Why the average CMO tenure equals 18 months

average CMO tenure

Marketing has never been more important than it is today. In fact, marketing is now even more important than sales.

However, many companies have a difficult time finding and keeping the best possible CMO.

Let’s look at a few of the core reasons why the average CMO only lasts 18 months.

First, even though several members of a company’s executive team will interview a potential CMO, typically, none of them truly understand marketing. This makes them uniquely unqualified for the task.

Marketing is, to say the least, unique. It’s not like finance, IT or operations and asking similar interview questions when recruiting a CFO, CIO or COO will make hiring a CMO a gamble at best.

Without the knowledge to make an informed decision, even the best interview process offers no real value to you.

Few CEOs understand marketing and how it can benefit their organization. They understand why marketing benefits them, but not how and this makes them ineffective interviewers for the CMO role.

As someone who has placed many CMOs, and all of the ones we have placed in the last 3 plus years are still are still in place, I am constantly dumbfounded by the interview questions candidates get when interviewing for a CMO role.

The CMO role is strategic, but the questions CMO candidates are typically asked are usually tactical and often more appropriate for someone interviewing for a manager level role. Asking the wrong questions, not only gets you inadequate data to make a decision, but also turns off the most talented candidates.

By the same token, most CMO candidates who have achieved enough success in their career to be a viable CMO candidate, do not routinely understand which CMO roles they can excel in and which ones are best left to someone with different experience.

Hence they customarily do not ask the right questions, assuming their past success can be replicated in any CMO role. Ultimately that is not the case for even the brightest mind with the incorrect career foundation.

As an example, the first question candidates usually ask is about budget. This question is irrelevant and it sends the wrong message to the employer. Successful candidates need to know how to differentiate this company from its competitors..

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only these two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

So, when both sides of the interview process enter it with gaps in knowledge, how do you overcome this problem and hire successfully?

Referencing Drucker’s statement , you must first acknowledge you are talking about the most important position in the company.

Second, from the company perspective, you want to stop seeing marketing as an expense and view it as the most strategic part or your organization. Then develop a performance-based job profile, not a job description. Using this profile, develop the qualifications you need in a candidate and then craft interview questions to determine if someone has already been successful doing these things.

We are not looking for someone who can do the job, we are looking for someone who has already done it.

Third, if you are a CMO candidate get real about your background, skills and abilities. If you go for the job because it has a big title and it’s a new challenge, don’t be surprised to find you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

Marketing does not mean the same thing to all organizations and how they achieve differentiation varies greatly.

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