The Next CEO is the CMO

  • by SalientMG Team
  • Feb 27, 2015


As the head of marketing, maybe CMO, you’re sitting in the boardroom among the executive team. Also in attendance are the various “heads of state” from different departments: sales, HR, operations, technology, product, and editorial among others, depending on your field of business. At the head of the table is the leader of the team, the CEO. The meeting agenda is bookended with information and next steps, but it’s mainly comprised of updates from the cross-functional areas of the business.

In some businesses, marketing is never at or near the top of the agenda, and seldom the focus of a revenue discussion. Why does this happen?

Anna Richardson Taylor is a contributing writer for and, in her article Can CMO’s find their way to the CEO role?, she wrote: “80% of CEO’s do not trust marketers and don’t believe they can produce quantifiable ROI.” I completely agree, but I also see this changing. The days of marketers sitting at the table patiently waiting their turn to report on their part of the business should be coming to an end (at least I hope so). Marketers should be part of every conversation, because they should know everything about the business and not default to “the campaign” as a solution. A marketer’s role is much more than that.

Marketing’s main asset used to be its understanding of the customer and its main contribution was traffic. That’s not the case anymore, because now marketing is integrating with the entirety of the business and contributing across the organization.

I believe that more CMOs are destined to become CEOs in the future, and here are 7 points of integration that I believe are essential in order for this to happen:

  • Internal Operations
    Know everything about how the business works: reporting sources, policies, operational challenges, and which KBI’s are at the top of the list to track at any given time. These are all critically important parts of a busienss and the foundation of any marketing strategy should span all of them. Be Mr. Scott from Star Trek and know how every inch of the Enterprise works, so you can always find a solution to the problem.
  • HR
    Marketing campaigns rely on some level of internal execution and if there are internal issues, they have to be considered: a pending re-organization, labor dispute, compensation changes, bad morale… the list can get very long. A key to marketing success is the motivation of internal teams and if something prevents or mutes the ability to motivate, it needs to be addressed prior to activating a campaign.
  • Product
    The product team, OEM’s and vendors are a marketer’s closest ally. Through partnership with these teams, marketers can find hidden gems within products or services that are highly marketable and may have been otherwise overlooked. Sometimes the smallest product nuance can be leveraged to cater to a specific consumer segment leading to incremental growth and achievement of revenue goals. Also, marketers (sometimes in partnership with operations) can utilize market data and existing customer data to provide marketing requirements for product improvements.
  • P&L Management
    Partnership with finance is critical when justifying a strategy and reporting results. More important is to identify parts of the P&L that can be leveraged to drive incremental revenue. Similar to the approach with product, P&L analysis can expose nuances that marketing can activate against – potential or existing gaps that marketing can close and avoid fire drills when they become large issues, or exploit momentum in an area to grow it further.
  • Sales
    The key to marketing integration with sales is motivation. Marketing plans must motivate sales leadership who will then motivate the sales force. Also, alignment with sales means speaking their language and showing an understanding of their business: product and price mix, channel mix, hurdles, areas of focus, what tactics the teams will execute well, etc. High conversion of heavy marketing traffic means there was great alignment and planning from the beginning.
  • Communication
    Marketers that can speak well to all areas of business will separate themselves and emerge as leaders. The days of subjective rationale for campaigns are over. Marketing is grounded in data and alignment with internal teams. The ability to communicate across the organization in a way that validates strategies, motivates teams and results in great execution is essential. Marketers are also responsible for ensuring that cross-functional groups are aware that information they’ve given Marketing contributed to the direction. No more “marketing speak”.
  • Leadership
    A marketer should never have to sell-in a strategy to his/her peer groups. Instead, if the marketer is presenting the right facts and opportunities, the strategy will emerge organically through interaction with the group. The result is co-dependence, joint accountability and collaboration which leads to shared success or failure among the leadership team.

CMO’s should know all aspects of business and if they do, their creativity, business savvy and communication skills make them a natural fit to eventually become a CEO.

Read Can CMO’s find their way to the CEO role? from contributing writer Anna Richardson Taylor.


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