What are companies looking for in a chief marketing officer?

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Christopher C. Nadherny, consultant, global executive search firm Spencer Stuart

After conducting numerous recent CMO searches, there are a number of common themes and skill sets CEOs and senior management tell us they are looking for. The first is customer-centricity; simply put, customer empathy and being able to stand in the shoes of your best customers. Ideally this includes sales experience – time spent on the front line dealing with customers and understanding what works in practice, not theory.

In addition, companies want strong business analysis skills. The ability to integrate data from multiple sources to create real information that leads to customer insight, strategy development and action, all in a compressed timeframe, is crucial.

An appreciation and instinct for technology and how it is used in a delivery channel, while being grounded in basic selling and direct marketing skills, is another important value. Technology in and of itself can be expensive and, if it does not aid the company in connecting to the customer, ineffective.

Strong influence and impact skills are also important. This means the ability not only to create a roadmap for a brand, but rally a team, resources and senior management in the organization behind it.

Senior management is also looking for a track record of transforming or reinvigorating brands. In addition, financial savvy — for example, a real understanding of how to grow profitable revenue and manage costs — is key.

Experience across multiple industries and/or across several disciplines and channels to provide breadth of understanding and perspective is also a plus when applying for this top-level position.

If you can develop these skill sets, you will distinguish your profile.


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