When you're in or heading towards a position of leadership in a company, it can become hard to ask for help, and it's not that often that someone asks if you need it. With this in mind, and following our CEO Whisperer programme’s success, we were asked to develop a CMO Whisperer programme to support and ensure CMO’s are equipped for success and deliver the winning strategies your business demands. Giving your CMO (or next CMO) the coaching or mentoring they need to develop skills outside their core remit could help them drive your business further and maximise the return on investment when it comes to marketing.
There are several key moments in a CMO's career where they may benefit from mentoring or coaching from a senior and tested marketing leader who has been there before.
- When a CMO is new to the role, business or category and needs to hit the ground running.
- When a CMO would like to develop the skills to transition into a CEO role.
- Times when something happens in the business that is not in line with their core skill set, requiring a different type of CMO experience.
- When they need a sounding board to check their ideas and concerns from an outside perspective.
- A team member has been identified as suitable for career progression into the CMO role but needs some skills development.
Developing the right skills to be a CMO or business leader
As a business owner, growth, goal acquisition, and financial gain are likely to be your top priorities, and so they should be. These are things that your marketing should be driving towards, and the CMO's role should be instrumental in meeting those goals.
For some, moving into the CMO role, having grown up through the company may mean they have all the raw talent to do the job and the technical knowledge to create a meaningful strategy. However, they may need to develop their wider business understanding to be a more rounded leader and communicate their knowledge effectively to the board.
Sometimes a CEO successor will be identified in the company but needs to develop their leadership skills further. A study of executive profiles by the Harvard Business Review showed that the C-Suite value is generally felt to be in leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals rather than in technical and functional expertise.
While the intricacies of technologies get more advanced from one generation to the next, business fundamentals, and ultimately, the art of liaising with other leaders are predominantly recognised to have nuanced, core pillars of understanding and diplomacy. These are things that an experienced CMO coach or mentor can bring. It's a high but indefinable value that their own successes attest to. It's experience led, not opinion led knowhow that they bring, learned over time.
Providing support for your CMO
Any business leader will know how difficult it is to ask for help. The challenges that a member of the C-Suite faces can feel so isolated and different from other team members' perspectives and challenges.
However, no man or woman is an island; everyone needs a sounding board - somewhere to get good advice without agenda, and someone to voice their ideas to see if they make sense out loud. Equally, no one should ever stop learning in their role, especially in a world as dynamic as ours.
A mentor or coach can provide insight, knowledge and be a discreet confidante. This can be vital to the success of a business. A leader, who is in the right headspace and has been challenged on their strategy by someone who understands the fundamentals of their role, is a leader who makes constructive and purposeful decisions.
Developing skills for new challenges and situations
We have spoken before about the different types of CMO categories that individuals tend to fall into and their strengths. For example, the creative iconoclast, the professional general manager or the digital wizard. Invariably, however, your business will go through different stages. That doesn't mean you need to keep changing your CMO. However, it may mean that your CMO would benefit from bringing in a different type of marketing leadership skill as well, as and when needed.
Large companies often have leadership training programmes that address some of these issues, smaller and medium-sized organisations rarely offer that level of support. As a result, marketing doesn't always come inline or is not seen to align with wider business objectives.
This is likely to be connected to the trend for CMO turnover, which is not healthy for businesses looking to progress. Typically, chief marketing officers have one of the shortest tenures in their roles, usually due to a misalignment of expectations rather than a lack of ability. This is where a trusted counsellor can be a crucial link for ensuring communications between CMO and CEO to ensure each is delivering and conveying what's needed and expected to drive sales.
Marketing might be the biggest spend area in a business after the headcount. As CEO, you will want the CMO to bring key information to the top table that supports the business. With all of this in mind, the addition of an experienced CMO Whisperer can reassure your marketing leader is bringing the insights you need to make strong and successful business decisions.