May 23, 2019

Leading with talent: How top CMOs are thinking about today’s marketing landscape


Last week, RG attended a CMO breakfast focused on leading with talent. From hiring diversely to prioritizing negotiation skills, hear what companies like American Express, AIG, and Bank of America think in terms of today’s challenges, best hiring practices, and the way forward. Additionally, as the marketing role becomes more demanding, how do we grow and expand our skills in order to remain relevant and on top of our game: Thus, getting and keeping our seat at the decision-making table.

In today’s ever-complex landscape, what it takes to be a talented marketer continues to evolve and expand. We are expected to understand the martech stack (technology) and what messages will deliver on a brand’s promise (creative). Additionally, we are being tasked with reporting: This means we also need to be able to analyze and interpret data sets, then turn them into actionable insights, while benchmarking against specified metrics.

Perhaps this is why, according to a recent Forbes articlenearly 7 in 10 CMOs are in their roles less than four years and 57% less than three years.” Being a marketer is a tall order, but one worth living up to if we want to build marketing organizations and departments that are not only effective but also sustainable.

But how do we become part of the solution to the constant challenges faced by the profession?

On Thursday (May 16, 2019) we had an opportunity to peek inside the minds of some of today’s top CMOs from companies like American Express, AIG, and Bank of America to get the scoop. At a monthly “Uncomfortable breakfast”—named for its focus on tackling difficult C-Suite issues—the group exclusively discussed how organizations can stay relevant by leading with talent.

Here are some of the key insights and takeaways:


Topic #1: Effective Hiring Practices

– Ideal candidates should have a “blend of subject matter expertise.” This can include things such as “executive presence, conflict resolution skills, and having a knack for both persuasion and negotiation.” After all, a marketing team is only as good as its ability to sell ideas.

– Many of the CMOs agreed that for larger firms in particular, it is important to hire individuals who are “curious and creative, but could also hone in on technical expertise.” However, the softer skills should be prioritized above technology prowess. What are some of these skills referenced? A recent Forbes article outlines 16 (yes, you heard it, 16) skills every marketer these days should master.

Diversity in hiring was also a major part of the discussion. The conclusion: “Particularly at big brands, marketers need to be as diverse as the people they are marketing to. Consumers today are all shapes, sizes, socioeconomic backgrounds, and education levels.” In other words, the best campaigns will result from diverse thinking—not only on the product design side, but also from a marketing standpoint.


Topic #2: Organizational Structure

– Having marketers embedded within the business or matrixed with business partners is the preferred model for staffing teams. Silos make it difficult to see the full picture.

– There is a current tension between brand and performance, and it was widely agreed that “both should win because it’s not a competition.” Strong brands mean better performance, and when you have strong performance in marketing, it reinforces and elevates the brand. Period.

According DemanGenmodern marketing organizations should encompass four main areas: Strategy & leadership, brand marketing, demand generation, and product marketing.


Topic #3: Importance Of Metrics

– Inevitably what executive leaders and boards want to know is: How are we going to innovate, drive growth, retain employees, etc. and how are we measuring it? Marketers need to “understand the importance of metrics too, because at the end of the day it’s the only way to showcase value.” Otherwise, to those who are making decisions from a business standpoint, it can feel like marketing is all about “looking pretty.” And as anyone who is a marketer knows…that’s not even half of it.

– Often times, these metrics “need to be custom built.” It feels like a heavy lift at the beginning, but in the end will provide insights into what is and isn’t working: All of which can guide future decision making and give marketers a definitive seat at the table.

– For a list of the most commonly cited digital marketing metrics, check out this report by Entrepreneurs Courtyard.


Speaking of seats at the table (both getting and keeping them)…

In a recent article published by executive search and leadership firm SpencerStuart, the authors report: “Our research finds that only 26 of the thousands of public company board seats are currently occupied by marketing leaders.”

What can we do about that as marketers? Our friend Kathy Caldwell, Partner at Global Marketing Officers Practice, recently released a report to tackle the challenge of “how to get a board seat.”

Let us know if you would add anything to these insights above. We’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you have any relevant resources—please email, tweet, or message them our way.

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