Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Roles and Job Task
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has been called the most dangerous title in business. No role in the last fifteen years has been scrutinized and debated more than the Chief Marketing Officer. Businesses have struggled with the title and role since it was first coined not too long ago.”
The position was created to give Marketing, which is central to so much of an organization’s success, a seat at the conference room table as a peer of the traditional C-suite: Operations, Finance, Engineering, Sales, IT etc.
But somehow, while those other positions are all about 30,000-foot thinking and the big picture, the CMO is expected to have one foot in global strategy and the other in the granular details of campaigns.
CMO JOB DESCRIPTION
Clearly, your CMO job description will depend on your industry, the state of your marketing organization, your geographic footprint, etc.
It will also depend on the existence and responsibilities of other C-level executives, such as chief digital officer, chief revenue officer, chief product officer, et al. Everything below will, therefore, need adapting, but let’s have a go.
Here’s an attempt at a generic job description for a global CMO of a Top 1,000 company, based on the key principles of this blog:
JOB DESCRIPTION – CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER
The chief marketing officer will drive profitable and sustainable customer and revenue growth through defining a differentiated and compelling brand strategy, plus rigorously executing the strategy with defined customer target groups, supported by world-class, data-driven marketing and CRM activities, while ensuring that the customer experience meets or exceeds the brand promise.
Define and communicate a brand vision that is compelling, differentiated, motivating and shapes the company culture and activities. Ensure that external brand communication is aligned with the customer experience and internal culture and that customers actually experience the brand promise.
Team: Build a best-in-class marketing team of A-players, including critical roles like CRM, media planning, analytics, creative and technology.
Put in place a clear and effective marketing organizational structure for a data-driven and relentlessly innovative approach. Bring critical capabilities in-house, funded by reducing third-party fees and media spend (through eliminating waste).
Act as your own agency-of-record and build an integrated ecosystem of internal team and systems, combined with third-party technology platforms and creative partners to win, while staying abreast of industry developments. Use rigorous “bake-offs” wherever possible to select vendors.
Planning and Execution:
Write and execute strategies to drive our digital transformation and outperform key competitors. Your strategy should feed into rigorous quarterly goals cascaded throughout your team, right through to planning for each campaign. Iterate your plans regularly, based on learnings and market changes.
Data and CRM: Build a world-class CRM database and approach. Measure all activities using data, linking KPIs as closely as possible to the customer lifetime value approach.
Ensure weekly and monthly dashboards are in place and used for all KPIs that matter, plus hold data-driven reviews of every single campaign. Use data to maximize the ROI from creativity, rather than kill it.
We understand that building a world-class marketing ecosystem takes more than one quarter. Therefore, to incentivize the right behavior, your success (and bonus) will be based on:
Quarterly MBOs: These will focus on delivering many of the activities and outputs defined above, in order to build a world-class marketing function over multiple quarters.
Customer Lifetime Value:
Given that much of your focus will be on efficiently acquiring, upselling and retaining customers, while simultaneously improving their lifetime value, you will have a bonus linked to the total predicted future value of the CRM database (audited by Finance).
As this role should have an enormous impact on company value, there is a very generous stock option plan in place for the selected candidate.
We are looking for someone who can transform the marketing organization for the digital age. Therefore, we expect the following experience and qualifications:
Strategy: In-depth strategy experience, either at a top-tier consulting firm or on the strategy team of a respected company
Broad Functional Experience: Prefer candidates who have worked in more than just the marketing function. Ideally, in addition to marketing, also in analytics, product, sales, eCommerce and project management roles. Experience working within an agency-of-record would also be useful, as you will be building those skills in-house.
Digital Marketing: In-depth experience in digital marketing, including a working knowledge of customer lifetime value, plus search, social, video, and mobile advertising. Experience working in a marketing technology or Big Data company would be advantageous.
Leadership: Have built and led world-class teams to attract, develop and retain top talent, plus manage out underperformers.
