Becoming a great marketing leader takes a lot of work. But it’s essential to know what’s absolutely critical for advancing your career to the CMO role and beyond.
We asked this year’s CMOs to Watch for their best advice on what it takes to become a great marketing leader.
Discover how you can take your place as a marketing leader that makes a real difference.
Frida Ahrenby, Dr. Amine Arezki, and Amira Barger
CMO of GetAccept
“We all work in sales! Take the chance to understand sales, and how marketing supports overall growth. The better business mindset you possess as a CMO, the easier it is to understand how to drive your marketing agenda and get the mandate you need. Be a generalist, but have a domain within marketing that’s your ‘home turf,’ where you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get some real work done!”
Dr. Amine Arezki
Director of Marketing & Communications at Thales
“Vision and strategic planning: Cultivate a visionary mindset and meticulously plan your strategic moves. Have the ability to rally cross-functional teams, transforming them into a formidable force capable of delivering tangible and impactful results.
“Facilitation and empowerment: Embrace the role of a facilitator and empower those around you. Foster an environment of confidence, encouraging individuals to exceed expectations and continuously grow. Recognize the privilege of mentoring and developing others, and actively seize this opportunity.
“Global perspective and diversity: Cultivate a global perspective that transcends borders. Embrace diversity in all its forms, recognizing that it enriches your perspective and those of your team members. Understand that mentoring and guiding others is a unique privilege that can shape the future of the industry.
“Adaptability and agility: Embrace change with open arms. In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing, remain adaptable and agile. Be ready to pivot and adjust strategies as needed to stay ahead of industry trends and shifts in customer behavior.
“Data-driven decision-making: Place data at the core of your decision-making process. Prioritize data-driven strategies that offer insights into market dynamics and customer preferences. Let data guide your marketing initiatives to ensure their effectiveness.
“Networking and mentorship: Cultivate a robust professional network by actively engaging with industry peers and seeking mentorship from seasoned professionals. The wisdom and guidance of experienced mentors can be invaluable on your journey to success.”
Executive Vice President Head of DEI Communications & Advisory at Edelman
“I want to speak to the aspiring CMOs that look like me, a Black woman, my counsel is to take up space. You belong, you matter, and the world needs your talent. Don't ask for space, step forward in your power and take it.”
Emmanuelle Benoliel, Adam Boita, and Christine Buck
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer of HIMSS
“Tomorrow’s CMO needs razor-sharp expertise and literacy around data analytics and visual expression.
“Many marketing leaders are too focused on brand-building, but it’s only part of the formula. Being able to clearly attribute how your marketing efforts build awareness and saliency, nurture leads, and create paths to revenue is equally important. That’s where data literacy comes in. The CMO must be able to interpret, analyze, and position all kinds of data and create a story around it that other organizational leaders understand and trust.
“So, if you’re an aspiring or current CMO, think about how to use data to solve the attribution challenge. Think about how you can prove marketing’s impact, and use analytics to make direct connections between creative work to revenue. Align yourself with projects that provide growth and exposure across the organization and talk to your fellow leaders in product and sales to understand customer habits and journeys. You must understand how your customers buy and purchase and why price matters. Modern CMOs need to understand the criteria, process, and financial implications.”
Carolyn Chiang Rosebrough, Miruna Dragomir, and Monica Elgemark
Carolyn Chiang Rosebrough
Chief Brand & Communications Officer at Lime
“Act with intention. Strategy is about making the right choices that build upon each other. That’s what great brands – and careers – are built on.
“Be open to learning all parts of the craft. The best marketers I’ve seen and worked with obviously have strong suits, but also ultimately are well-versed in all aspects of marketing. So if you’re a performance marketer, for example, it would always be a great idea to understand the value of brand marketing to what you do every day.
“Know that even though you’re early in your career, you can still drive culture on a team. The best work comes from teams that are primed to do great work. And much of that comes from the right team culture.”
