Hired a Bad CMO? What to Do Now

Hired a Bad CMO? Here's What to Do Now

Marketing is the most critical function of any modern business. CEOs who have a top CMO are able to grow their top and bottom-line and frankly, have a lot more job security than those whose marketing leaders are B-players.

There is great pressure for organizations to hire A-level CMOs during a time where competition for top talent has never been more fierce and supply is decreasing, as not all top marketers have kept up with the changes in digital. In today’s marketing environment, you can’t afford to have anything but top-level leadership. If you’re seeing a drop in revenue because your competitors are acquiring new customers faster than you, you can’t continue to move in the wrong direction with a subpar CMO.

Who Is the Super-CMO and Why You May Need One (or Need to Become One)

As a marketing executive search firm, we often get a call after the marketing executive hiring process has failed. We know making the wrong hire can cost your company significant real dollars and have far greater negative aspects as it relates to culture and leadership fit. The more senior the role, the greater the cost of a mistake.

If you’ve hired someone at the executive level, you’ve invested a considerable amount of time and resources in recruiting and getting them onboard. Despite the time invested, it’s less damaging in the long run if you decide to make a change quickly than to be stuck with a CMO who is not performing.

Although handling the impact of a bad CMO is difficult, there are steps you can take to recover and ways to mitigate your risk going forward.

Don’t Waste Time: Be Candid About Your Concerns

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As marketing executive recruiters, we know that it can take up to three to six months before you can truly assess if someone’s going to contribute to the bottom-line, add value, and really move the organization forward or not.

While you need to give your new CMO a fair amount of time to prove themselves in the new role, those who aren’t doing their jobs well can do a lot of damage and harm to the organization. If you realize they aren’t performing up to par, let them know early on. Be direct and transparent in your communication, and openly discuss your concerns. Addressing any performance concerns as early as possible gives your executive the opportunity to improve. Assuming that issues are going to fix themselves as they get more acclimated to your company is more of a hope than a strategy.

Are they failing to meet KPIs and drive top-line growth? Are they not properly leading their team to accomplish critical business goals? Make it very clear that you expect them to show improvement. If they don’t show any progress in an acceptable timeframe, you need to deal with the reality that a change is going to be necessary.

Proceed Accordingly (and Quickly)

If you’re certain your CMO won’t succeed or improve in your organization, it’s important to move quickly in preparing for their departure. Delaying the inevitable doesn’t help. Letting a marketing leader who’s failing pull your business down only gets harder to recover from over time. It places a burden on other senior leaders and employees to fill in the gaps, and ultimately impacts the performance of your organization.

Depending on how poorly the CMO’s performing, determine if it’s best to conduct a confidential marketing executive search. If their position in your company is creating detrimental results, let them go quickly. However, if the hire is an average CMO who isn’t completely failing to drive results, reach out to a top marketing executive search firm to start a confidential search. This will allow you to look for a replacement without completely stripping the marketing team of a leader.

Simply put, when you realize a hire is a wrong fit after you’ve given them enough time to get onboard and produce results, it’s crucial that you move forward as quickly as possible.

Confidential Marketing Executive Search Methodology

Move Your Business Forward

The best way to handle a bad hire is to avoid hiring one in the first place. However, most companies inevitably encounter a bad hire at some point or another. When this happens, all parties should be held accountable.

The candidate shouldn’t have accepted a position they’re not qualified for and the employer should’ve known they weren’t the right person to fill it. If you’re working with a well-versed marketing executive search partner, they should have never presented them as a candidate.

The talent market’s moving too fast for you to have the luxury of hiring slowly. So, what steps can you take to make sure you find the best person for the job with a thorough vetting process?

When you’re filling a critical marketing leadership position like a CMO, it’s important to establish clearly understood expectations and KPIs before you start the hiring process. You must make sure any marketing executive you bring onto your team fits in with the company culture and can meet expectations of the leadership position. Get them accountable for results as quickly as possible. There’s no longer any area in marketing that can’t be tracked to measure ROI.

Hiring a marketing executive is an important step in your company’s growth. As important as it is to find the right person to lead your entire marketing department during a time of unprecedented change, it’s also important to ensure that your new hire is around for the long run.

There are telltale signs that can indicate a candidate isn’t the right fit early on. Whether you’re in the hiring process or you have identified a subpar CMO that’s already on your team, it’s important to establish a heavy priority on tight KPIs and metrics that contribute to ROI. Doing so will help keep all parties on track for success.


In order to get the best people on your team, the hiring process needs to be quick and thorough, especially when hiring a top marketing executive. The best way to hire a super-CMO to lead your business is by partnering with an executive search firm with a long track record of recruiting such talent.

The average failure rate in the executive search industry is 9%, meaning around one out of ten executives placed by executive search firms don’t make it past six months – something we find frightening. The failure rate is even higher if you don’t use a search firm at all. However, to truly find top talent, you want to partner with an executive search firm that can demonstrate success over 98% of the time. As the leading marketing executive search firm, our success rate exceeds 98.5%.

How is that possible? At MarketPro, we’re marketers by trade and training, meaning our expertise in marketing allows us to deliver nothing less than an A-level talent. While most executive search firms don’t have former marketers doing the job, we do – allowing us to talk to candidates and truly separate top marketing talent from everyone else. On top of identifying key marketing skills, we focus on culture fit and leadership. It is only when you bring all of those three things together, that you get a top marketing leader.

That’s why the investment in working with marketing executive recruiters makes sense. With the high costs of hiring and re-hiring on the line, working with a professional marketing search firm to find your executive leader gives you the greatest upside while mitigating your downside risk.

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