The 10 Most Essential Skills of the Modern CMO

Today is a period of crucible for CMOs. New channels and touchpoints abound, bringing a deluge of data with them. Delivering relevant, compelling marketing gets more difficult as consumers adopt new technology in their daily lives. Modern CMOs will either adapt and prosper, or blunder and drive their businesses—and their careers—straight to the cautionary tales section of textbooks.

No marketer prefers the latter. So, here are 10 of the most essential traits and skills modern CMOs need to ensure the success of their brand and the longevity of their career.

1. Adaptability—While many veteran marketing leaders continue to adapt to the Internet, the next generation of marketers grew up with it. CMOs should strive for flexibility and keep abreast of current tools and software to stay informed and relevant. “A rookie with a handful of data may have a better grasp on today’s consumer dynamics than you do,” says Peter Horst, SVP of brand marketing and CMO at Capital One.

2. Customer obsession—In the marketing world, Big Data is still the rage. However, CMOs and marketers should be cautious not to lose focus on the people that data represents. “There is and will be endless talk about data and technology, but marketing will always be about people. Real people,” says Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata Applications and author of Big Data Marketing.

3. Understanding segmentation—The ability to build more nuanced target segments open as data grows in quality and quantity. CMOs should leverage this opportunity to create and deliver more engaging marketing. “CMOs need the ability to use science and data to create new segments and [then] target engaging advertisement to those segments,” says Pete Krainik, founder of The CMO Club. “They need to understand, this data wasn’t there five years ago.”

4. Show and prove—“As a CMO, if I’m going to make a difference, I need to drive growth and be able to demonstrate that growth,” Krainik says. All the insight, data, and other metrics mean nothing if they aren’t driving brand and company growth. Successful CMOs need to cultivate new tools and methods, yes. But those methods should grow both the brand and the business.

5. Collaborative leadership—Businesses isolate marketing from their other teams at their peril. Working with other departments will prove essential in maintaining brand consistency. “Marketing needs to tear down the silos to build active and vibrant partnerships with IT, sales, and finance—and the entire C-Suite—as well as other business teams internally to drive a more compelling customer experience,” says Teradata’s Arthur.

6. Promote integration—The continuous proliferation of technology demands that a CMO be able to integrate disparate activities and agendas, according to Capital One’s Horst. “It’s about driving sales and building brand; developing individual brands and deepening portfolio; data and judgment,” he says.

7. Embrace Change—Not only should CMOs be as adaptable and flexible as possible, they also should embrace the necessity to do so. “Today’s CMO needs to drive change in both the company’s go-to market approach to engage customers and consumers in this ‘new world’ where they control our brand as well as to drive change internally to heighten marketing’s accountability and value creation,” Arthur says.

8. Promote Innovation—“Create a culture and a framework for innovation,” CMO Club’s Krainik says. “How do you bring innovation into the company? CMOs need the ability to harness and reward creating.” The future of marketing lies in the hands of CMOs that motivate their teams to catalyze paradigm shifts.

9. Be data-driven—There’s enough data out there that objective metrics are now more than possible, they’re profitable. “CMOs need to culturally drive their teams to untangle the data hairball that prevents more relevant one-to-one marketing,” Arthur says. “They must establish a metrics-driven culture that drives the right behavior and the right focus on driving value through better customer engagement and retention initiatives.”

10. Understand your power—Today’s CMO has incredible brand power at his disposal. Those who understand the inner workings of their power will prove the most successful moving forward. “In this day and age the CMOs who can lead the brand beyond the marketing department,” says Krainik, “who know their influence over customer experience, over sales, those are the best.”

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