Highly Numerate: Ideally studied for a numerate degree (e.g., economics, statistics, engineering). MBA would be beneficial
Project Management: Have run/overseen large complex technical projects, such as CRM system implementation
Beyond these specific experiences and qualifications, we also expect the CMO to possess the following characteristics:
The sense of Urgency: Love winning and working at speed. Have a track record of setting industry standards and benchmarks. Smash through obstacles. Doesn’t accept “no”
Intellect: Have the brains and confidence to be accepted as a peer of the other C-level executives. Have been a thought leader in all your former roles
Creativity: Use data and insights to continuously find new and better ways to get stuff done. Can identify and nurture creative talent to drive business success
Teamwork: Display a history of successful collaboration with peers in other functions
Toughness: Have a track record of firing underperforming people and suppliers, and dropping/pivoting initiatives if they haven’t delivered the expected results
Action-Oriented: Don’t need a corner office or an assistant. Spend your days with sleeves rolled up, either with your teams getting stuff done, listening to customers, or checking out the competition
Global: Have lived and/or worked for significant periods in at least five countries
Prepared to Travel: This job requires constantly taking the pulse of customers and front line marketers, as well as evangelizing the brand, therefore it requires 50% travel
Does that make sense for your organization? Feel free to adapt to your specific company and role.
THE FIRST 90 DAYS
This is a critical time for any new hire. In the spirit of moving fast and winning, for your CMO’s first 90 days, you should reasonably expect: A review of brand strategy and market differentiation, then a proposal of tweaks to strategy or execution (a full rebrand might take longer).
A review of all current marketing activities—in-house and third-party—and work out where the weaknesses are.
Make a plan, and get your senior team’s sign-off for the revamped marketing organizational structure and new hires, as well as the ecosystem of technology to be built. Get all senior/critical open positions to have offers accepted within 90 days.
A written strategy for customer LTV and CRM. Also, get sign-off on platform, budget, and timeline. An increase in KPI measurement, rigor and a sense of urgency to all marketing activities, from creative iteration to media spend optimization.
Meeting a good representative sample of customers and front-line marketing employees, to take the pulse of both customer sentiment and staff attitudes. Summarize the findings and actions required to ensure that your company culture and customer experience are aligned with your brand.
A review of your website and mobile app, and a plan for any improvements.
Agreement on clear quarterly objectives for marketing for the next 90 days that align neatly with the overall strategy. The list above assumes that the marketing team is at least 60% staffed by competent people on the arrival of the new CMO.
If the team is much weaker/shallower, this list of activities may take a little longer. But all critical open positions should have offers accepted within the first 90 days so that you don’t lose another quarter.
Do a rigorous review after 90 days, to ensure that you, your new CMO and your other C-level team members are aligned about the state of marketing, and what needs to happen. You don’t want to take too long developing this plan, or let your CMO start implementing one you don’t agree with.
What KPIs should you use?
How should you and your CMO judge success?
With what frequency should you review them?
How do you get the right balance of strategic and tactical focus?
I would argue for three categories of metrics to track for a perfect marketing scorecard:
Progress versus strategic goals
Key initiative progress
Let’s look at these one-by-one:
PROGRESS VS. STRATEGIC GOALS
For the big strategic goals, such as building an awesome CRM database, maximizing customer LTV, or shaping your company’s reputation, you should set BHAGs or “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals”.
These BHAGs define the desired end state: this could include the database size and quality; market share; customer numbers; revenue per customer that are you trying to achieve in the next 2-3 years.
You can then set quarterly milestones, i.e., break your BHAGs into quarter-by-quarter goals so that you can track progress towards meeting your BHAG over multiple quarters.
KEY INITIATIVE PROGRESS
These are related to one-off campaigns or projects, which could be focused on specific marketing goals, or back-end marketing processes and capabilities.
Each initiative will have goals that need to be monitored before, during and after the initiative, but at some stage, you will stop tracking and move on to the next initiative, because they will be completed (or killed).
This makes a “standard” marketing dashboard—that never changes—a mistake. Examples of trackable initiatives could include:
Launching a new product or service
Entering a new market
Seasonal campaigns, e.g., Christmas or Back to School or the Super Bowl
Launching new/revamped websites and apps
Overhauling the creative process to make it more efficient, scrappy and iterative
Introducing a new platform
For each initiative you’re tracking, you’ll have a different dashboard and set of KPIs, and they probably won’t fit neatly with the quarterly schedule. If in doubt, for most initiatives, KPIs fit into one of three buckets:
Are the right things happening at the right time to stay on track, as per the plan?
Is everything costing what it should?
Are the outcomes of meeting or beating expectations?
