Why the average CMO tenure equals 40 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 tenure for CMOs fell to 40 months these last few years.

For starters, at most companies, the interview process will consist of several executive members interviewing a potential CMO candidate. However, often, marketing executive recruiters are seeing that these interviewers have little to no knowledge of marketing. Not only does this make them uniquely unqualified for the task but gives your company a higher risk of turnover.

With that being said, marketing is, to say the least, unique. It’s not like finance, IT, or operations. You can not ask similar interview questions as you would when recruiting a CFO, CIO, or COO. Your executive hiring team must have a deep understanding of marketing and be equipped to ask specific questions that align with your company’s goal for the future.

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

According to Marketing Dive, the marketing industry is growing increasingly digital and the expectations of CMOs are constantly changing. Your CMO must have the leadership skills to focus your marketing efforts on a customer-centric approach, be more data-driven, and execute personalized marketing strategies to keep up with your competitors. Therefore, the only way to guarantee your CMOs success is to find the right CMO from the start.

As the leading marketing executive search firm, we have placed many CMOs, and the majority of the ones we have placed in the last 3 plus years are still in place. This is because our recruiters consist of past marketing experts. We can construct interview questions that will help us properly narrow down the right candidates for our clients.

The reality is, a CMO role is strategic. 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 gets you inadequate data to make a decision and turns off the most talented candidates.

By the same token, most CMO candidates who have achieved enough success in their career to be viable CMO candidates, 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 of 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 successfully doing these things.

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

At the end of the day, marketing does not mean the same thing to all organizations, and how they achieve differentiation varies greatly.

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