The path to the c-suite can be pretty diverse for marketers. Along the way, you’ll likely acquire a broad array of skills and experience in different types of marketing. And if you’ve made it to the position of CMO, it’s likely you’ve shown your worth and value with those skills.
However, there are responsibilities that come with being a modern CMO that will require skills you might not have picked up along the way even if you’re the Shakespeare of writing copy, the da Vinci of graphic design, or the… Machiavelli (?) of social media marketing (sorry we’re not sure what the Renaissance equivalent of social media was).
To this end, we’ve put together a list of some of the key skills a modern CMO could need.
Maybe you’re looking to make that climb to the c-suite, and need to know what skills you should be developing to show people you’re ready, or to hit the ground running. You could be a brand new, freshly minted CMO who needs some advice on what to work on. Even veteran CMOs can do with refreshers, especially as the role evolves.
If you’ve made it to the role of CMO, you’ll have experience with working within brand guidelines, and you’re likely pretty good at being creative within brand guidelines. You might have even worked in key roles in a rebrand, or even building a brand from scratch. If you’ve come up through a brand manager career path you’ll probably have a pretty in-depth knowledge in how to develop a brand towards specific audiences and objectives.
But in all these cases, you’re ultimately answerable to someone else. And that person is often a CMO. It’s CMOs that set the brand guidelines. It’s them who decide when it’s time to pull the trigger on a rebrand and have the final say on the direction to take it. They’re the ones who set the objectives and define the audiences. There’s quite a bit that goes into this. You have to understand your target market. A knowledge of semiotics can be important. An in-depth knowledge of all your company's products is essential, to make sure you're directing the brand in the right direction. Sounds like a lot, but it’s worth the effort to be a successful CMO.
But wait, there’s more! In many companies, CMOs are the public face of the brand. They’re the ones who lead investor pitches. They speak on behalf of the company at conferences. They might lead product launches. That makes your personal brand pretty important. Don’t worry, we’re not saying you need to change your entire personality to make it as a CMO. It can be as simple as upping your game on social media. Aligning yourself with causes you believe are relevant to your company’s goals. Even just being open with your interests and hobbies, particularly if they help you in your professional life. If people think a company’s CMO is interesting, they’ll probably think the company has to be pretty interesting too if they’ve landed such a cool person in a position of importance.
In the marketing department trenches it can be quite easy to lose track of the bigger picture. This isn’t always a bad thing. You’re assigned a project, you work on it to completion before moving onto the next one. Other departments don’t matter, you’ve got marketing to do. Simple.
CMOs don’t have that luxury. You have to be aware of how you and your department fit into the business. You have to think about the future. Ultimately, you have to consider how you can grow your department and its marketing capabilities, and how that contributes to the growth of the company as a whole.
At its core, this means being able to quantify your marketing activities with some good old ROI (return on investment) analysis.
- How is the marketing department contributing to revenue?
- Are they doing it efficiently?
- Are there ways to do it more efficiently?
- And (this might be the big one), how could investing more into the department increase more revenue?
For most marketers, this is the kind of stuff that happens in the background. For a CMO, it’s something you need to be aware of every single day.
“But I got into marketing to be creative, not to be an accountant!” we hear you cry. Well there are ways to approach growth that require creative thinking. Could you grow your department’s capabilities by finding and encouraging more creative approaches? Could some outside-the-box thinking identify where you’re being inefficient or find new routes to improve efficiency?
Also, if you’ve got big ambitions for a creativity driven campaign or team, you’re gonna have to be able to quantify creativity. In an increasingly data-driven industry, that takes some creative thinking in itself!
Marketing is a digital industry, even when it comes to non-digital channels. Having the right technology deck for a marketing department goes a long way to enhancing their capabilities. CMOs are increasingly expected to investigate new technologies, both hardware and software that will enhance that tech deck.
Traditionally this would fall under the remit of the CTO, but it’s not that clear cut anymore. You’re the CMO. You know what your team needs to function and do better. You know their capabilities and how quickly they should be able to adapt to a new piece of tech and how it will impact their long-term success. And you need to have an understanding of how the tech works, both so you can sell it to the people controlling your budget as a justified cost (see above about ROI), but also so you can lead the way if any issues occur in the future.
Understanding your own tech needs and capabilities is just one thing, however. You have to understand the same about your target market, both now and anticipating the future.
- What hardware are they using?
- What social media are they on (and how do they use it)?
- How are they consuming content?
- How could that change in the future?
A good CMO keeps track of all those things in order to develop marketing along those routes. And even then, you’ve got to be able to explain all of this as well, same as when it comes to getting tech for your own department. If you can see where technological trends among your consumers are coming, it will be easier for you to get onto those platforms at the outset, where it’s easier to make a name for yourself before the marketplace becomes too crowded. But you’ve got to be able to convince people that it’s the right route to go down.
For now, we’ll leave it there. There’s plenty more skills that modern CMOs need in their portfolio. Understanding a wide range of channels (particularly how it pertains to omnichannel experiences), presentation skills, corporate politics, team management, and much more.
What skills have you found particularly useful as a CMO? Do you have experience in developing any of the skills we discussed? Or maybe there’s a particular skill set you’d like us to focus on in the future. Let us know!