CMOs, Stop Obsessing Over the Tenure Stat

Instead, Here's What They Should Be Asking Themselves

By Published on .

Carlos Cata
Carlos Cata
Without question the marketing community has taken hold of the CMO-tenure statistic and run with it. Whether it's morbid fascination or the need to continually justify the role of the chief marketing officer, we simply need to move on.

Instead of framing their roles in terms of self-preservation, CMOs should be asking themselves: What is the proper role of marketing at my organization, and how can it be used to create as much value as possible?

Great chief marketers who understand the importance of creating value for their companies must be great leaders who can generate trust and build connectivity throughout their organizations.

Strong leadership is critical for CMOs who want to look past their own roles within the marketing function and to create value throughout their organizations. The great CMO must lead the effort to promote marketing's value and the importance of customer-centric thinking within every business unit. To that end, CMOs must move away from thinking like functional executives embedded in their own siloed departments and instead think instead like operational executives.

Effective chief marketers must demonstrate their trustworthiness to both senior management and the leaders of every line of business in the organization. For Stephen M.R. Covey, author of "The Speed of Trust," trust is about character (integrity and intent) and competence (capabilities and results).

Carlos Cata is principal of the CMO Practice at executive-search firm Heidrick & Struggles. He is based in the firm's Chicago office.
Virtually every CMO has integrity: absolute honesty and a willingness to stand by one's beliefs. And they typically possess the necessary capabilities -- the skills and knowledge to do their jobs well. Otherwise they would not be where they are today.

If your intention is to build the marketing function into your own personal fiefdom through which you develop creative and clever marketing campaigns without contributing real value to the organization as a whole, then you can certainly live or die by that sword. But if you truly want colleagues and senior executives alike to view you -- and, by extension, the marketing function itself -- as authentic, you need to get past that internal focus. Instead, your intent must be to work throughout the business to promote its overall growth.

Competence -- a driver of trust -- comes down to showing real results in the short term and long term. There has been a lot of talk about "return on marketing investment," and that's certainly a critical measure of marketing's value and importance. Unfortunately, most CEOs simply don't have the patience to wait for returns that may not come for several years. Keep using such metrics, the better to build long-term equity for the marketing function. But go after quick wins as well, preferably through efforts worked on in close contact with individual business units.

Marketing isn't something that's done to an organization or even for it. It's got to be done with the organization. That means, always, working together with every part of the organization to further its sales goals and overall strategic mission -- which is, of course, the only point of marketing in the first place. To that end, great chief marketers must both understand the customer and make sure the customer's voice is heard at every level of the company, and evangelize marketing's value throughout the organization.

So spend less time in focus groups and meeting with the advertising agency. Instead, spend time with the heads of every business unit. Visit the R&D department. Go out on sales calls.

And stop worrying about CMO tenure. Look at it this way: The next time you find yourself wondering how long you'll last, you can be sure the clock is already ticking.
Most Popular
In this article: