Chief Marketers Eye CEO, COO Roles

Broader Responsibilities Characterize Evolved CMO

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Today's chief marketing officers are looking to make the leap to chief operating officer and CEO positions.

Increasingly, chief marketers are positioning themselves for broader management roles, according to a new study from Forrester and Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm. The study, "The Evolved CMO In 2014: CMOs Must Ramp up Business and Technology Acumen," found that chief marketers are eyeing other c-suite roles, as opposed to the consulting gigs and marketing-centric roles they were entertaining a few years ago.

Sheryl Pattek
Sheryl Pattek

Coming out of the recession, chief marketers' roles have become increasingly varied and broad. CMOs, now almost universally viewed as the c-suite executive with the most customer insight, are assuming responsiblities well beyond core marketing and promotion activities, in addition to actively leading corporate strategy and planning efforts. The survey found that CMOs are taking on everything from mergers and acquisitions to product development and testing.

"[Marketers] have a strategic view of the business and where it needs to go. They're being looked at and leaned on by CEOs and, in some cases, corporate boards," said Sheryl Pattek, a Forrester analyst and one of the study's authors. "What that, in turn, creates for CMOs is the need to increase general business and leadership skills."

Indeed, 59% of the survey's respondents said that they aim to expand their leadership and influence in general business strategy -- and with good reason. Forty percent of b-to-b marketers aspire to be a CEO in their next role, while 10% of b-to-c CMOs are looking to jump to a chief operating officer role.

CMOs are also really starting to embrace the "O" part of their titles, Ms. Pattek explained. More than half of CMOs said meeting revenue targets is their most important business driver. Meeting profit targets, increasing shareholder value and growing market share are also key objectives for many CMOs.

"Unlike a VP, you're accountable, you're an officer of the corporation and you're accountable for the business' success," Ms. Pattek said. "It's a different view and lens that's broader than just marketing."

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