The Ultimate Guide: 6 Key Differences Between a Good CMO and a Great One

6 Key Differences Between a Good CMO and a Great One

The CMO role today is completely different from what it used to be a few decades ago. It has far evolved from the “make things pretty” department and has earned the respect of its C-level counterparts as a true catalyst for organizational growth.

The fast developments in the marketing industry continue to highlight the distinctions between a good CMO and a great one more than ever. A good CMO is capable of driving successful outcomes by developing an effective marketing plan. An excellent CMO, on the other hand, is a game-changer for your company.

Related Video: Key Trends for the CMO in 2018

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Marketing Executive Recruiters: What Sets a Great CMO Apart from a Good One?

Whether you’re a CEO in need of a CMO executive search, or a CMO trying to rise above the rest, there are certain capabilities that can clearly distinguish an excellent leader from a subpar one.

While there is no set formula for a perfect CMO, there are six key traits marketing executive recruiters believe superior CMOs must possess in order to rise above the rest:

On the Path to Become CEO

It was not common a few years ago for CMOs to be considered for the job of CEO of a business. However, as the authority has risen, more CMOs are being employed and groomed to be the next CEO.

A remarkable CMO demonstrates the potential to become a great CEO. If key players in an organization aren’t even considering the CMO to be the successor, it’s one of the earliest signs of a subpar leader.

Sharp Eyes for Cutting-Edge Talent

What’s a superb CMO without the right team to support them?

The scope of a CMO is greater than one individual can manage. Not only does an excellent CMO possess cutting-edge skills themselves, but they know how to identify top talent to support their strategy and vision.

Marketing executive recruiters recognize that identifying the best candidates to fill these new seats and carry out new initiatives is challenging, especially since even the best HR departments don’t have a depth of subject matter expertise in marketing.

Getting great talent on your team involves two key areas:

  1. The ability to set the best marketing org chart. As marketing changes, so has the people you need on the bus. If you have not created a few completely new roles in the last two years, this is a strong sign you have a good CMO.
  2. Finding top talent. This is more challenging than ever, especially in digital. The best people want to go work for a great leader. If the best candidates are not accepting your offers, then you likely only have a good CMO.

A top CMO will know if you need a VP of MarTech or a VP of Innovation to truly take your marketing ahead of your competitors. The type of roles and talent your organization needs depends on your industry, and it takes a highly perceptive and insightful CMO to understand that.

Lifelong Learner

The role of the CMO is ever-changing in an unpredictable industry. However, one thing is clear in today’s marketing landscape: the effect of rising technologies and digital advances will only get stronger.

Superior CMOs acknowledge the shift to digital and that they must continue to evolve and learn amongst the changes. They aren’t just able to keep up with developments but are able to successfully take advantage of them in a way that transforms their marketing strategy.

Marketing executives must commit to continuing to acquire new skills and honing existing ones for new applications. Exceptional CMOs continually fine-tune their skill sets over time – or risk falling behind and pulling their businesses down with them.

While it is difficult to anticipate the future, being at the forefront of embracing emerging trends and abilities is entirely possible and important. CMOs that can remain ahead of digital are the ones who survive in today’s organizations.

ROI Attribution


As any successful CMO, one must be able to measure and understand data to effectively prove their strategy is working and creating a strong ROI.

Metrics are essential in understanding results and what actions need to be taken in the future to improve marketing efforts. Being able to demonstrate attribution is a clear sign of proficiency and makes all the difference in a good and exceptional CMO.

We realize, as marketing executive recruiters, that there is a rising demand for analytically minded marketing professionals. Marketers who can provide real results that the CMO can turn into ROI metrics. Great marketing executives are capable of identifying these skilled individuals to fulfill the objectives. By utilizing analytical information to further empower their team, CMOs motivate the rest of the organization to follow suit.

Pioneer of Growth

The power and expectations from CMOs are increasingly demanding. It has never been more important for CMOs to show the fruits of their labor and prove their value to the organization. They are accountable for growth and must know how to develop and implement sophisticated strategies to drive top line revenue.

From adopting cutting-edge tactics to company-wide digital transformation to the integration of critical new executive positions, the CMO is increasingly at the forefront of sweeping initiatives and is the driver of innovation.

Great CMOs understand how to lead the charge against organizational inertia and build momentum toward progress. These marketing leaders are forward-thinking innovators who think ahead (and quickly) to drive continuous growth.

Ability to Identify Gaps

Finding bugs

With so many moving parts in a marketing campaign or strategy, it’s easy to overlook key elements and have something slip through the cracks. One weakness in your marketing operations can leave a gap to be exploited by competitors or unexpected shortcomings.

Exceptional CMOs are constantly vigilant in maintaining the integrity of their plan and can recognize areas where they fall short. This is especially essential for the people on their team, the customer experience, data management, and discovering untapped market niches.

Being able to identify any cracks in your marketing efforts omits the risk of being outperformed by the competition and propels long-term growth.

Closing Words

An excellent CMO not only understands the scope of a strong marketing leader but is also a change agent in what has to happen in marketing to stay ahead. They understand the sorts of innovation required from a marketing, product, and organizational standpoint, and they are the driving force behind long-term success.

To be exceptional, CMOs must find a method to balance pressing needs with processes that promote personal and team training, education, and professional advancement.

If you’re a CMO who feels like you’re falling behind, it’s never too late to learn something new.

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