The CMO career choice

chief marketing officer - CMO
chief marketing officer - CMO


The CMO career choice

A chief marketing officer, or CMO, is the C-suite individual hired to implement all of a company’s marketing initiatives. Once employed within this executive-level role, you will need to show that you are boosting the incoming revenue of the company – by overseeing everything from its brand management and marketing communications, to its market research, product marketing, distribution channels, pricing and customer-service levels, says Charles Edelstein of Executive Placements.


Your four key responsibilities

As you set about driving revenue by increasing the sales that are possible throughout your daily marketing initiatives, so you will need to wear the following four hats:

• that of marketing guru, to lead your team professionally and expertly;
• that of customer cheerleader, as you strive to create brand loyalty and ensure that the end-user experience is a highly rewarding one;
• that of growth instigator, by means of the strategic decisions that you’re called upon to make;
• that of head creative, as you nurture the stories that the marketing department is weaving, spur on the development of their most innovative ideas, and thereby attract the customer base that will ultimately lead to the continuation of the business as a thriving concern.

Because of the senior nature of your role, you will generally report directly to the chief executive officer, in partnership with the chief revenue officer – as you collectively set up a marketing roadmap where product development and growth goals, together with profits, are never far from your minds.

How the role has shifted

It is interesting to note how the marketing role at any given company and across the entire business landscape has evolved, as a result of the bombardment of information hitting us from the likes of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) tools – and also how these tools have personalised many of the customer-focused communications we wish to send out today.

According to the the research of marketing experts at Harvard Business Review, the CMOs of today are expected to “creatively apply insights to business challenges, validate decisions with data, create seamless customer experiences across media and revenue channels, and lead efforts to put the customer at the centre” – of almost everything you do!


How to succeed in the role

The main problem with taking on a CMO job, is that it is a career in which the job description needs to allow you to increase a company’s revenue; not simply manage marketing communications (i.e. via advertising campaigns and on social media).

Whereas CEOs often have high expectations for what their newly hired CMO may be able to achieve, unless the job description allows this individual to draw up a strategy for driving firm-wide growth, no one in their shoes will really be able to succeed.

To overcome this problem, say marketing academics Kimberley Whitler and Neil Morgan, companies should be sure to create the appropriate CMO role and fill it with a suitably qualified person. They write, in the Harvard Business Review article “Why CMOs never last”, that a CMO’s tasks be set out clearly (whether enterprise-wide, strategy related, or taking a commercial focus); their responsibilities be related to their entent of their scope; that the CEO sets out, from the get go, how their success will be measured (whether via metrics, goals or targets); and that the appropriate candidate is hired where no disconnect can be seen between: 1) their qualifications and experience; 2) the part they will play in the company’s success; and 3) the jurisdiction they will be given to help the company rise up against the competition.

How to get there

Whether you’ve just finished school and are considering which course of study is best to get you into marketing, or you’re changing career paths a little later on in life, the experts at GetSmarter advise that you kick off the process with a bachelor’s degree in business or a marketing-related subject. As a second step, this organisation, which delivers online courses from world-leading universitites and other educational institutions that are designed to fit into a busy schedule, holds firm on the clout of a Masters in Marketing; or, alternatively, an MBA specialising in Marketing.

If the latter course of study seems extreme, remember that when you reach the CMO corner office, you will be managing budgets and will need to have a clear understanding not only of customer-related functions, but also of strategy, corporate finance, and leadership development. Few forms of study other than an MBA can provide the specialised knowledge, language, and approach to help you achieve great heights in this super-challenging career game.

But relevant work experience of at least 10 to 15 years may also stand you in good stead in a CMO job interview, where the average earnings can be up to R990 876 per annum in South Africa, particularly if you can walk the talk about making the product/service more attractive to the customer, or the customer more amenable to the product/service.