These are the KPIs that demonstrate daily impact and the KPIs around which a lot of marketing activities can be optimized. They fit more neatly into a dashboard, and would typically be tracked daily by the marketing team, weekly by your CMO and monthly/quarterly by you. They would include things like:
Awareness: Lean back interactions, in which potential customers are reminded who your company is and what you do, but don’t need to do anything. For example:
The number of target customers reached with your non-engaging messages, such as TV or display ads (“reach”)
The number of times those customers saw your message (“frequency”)
Brand awareness survey results
Interest: Lean forward interactions, in which consumers actively engage with your brand content. For example:
The number of visits to the website
The number of times your mobile app was opened (without purchase)
The number of videos watched to completion (when skipping was an option)
Total number of articles read
The count of other engagements with consumers, like social media shares
Intent: The times in which consumers demonstrate that they’re thinking of spending money with you. For example:
Mobile apps downloaded (free version)
The number of appointments blogged (e.g., test drives)
The number of people who submit their details (email addresses, phone numbers) in order to learn more
The number of samples ordered/coupons downloaded
Sales: Instances in which consumers actually spend money with you. For example:
The number of new paying customers
The ratio and number of existing customers upsold/cross-sold
Revenue and gross profit, broken down by geography, channel, product, etc.
Times in which existing customers extended their relationship with your brands. For example:
Percentage of customers renewed/lapsed
Change in customer LTV
Work out the ROI on your marketing spend to determine:
Marketing costs as a percentage of predicted LTV created
Marketing spend versus LTV created
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Taking these three elements of the scorecard into account, each quarter you should set your CMO quarterly MBOs. These are the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) goals, defined in detail, that you expect the CMO to deliver in the current quarter.
They could be related to the BHAGs, key initiatives or optimizing a particular tactical KPI. Likely a combination of all three.
You need to set these to avoid the trap that many marketing organizations fall into, in which the only tracked metrics are tactical KPIs, while the department never transforms marketing or achieves market preeminence.
Your CMO should also set quarterly MBOs for each direct report so that every single person makes tangible progress towards the most important BHAGs each quarter.
QUESTION THE DATA
Finally, given that you have (or are about to build) a world-class CRM database, you will soon have all sorts of data to query, with questions such as: “We’ve lost X customers. Show me the demographic breakdown and give me an analysis of the reasons why we lost them.”
“What percentage of our customers are in the database and how much do we know about them? I want to know at least 15 things about each one. What do we have to do to get there?”
For your CMO: “If you had to fire one of your direct reports, which one would it be?”
In summary, you need to just keep your finger permanently on the pulse of your company culture and customer experience, and lead by example.
I said I’d keep it short and respect your time, so I did. Everything that you need to know about marketing in under 130 pages. That’s it unless you want to learn more.
So what now?
To begin with, understand the reality of the situation. Marketing is changing faster and more radically than any other time in the history of commerce. This is about survival.
If you maximize LTV and execute CRM and creative iteration well, you’re going to win market share, grow profitably and increase your share price. If you don’t, your company will wither and die.
While that may seem melodramatic, trust me when I say that it’s not. Cutting edge marketing strategy and execution are critical to your company success and it’s not enough to be good. You have to be better than your competitors, or you will lose.
Here are some steps you can take over the next 30 days to ensure that you’re the winner.
Assess your CMO:
Should you keep or fire your current CMO? You need to know that first, as you can’t build a world-class marketing function without an A-player as the leader.
If you conclude that your CMO is a keeper, then executing everything below gets MUCH easier. If not, then you need to work out how much you can get done, while you find a new CMO.
Assess the Organization:
Complete the checklist and—more important—dig deep into the questions it brings up. How’s your talent pool? What’s your marketing culture like? Does your creative process produce genius or mediocrity? Does everyone collaborate? What needs to change?
Assess Third-Party Providers: Are your vendors, contractors and service providers delivering value or ripping you off and costing you
big money? Time to find out.
Review your Use of Data and Technology: Are you collecting all the customer data you should? Is it secure? Are you leveraging it for your CRM strategy? Are you effectively using social, mobile and search?
Assign Responsibility for the CRM Database: Remember, it’s either the CMO’s or the CEO's baby. Figure out who’ll do it better and agree on the strategy ASAP. Get sign off from all key stakeholders.
Set Aligned Marketing Goals: Determine where you want to be in the next year and what metrics will tell you that you’ve arrived. Be clear and precise with the goals you set, make sure everyone knows them, and hold everyone accountable.
