Part Two: Why the average CMO tenure equals 18 months

CMO tenure

In Part One we discussed from a basic perspective why it is so difficult for a CMO to drive success.  Now we need to go farther into the challenges all CMO’s and those who hire them face.  Some suggest that the average CMO tenure is closer to 24 or 28 months, in reality they are measuring too small a universe of companies.  CMO tenure is a problem that only gets worse as company size decreases.  Smaller organizations need marketing now more than ever, however they tend to have less of an ability to measure the ROI their marketing programs bring.  As a result they tend to jump from one program to the next with no strategic marketing plan.    

The CMO Dilemma:  CMO’s face a common dilemma, do you focus on long-term innovation and maybe miss short-term goals or do you focus on the next ninety days and ultimately get passed by more aggressive competition?  One thing is for sure, organizations with the best financial results have CMO’s who have been around a while and have a real seat at the table in the C-Suite.

How to recruit a new CMO:  The biggest challenge in finding a new CMO is not all CMO jobs are similar.  Unlike the CIO or CFO role, the CMO job actually can have more differences than similarities.  We have identified 5 distinctly different CMO gigs, which means depending on who you hire if you are not aware of what type of marketing organization your company has your chance of success is 20%.  Ultimately, not only do you need to identify what type of marketing organization you have, you need to recognize what kind of talent you have reporting to your CMO. The functional expertise of your existing marketing team will also change the type of expertise you need the CMO to have.  Bringing in a new CMO is a huge opportunity, not just to bring in better talent, but to re-define what marketing needs to do for your company.  Last thing in the world you want to do is bring in a new CMO and ask them to continue with the status quo that led to last person to leave in the first place.

One of our competitors has published a whitepaper on The Successful CMO.  Ultimately the whitepaper leads companies down a path that will set the new CMO up to fail.  In part of the whitepaper, they outline a CMO’s range of responsibilities and the reality is no one has a career with enough breadth of experience for them to come close to checking all those boxes.   You get to be a senior marketer by being an expert in one area first and becoming a generalist later.  This means there are one or two things you do extremely well, a bunch of things you are good at and a few things you have never seen before.  Question is does your expertise as a marketer line up with the type of marketing organization you are walking into?  If not, even the brightest mind will fail as the CMO gig does not offer on-the-job training.

Ultimately if you are inviting someone into the C-Suite, make it a big gig and hire someone who can exceed all expectations.  If you only want advertising and marketing communications, then an SVP of Marketing will suffice.  You will get passed by your competitors who truly understand the CMO is becoming more valuable everyday and the value they provide includes understanding consumer (or business) demand, product development, achieving top line growth and delivering on margin goals.

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