts and vision

The 4 Types of CMO Profiles

Not all CMOs are created equal. In fact, they often use different approaches to accomplish their goals. According to IESE Business School professor Julian Villanueva, the CMO job can be categorized according to four basic profiles:

The Revenue Driver

Aka “revenue generators,” these CMOs are responsible for generating sales but aren’t heavily involved in business strategy. As with all four CMO profiles, the changing marketing landscape is changing the revenue driver role with marketing technology, next-generation customer experience mandates, and IT investment factoring in.

The Marketing Strategy Mastermind

Titled “strategy formulators” by Villanueva, these managers focus on big-picture issues like the brand, trends, and new product development. They may have limited to no responsibility for direct sales or implementing the marketing plan. This CMO type may feel like it falls short of fulfilling the complete CMO profile. However, they offer tremendous value with brand positioning that more traditional CMO types may lack.

The Growth Lever

AKA “growth drivers,” these CMOs are the total package and may overlap with the CEO role while also speaking the language of the CFO. These pros are responsible for delegating and coordinating with other managers throughout the marketing planning process. Because of the scope of this role, it can be especially challenging to fill these positions.

The Supporter

Common in many small and medium-sized organizations in the B2B sector, these non-strategic marketing pros are responsible for knowing the market and creating and executing marketing materials to support sales. As digital marketing has increased its foothold, these CMOs have become more important due to their growing potential to generate high-value leads.

What Does a CMO in a Technology Company Do?

The exact role of the CMO differs depending on the type of company for the simple reason that different industries call for different brand images and messaging.

Take a tech CMO, for example. These pros are more likely to be enmeshed in the technical side of marketing — due in no small part to the fact that a technology company not leveraging automation and other tools may not look like an expert in its own space.

And while CMOs in any role must understand business positioning and future growth potential, this is an even larger part of the job in tech. Because technology companies devise products and services that create the future, CMOs must be able to get potential clients and customers on board with that future and their offerings.

What Is a CMO in a Startup Accountable for?

The CMO role is also different in many startups. Whether they have venture capital funds behind them or they're bootstrapping, startups don’t always start with a full suite of C-level executives. And even if the highest level of leadership is in place, all gaps in the middle may not be filled in yet — they may not even be necessary (depending on the company's position).

CMOs in startups may have a wider span of responsibility than they would in an established business. For example, they may be responsible for new business and product development, sales management, customer service, and oversight of distribution channels. This contrasts with the structure of more established businesses, which often have non-marketing executives over sales, customer service, or distribution.

Which Essential Skills Should a CMO Have?

The specific skills a chief marketing officer might need depend on the type of business and its goals for the CMO position. Here's a look at some essential skills for today’s CMOs:

  • Marketing experience and knowledge: As the top marketing employee at an organization, a CMO should have knowledge and experience related to product marketing and advertising.
  • Strategic development skill: Strategy has always been important for marketing leaders, but it's even more critical today. Traditionally, marketing leaders had to be concerned with target audiences, brand messaging, and best practices for reaching audiences via print and other ad formats. Today, leaders must be able to do all these things while managing complex digital efforts and finding ways to balance and demonstrate the ROI of omnichannel spending.
  • Leadership skills: CMOs may need to coach, mentor, and motivate employees while also working alongside human resource staff and others to attend to details such as labor budgets.
  • Research and analytical skills: Today’s CMOs must be able to review and understand complex reports that tell stories about quickly changing marketing trends, the impact of digital efforts, and what decisions might be right for the future. Modern marketing is as much a numbers game as accounting is — although the data must be tempered and finessed with creativity and communication.
  • Superb interpersonal, PR, and communication skills: Top CMOs are able to pivot from data and analytics to people. They should be able to see the big picture in the numbers while also understanding the individual nature of human beings and how to relate to and message subsections of a target audience.

Without these skills, you may find that a CMO only lasts a few months on the job. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average tenure of CMOs in 2020 was just 25.5 months. Even among leading companies for ad spend, the average time CMOs worked in a specific job was just 40 months.

This high turnover can set companies back in terms of achieving critical company objectives — and a desirable bottom line. According to Business News Daily, a bad hire costs a business anywhere from $17,000 to a seismic $240,000. These astronomical costs are another reason why making the right hire the first time is crucial.

CMO Salary and Compensation

According to Salary.com, the average CMO salary in the United States is $336,417 as of August 2022.

However, it’s important to note that CMO salaries and compensation packages vary wildly depending on factors ranging from industry and geography to education and experience level. In fact, the range of CMO salaries falls between $290,946 and $409,701.

For startups, meanwhile, putting together an adequate compensation package may also involve granting equity.

CMOs: Why You Need One and How Hunt Club Can Help

As you can see, CMOs are invaluable leaders for businesses of all sizes. Without a C-suite exec leading the marketing department, marketing efforts will likely flounder. Not to mention that with so much of a business's budget going to its marketing budget, you can't afford to leave those processes untended. But the cost of hiring a marketing director who only lasts for a few months can set your business back in terms of achieving critical company objectives — and a desirable bottom line. 

That's where Hunt Club comes in. We ask the right questions to connect high-growth companies with the most qualified CMO candidates. This offers you the best chance of hiring an executive who will offer long-term growth potential for your business.

Learn how we used our tech-enabled expert network of C-suite executives to help A-LIGN hire their CEO in just 40 days (and to find out how we can do the same for you): Download our FREE case study today.

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Kristin Bachman avatarKristin Bachman