Chief marketing officers have traditionally been viewed the same way as the staff below them: fast-burning stars that come and go, depending on the salaries and performance. Like excelling sales staff, CMOs have in the past been seen to be only as good as their last successful marketing campaign. However, times have changed. Today, CMOs have established staying power. In a significant change from just a few years ago, many CMOs are now holding onto tenure for an average of 40 plus months versus the previous year and half in years past. The change has much to do with a re-evaluation of how CMOs can provide critical insight in finding and generating revenue, the bread and butter of any business.
The trend upward began in 2006 and today CMOs can be found in a multitude of company leadership positions, in some cases as the acting CEO. Granted, there is still variation by industry. In the auto industry, CMOs are finding the environment the toughest to hold onto their positions while those in manufacturing or industrial industries can last for years. Those that are able to find their staying power then become more than just the marketing chief; they also begin to play a role in influencing the company.
The major shift in CMOs with staying power is their own trend towards strategic long-term thinking. Rather than just focusing on the latest marketing campaign push, CMOs are now integrating themselves into the business mission and planning side as well, becoming an influential executive voice. Again, the main leverage the CMO has is that it involves the activities that essentially create the revenue for the company through sales and increased customer base. This shift is also making CMOs think beyond just the immediate sales account win and instead where they want their program to be in five and ten years.
By obtaining a longer tenure, CMOs with staying power are gaining a measure of control on the direction their companies go. No longer are they sitting in the limited seat of developing brands and advertising. They are integrating their programs with how products and services are designed, made, and sold, gaining a far greater command of how those same products and services generate revenue. The most adept CMOs are situating themselves as a right-hand person to the CEO, often being relied on as general managers as well in a pinch. This in turn expands their reach and influence further.
In addition to the core marketing knowledge, CMOs also bring to the table their ability to translate business operations into marketing resources and assets as well as to analyze constantly changing scenarios for new results. They easily fit into the leadership role as a result because a good CMO can identify how to produce and sell at the end of the day. Other areas only know how to count the dollars and make the widgets.