Determine your Role as Brand Steward: Define how you will personally embody the brand in your actions, behaviors, and communication—both internally and externally.
End the Waste and Inefficiency: From overcharging vendors to marked-up media buys, there are a hundred ways your organization could be wasting money and hurting results. Find them.
Determine How You’ll Stay on Top of Marketing Changes: Are you going to be checking in on the dashboard? Sitting in on strategy meetings? Meeting with the CMO? How will you interface with Marketing on a regular basis?
You need key people attending conferences and trade shows, reading white papers, surfing blogs and more, staying current with the latest marketing IT and ideas. Who gets that responsibility?
One area where the CEO, CMO, and legal team need to be on the same page is the use of CRM data for retargeting. Retargeting is an artifact of our zero-privacy age when every mouse click and keystroke can be logged, captured and mined for data on age, gender, income, geographic location and more.
When a consumer goes to Amazon.com to look for lawn chairs but doesn’t buy them, the system uploads a “cookie” (a tiny code-based identifier within a browser) to her computer.
When she goes to Facebook, she sees Amazon ads for lawn chairs next to her wall or in her News Feed—a digital kind of “Don’t forget that you were interested in this” nagging. That’s retargeting version 1.0.
Yes, it’s a little intrusive and some people even find it annoying. However, done well, it’s a powerful tool for tracking consumer behavior across multiple online properties and getting relevant offers into the hands of people who are planning to make purchases. And now the growth of the CRM database has brought us “CRM-driven targeting”, a major advance.
Instead of those irritating “Stop following me around the Internet!” ads, CRM tools let a company use the information in its CRM database to send much more targeted messages to the social media pages of customers with whom they already have a relationship.
Instead of being shadowed all over the Web by cookie-enabled reminders that, yes, for five seconds they were curious about the inexplicable appeal of Duck Dynasty, consumers get relevant messaging based on who they are and what they care about.
The targeting is based on matching the customer’s email address or mobile phone number with a profile of her when she visits, says, Facebook.
That’s leveraging your CRM database to communicate with your customers in meaningful ways, differentiating yourself from competitors whose marketing is less personal, and engaging your best customers for the long term.
THREE THINGS EVERY CMO SHOULD DO
1. Define your Brand Purpose:
Defend it to the end. No one else is in a better position to ensure that your organization is clear on what your brand values, what motivates you as a business and how you measure success.
Figure out how to express that purpose so you can share it with others who will help grow your brand, from your staff to your agency partners. Appoint yourself head watchdog and ferociously guard your brand against any who overstep the bounds of how your brand comes to life each and every day.
2. Be Fearless: To succeed, you must have a mindset of constant experimentation. Always be looking for new ways to take ideation in new directions. Think about what unexpected element, talent or partner you can introduce to take imaginations to new places. Some will work, others won’t. When they do work, be the first to celebrate with the team.
When an idea doesn’t work out, reinforce the fact that it was a learning experience—after all, you did learn something!
3. Inspire a Culture of Creativity: Creativity is not a department; it’s everyone’s job. It’s the mission of a great CMO to draw creativity out of everyone.
That means teaching people to be agile and to innovate with whatever they bring to the table. That means welcoming constant change. It means getting rid of the status quo processes, procedures, and marketing models.
It means relentlessly driving education and evolution. It means getting up every day ready to create, launch, learn and know you’re going to start all over again the next day.
MUST-DOS TO FOSTER AN IDEA CULTURE
Still with me? Good. Let the creativity begin. How do you doggedly, fearlessly encourage creativity in your CMO, your organization and your marketing partners—what I call creating an “idea culture”? Some suggestions:
1. Look for human truths
The most powerful ideas come from real human insights. Things that are universal. That really connect. Whether through primary research, social insights or other means, uncover the real insights into what consumers are feeling.
As a quick example, a large fast-food chain we were working with needed to sell a new sandwich.
Unfortunately, the sandwich had a name that was difficult to pronounce. Knowing that people love to correct mistakes on social media, we purposefully mispronounced the name of the sandwich throughout our campaign.
This not only gave customers permission to order the sandwich—and have fun mispronouncing the name when doing so—but also encouraged an extraordinary amount of social conversation as people corrected our “mistake”.
2. Give your customers control
It may seem counterintuitive to loosen the reins, but the better you define your brand and encourage a strong emotional connection to it, the more your customers will feel ownership. You’ll be amazed at how they’ll defend your brand.
