3 Skills Needed by The Modern CMO

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3 Skills Needed by The Modern CMO

The Evolution of the CMO

Much has been written about the evolution of the Chief Marketing Officer, aka CMO. While not all companies use the CMO title, I like it because it acknowledges the top marketing person as a “chief” level executive in the coveted C suite of an organization.

In my view the CMO in today’s business climate must possess three key skills to be successful in the role and for their employer. Each of these skills could be dissected further. Let’s look at each one.

Diplomacy

An effective diplomat has vision, communication and relationship skills. The CMO must have a vision for the entire company, not just for the marketing strategy. The CMO must be capable of capturing that vision and communicating it across the entire organization. You might think it is the CEO’s responsibility to be the top vision caster in an organization. If you have a CEO like Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook) or Larry Page (Google), you have a strong CEO who has vision and the ability to articulate it. Even these visionary CEOs are surrounded by smart people who inspire them, help them shape the vision and develop the message that gets communicated throughout the enterprise and into the marketplace. Enter the CMO…But, what if your CEO is not a visionary? What if he grew up in Finance or Engineering or another career path where vision and communication was not part of the job description. Maybe he’s been a terrific operations guy, but he is not a vision caster. Enter again, the CMO. The CMO must diplomatically capture the vision of the company, articulate it to the CEO and oftentimes to the board of directors, and then sell it to the entire company and the marketplace. More than any other skill, she needs diplomacy to pull that off.

Diplomacy has another role. The modern CMO must surround herself with people whose skills complement hers. She may not be as experienced as others in specific elements of modern marketing such as social intelligence or inbound marketing. Diplomacy calls for humility and the willingness to empower her team to bring those skills to the forefront to produce results that benefit the business.

Analytical

In the 2013 IBM Global CMO Report titled From Stretched to Strengthened the number one ranked challenge named by CMOs was their inability to gain understanding and relevant insights from the explosion of data. Let’s face it, we have become a data-driven business society. We have spreadsheets that track minutia details about our customers and prospective customers, but most marketers don’t know how to manage or interpret the data. Worse yet, they don’t know what actions to take as a result of all the data. Today’s CMO needs to be part IT either in skills or in staff, or both. The May issue of Chief Content Officer magazine recently profiled Eduardo Contrado, SVP of Marketing and IT at Motorola Solutions as an example of the emerging role of MIT – Marketing Information Technology.  A recent Gartner report predicts the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.

The CMO needs to know what data is needed to make decisions, how to access it, how to organize it, interpret it and present findings to stakeholders in the C suite and other areas of the organization. This requires both quantitative and qualitative skills. She needs to surround herself with brain power (internal or external) to collaborate on data interpretation and the recommended actions. Action plans can touch all aspects of the organization ranging from customer service strategies, product innovation ideas, new markets to pursue, distribution channel issues, pricing strategies, promotion ideas and other marketing elements. Speaking of marketing…

Marketer

The CMO needs to understand how to develop marketing strategies that align with the organization’s vision. Marketing strategies need to resonate with the target customer in relevant channels with relevant content in relevant platforms and with relevant calls-to-actions. Marketing programs need to be well planned, executed and measured. A modern marketer understands the diverse mix of communication channels and uses data to determine which channels deliver the best outcomes. The modern CMO makes it easy for subject matter experts in her organization to tell their story and publish those stories to attract customers whose problems you solve.

The feature image at the top of this post is Beth Comstock, the CMO at GE. Beth embodies the modern CMO in many ways. No doubt she possesses these three skills. Her focus at GE is innovation to create new products that contribute tens of millions in revenue. This Forbes article will provide some insight into how Beth collaborates throughout the GE enterprise to move the needle at GE. Even if your organization is a fraction of the size of GE, everything discussed in this post applies to every modern CMO.

Do you have anything to add on this topic? I welcome your thoughts on this topic in the comments area below. 

Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges is CMO of Vengreso, the leader in digital sales transformation. He's also Host of the award winning Modern Marketing Engine podcast. His book Marketing 2.0, was an early playbook in social media strategy. Bernie is also a trainer and speaker. He has a passion for guiding clients in aligning marketing and sales for accelerated revenue results. Bernie enjoys kayaking with his family in Tampa Bay, going to hockey games and you'll find him at the gym at 6am Monday through Friday, rain or shine.

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