CMO of Planable
“Being a CMO, especially at a startup, is like being a master of understanding yet always being open to learning more. Your job isn't to know how to do every single marketing tactic yourself or to get lost in the tiny details. Instead, it's about getting a big-picture view of different marketing strategies – understanding what works, for which type of company, and why.
“You don’t need to be an expert in executing every tactic, but you should have a good grasp of various marketing areas. Try to learn a little about each part of marketing. Get a feel for everything from social media strategies to in-depth analytics. The key is to connect everything you learn back to your business goals. This way, you can figure out which tactics and channels are worth trying for your company. It's all about finding that balance between a wide-ranging understanding and knowing where to focus your efforts for the best results.”
CMO of Oneflow
“Encourage continuous curiosity and prioritize ongoing market research for yourself as CMO as well as your marketing teams. Equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the evolving landscape to be able to adjust and adapt based on what's happening in the environment.
“Furthermore, surround yourself with specialists. As a CMO, establish a team of key resources who are specialists in various areas, creating a collaborative environment where collective expertise contributes to creating magic. Relying on specialized talents enhances overall proficiency and effectiveness.
“Lastly, recognize that marketing operates as a collaborative force, closely integrated with product and sales teams. This synergy ensures a cohesive strategy aligning with overall business objectives. It is not a one-man or a one-department show, but rather the combined efforts from all functions.”
Drew Fine, Alberto Gerin, and James Gilbert
Fractional CMO with Rion Aesthetics
“Two things. 1) hire people who know things you don’t know… just make sure you know how to ask the right questions. It’s key to building a great team. 2) Don't let data chase you down a rabbit hole of not being true to your brand. It’s easy to follow your performance marketing info to a place that actually destroys equity without you even realizing it. I’ve seen this happen to big brands. Make sure you balance strategic and performance marketing.”
CMO of Modefinance
“I'll try to answer with a simple but fundamental connection: A renewed and strengthened relationship with the CEO and the board, in which clarity must be key.
“Growth doesn't happen by chance or by accident, and we as CMOs are key to intentionally supporting our CEOs’ creation of a successful strategy towards it, by reclaiming the ownership of the 4 Ps (Product, Place, Price, Promotion) and reinstating the ability to both develop the market funnel and focus on the product's evolution.
“The advice I can give is to surround yourself with all the different people in your own organization and outside because communication is key: In a world where marketing sees a strong misalignment and misperception, we still argue about the effectiveness of our role. Let's be more communicative, connect more with the operations, and be very clear when facing the executive committee.”
VP of Demand Generation at Bloomerang
“Be willing to take on more without being asked. Complain less about your current workload and instead search for solutions to make it more efficient. Always come to the table with data-backed arguments and with a potential solution to a problem, this shows you are forward-thinking and strategic. Have a love for people to help build them up.”
Jeremy Grinacoff, Lori Goode, and Dr. Leeya Hendricks
CMO of CUDDLY
“Whether you’re an aspiring CMO or a current CMO, develop and embrace a mindset of being a life-long learner, be curious to question the status quo by asking the right questions, and develop a holistic view of your business – be an executive first, marketer second.
“You cannot grow if you do not learn, innovate, and understand the interplay between marketing and other business functions. Celebrate your wins, learn from your failures.
“It’s important to exude an executive presence through strong communication and to articulate the value that marketing brings to the organization. Be confident in your vision while making data-driven decisions and be the voice of the customer.
“Further, with the constantly evolving landscape, stay current on industry trends to ensure you can adapt quickly and accurately.
“Finally, lead with compassion. Build and set your team up for success. Inspire and empower your team to collaborate, learn, and grow together while striving for excellence.”
CMO of Index Exchange
“Learn, learn, learn. Evaluate the different types of marketing functions and skills required, and actively seek opportunities to learn more, get practical experience, or hone in on existing skills. Ask for feedback and to be considered for new projects that may stretch you. Be open to possibility – if something comes your way, instead of starting with ‘no,’ start with ‘what would it take?’ It’s simple, but it provides a solution-oriented frame of mind to critically and creatively approaching challenges.