How they help reinforce your beliefs. Become your co-conspirators. That creates the most powerful type of marketing. It’s real. Honest.
You must also maintain consistency. As soon as your words or actions don’t reflect who you say you are as a brand, your customers will call you on it. An airline that we worked with is a master of this mentality. It empowers its people at every level of the organization to live the brand; that mindset permeates every word and action.
As a result, customers understand what the brand is all about. So much so, that when a negative comment appears on social media, this airline rarely has to say a thing. Its loyal customers quickly jump in to become defenders.
3. Realize your customers are very busy people on a constant journey
Wouldn’t it be great if you could make your customers slow down and listen to your message? Sure. The chances of that happening are slim to none.
So the question really is, “How can your brand join them on their journey?” How can your messages become so meaningful that customers can’t turn away?
Think of a day in the life of your customer. Think about your brand purpose and how it can come to life in new ways and in every connection your customer has with you.
4. Become best friends with the CIO
Sometimes the best ideas are forged from unlikely alliances. Look for those collaborations. Take your CIO...please. First, your missions must be aligned and centered on the consumer experience.
Then, whether through eCommerce solutions, customer service or database marketing, both the CMO and CIO can look for new ways to make every customer engagement lead to a positive perception and strong brand reinforcement.
5. Leverage technology, but don’t rely on it as an idea
You’d be amazed how often clients come to VML asking to “be on Facebook” or saying they “need an app” without having a clear idea why. Using technology in this way—just to say you did—is absolutely the wrong way to go. Start with the idea, then see how it can best come to life.
If that’s through technology, run with it. Get on Facebook or build an app. But don’t do tech because someone else did or because it’s buzzworthy. Great creative is idea-driven, has an objective and aligns with your efforts to drive results within your target market.
6. Challenge the status quo every day
You don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them. Sometimes you’re better off if you don’t. Question and disrupt your legacy processes and procedures on a daily basis—not just to be disruptive, but because there could be a better, more dynamic way to solve a challenge.
The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” leads to stagnant thinking, complacency, and risk aversion. Make sure everyone you work with has the mindset of always looking for a better way.
We worked with a client with a brand in a state of decline. Seems like the perfect time to question the status quo, right?
But rather than do that, the company continued to cling to and reinforce bad habits: delivering briefs loaded with too many points, conducting focus groups that tested ads to within an inch of their life, performing legal reviews that removed all impact and making all decisions by committee.
It was easy to see why the brand was failing and the future was looking ever bleaker.
7. Create spaces that encourage collaboration
Make your office environments and culture open to collaboration and innovation. It sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how many clients tell us how they envy our open office environment.
What’s stopping you from having this same type of open environment and collaborative workspace for your marketing team? If your teams are locked in offices or stuck behind cubicles, their creative spirit is being held back. Work to bring energy into your office. Find ways to support your team’s efforts to work together.
If your culture won’t allow you to reconfigure office spaces, leave the office every so often. After all, you’re the boss. Sometimes the best collaborations happen in a new and unexpected place. So take your teams outside their everyday environment on occasion and find a new one—and some new ways of thinking.
8. Get your leaders to commit to doing what it takes
Great companies reinvent themselves. The alternative is to become one of the countless mediocre brands out there—to fall into a vast sea of sameness. Do what it takes to be great. Do what it takes to be exceptional. That means ensuring you and your leadership are all involved in creativity.
If you’re relying on mid-level managers to bless strategies and review work before it hits your desk, you’re wasting time and energy. Ultimately, everyone is trying to predict what you will like and not like.
You and the other C-level execs must be involved in strategy, direction, and objectives and invested in providing feedback along the way—or the second-guessing will kill the truly great (and often scary) ideas.
9. Expect greatness from your partners
People rise to what’s expected of them. We know which clients demand greatness and which are content with marginal work. We want to do great work. We want our clients to expect great work every time. Let’s do it together. Expect nothing less.
10. Keep your eye on the ball
Others may get caught up in the day-to-day drama or a crisis. The CMO can’t do that. He or she must keep the brand on the course and delivering the only result that matters: business growth.
So measure your efforts and stay true. That might require evolution, like rethinking how you do testing. It’s not just a TV world anymore.
Today’s pace is quick and one of constant monitoring, iteration, and optimization. Every move you make—and every great idea you and your team develops—needs to remain firmly centered on moving your business and brand forward.