“Don’t underestimate the power of building a network. Do it in a way that is authentic to you. It sometimes requires pushing outside of your comfort zone, but there is a lot of opportunity, learning, and support that comes along with a strong network.
“Prioritize leadership qualities that extend beyond just tactical abilities. Emphasize empathy and transparency in your approach. In times of uncertainty and constant change, it's crucial to lead with a sense of humanity and understanding. Recognize and acknowledge that there is a world beyond the confines of work, and this broader perspective is essential in navigating the challenges and responsibilities of the CMO role. It not only fosters a more connected and responsive team environment but also contributes to more thoughtful and effective marketing strategies as customers are navigating the same challenges.”
Dr. Leeya Hendricks
CMO of Rimm Sustainability
“For aspiring CMOs, you must strive for a diverse skill set, mastering both traditional and digital marketing. Seek leadership opportunities to demonstrate strategic thinking and adaptability.
“For current CMOs seeking growth, you need to embrace continuous learning in evolving marketing trends. Foster strong cross-functional collaborations to enhance organizational impact. Stay agile and data-driven for effective decision-making.”
Eric Herzog, Simon Hodgkins, and Eugina Jordan
CMO of Telecom Infra Project (TIP)
“As someone proudly representing the 12% of women in the C-suite in telco, my advice echoes a simple truth: The only person who can truly limit you is yourself. Embrace a growth mindset that thrives on continuous learning – whether it's exploring new tools, adopting fresh approaches, or staying attuned to industry shifts.
“In the dynamic world of marketing, connecting authentically with customers is the secret sauce. It's not just about campaigns; it's about understanding people and weaving their stories into everything you do. So, to all the aspiring CMOs and my fellow CMOs, let curiosity be your guide, break through those self-imposed limits, and remember that every interaction is a chance to create something truly meaningful.
“Keep learning, stay genuine, and let your unique voice resonate in the ever-evolving symphony of marketing.”
Matthew Johnson, Enobong Kennedy, and Jenny Landin
Founder of dimartec
“Find 10 CMOs who hold positions at impressive companies in the field you're interested in and reach out to them via LinkedIn and email to ask for a 10-min interview. Ask them what excites them in their role, what they would do differently if they started again, and what they're concerned about in the future, etc. Marketers love to talk about themselves and this will give you some real insight!”
Director of Marketing at ZOLA Electric
“For aspiring CMOs, diversify your skill set, stay informed about industry trends, cultivate leadership skills, build a strong network, seek cross-functional experience, embrace data-driven decision-making, demonstrate results, and cultivate adaptability.
“For current CMOs looking to enhance their skills, invest in continuous learning, collaborate across departments, measure and optimize, prioritize brand leadership, develop crisis management skills, prioritize customer experience, and uphold ethical and responsible marketing practices.”
Global Marketing Director at Fiskars Group
“Marketing is a unique profession as the ‘how’ changes constantly, but the ‘why’ is pretty static: having a grounding in marketing theory and asking lots of questions of partners about how they will execute will always ensure that you have a winning strategy.”
Matt Lattman, Gareth Mellor, and Yahya Mohamed Mao
Yahya Mohamed Mao
Head of Marketing & Communications at Swiss GRC
“Aspiring and current Chief Marketing Officers must navigate a path defined by continual learning and strategic agility. Central to this journey is the development of a diverse skill set encompassing digital marketing strategies, brand management, and customer analytics. Staying abreast of the latest industry trends and technological advancements, particularly in areas like AI and generative AI (GenAI), is crucial.
“A CMO's effectiveness hinges on their ability to analyze complex data, a task increasingly augmented by AI tools. These insights are invaluable for developing targeted and effective marketing strategies. Leadership and communication skills are equally important, enabling CMOs to guide their teams effectively and articulate their vision both internally and in the broader business community.
“Strategic thinking lies at the heart of the CMO role. This involves not just aligning marketing efforts with business goals but also understanding how emerging technologies can transform marketing practices. As a result, a CMO's proficiency with digital tools is increasingly vital. These technologies offer new ways to engage customers, personalize experiences, and optimize marketing campaigns. Developing a strong personal brand and staying visible in the industry further enhances a CMO's influence and credibility.
“Investing in team development is also key. A successful CMO nurtures their team's growth, encouraging a culture of learning and innovation. This is particularly important in the context of rapidly advancing technologies like AI, where staying ahead requires a team that is both skilled and adaptable.
“Ultimately, the role of a CMO is to blend strategic foresight with a commitment to continuous learning, particularly in emerging fields like AI and GenAI. Understanding customer and market dynamics, leading a team toward collective success, and staying ahead in an ever-changing marketing environment define the essence of a successful CMO in the modern era.”
David Moreno, Tom Richards, and Rainer Stiller
CMO of Virtualware
“I would strongly advise seeking diverse experience across various roles, encompassing both marketing and roles outside the marketing realm, such as those within business or development. This multifaceted experience proved pivotal for me in gaining deeper insights into stakeholders' perspectives, enabling effective alignment of their interests with our customers' needs and the overarching vision of the company.
“Continual learning facilitated by active involvement in CMO communities and participation in industry events holds significant importance. Additionally, securing a capable mentor can significantly propel one's career trajectory. A prime illustration of such mentorship is evident in the CMO Alliance, emphasizing the value derived from such professionals' guidance and support.”
Global CMO at Vertiv
“A CMO should be a curious listener to customers and a life-long learner. Just make sure you learn from the best. David Cote’s ‘Winning Now, Winning Later’ is a masterclass in turnaround leadership and transformation. I’d say to start there. Also, one of my absolute favorite quotes I always have at the ready to deploy, in a professional or personal perimeter is, “Say what you think. Do what you say.”
“From a functional perspective, CMO Alliance, in particular, stands out as a leading resource to guide and accelerate the path for talents to reach their top performance and realize their true potential.”
Matt Sutton, Kim Warne, and Maya Wasserman
CMO of The Black Tux
“The second you feel content or bored, change your situation. Ask to take on more work. Tell your boss you want more responsibility. Show them your ambition and aspirations. Take every opportunity you have to learn and try new things – especially once you feel like you've mastered one area of subject matter expertise. Move on to the next thing once you have it!”
Senior Vice President & CMO of Wesco International
“Take advantage of stretch projects and lateral career moves to gain expertise in both corporate and commercial marketing. Combining front-line business exposure with strategic work in areas like mergers and acquisitions, investor relations and brand is invaluable. Also, becoming immersed and active in the industry in which you operate, provides grounding and context, expands your network, and increases your value.”
Director of Marketing, Home and Personal Entertainment at Sony Electronics
“The CMO role requires a key mix of art and science – you need a strong creative point of view as well as the ability to dig into the data. Also, the CMO needs to be able to translate the marketing language, KPIs, and activities into the business language the C-suite understands. Aspiring CMOs should learn to move away from just speaking in marketing KPIs and focus more on how to connect marketing activities and results to the larger business goals the C-Suite is focused on. All of this requires being persuasive, collaborative, a good listener, and a problem solver. Lastly, the CMO needs to provide a strong vision and mission for the team to excite and motivate them.”
Looking to accelerate your marketing leadership career?
Helping you advance your career as a marketing leader is literally what we’re here for at CMO Alliance, and we know there’s fantastic advice to be found from our CMOs to Watch.
Their advice doesn’t stop here. Dive into the full CMOs to Watch in 2024 list for top insights on priorities, responsibilities, resources, and more from top marketing leaders.
If you really want to get ahead as a marketing leader, the support of a global network of CMOs is just what you need. And you can find that right here with the CMO Alliance Community.