The Revolving Door for CMOs

If you're a CMO and your company/industry goes through a downturn, expect to be one of the first out the door. Just hold the door for your best friend from PR, who is right behind you.

Why CMOs Never Last is the attention-getting title of a new article in Harvard Business Review. Their research found that 57% of CMOs had been in their position three years or less. Research by Korn Ferry indicates that CMOs have the highest turnover in the C-suite. Why? According to author Kimberly Whitler, it's primarily:

1. Failure to define the role correctly and match the candidate to the job. We agree. There are CMOs who grew up building product roadmaps and setting design specs based on customer needs (product/strategy guys). There are CMOs who grew up setting pricing and running the numbers on marketing results (analytics guys). And there are CMOs who grew up creating ads and running email or fax (yes, we did this - it was a few years back) or digital or whatever campaigns to reach customers (marketing communications guys). These are totally different cats, and the strength of the CMO must be aligned with the needs of the company.

2. Failure to align metrics with expectations. We'd add, failure of the CMO to proactively measure marketing results in a way that the rest of the organization understands. There's a new shiny tool in digital marketing every day, each with its own measurement system. If you don't have a grip on how many sales you need, and how many leads that means you need, etc., etc., going all the way back to the number of impressions you must generate, the CFO and CEO are not going to see the linkage between marketing and revenue and will be more likely to view marketing as expendable. That, and the number of snake oil salesmen in marketing, leads to CEOs' high levels of distrust with their CMOs - 80%, according to the article. One of the most useful analytics tools we have found is the waterfall bridge - start with the forecast, then summarize, program by program, the mathematical delta to the original forecast, to get you back to actuals. At a glance, you can see that the miss in awareness/impressions here is caused principally by pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and remarketing. Similar bridges for clicks, leads, etc. will tell you where in the marketing funnel to focus. It also quickly identifies marketing programs that are driving results for the CEO/CMO.

marketing metrics waterfall.png

And finally, not mentioned by Whitler, but a reality based on what we've seen - marketing is a longer-term contributor to sales and success of the firm. In a downturn, what a company needs most is immediate sales. It really isn't you - it's just economic reality. So hold your head high, march out the door, grab two barstools at your favorite pub, and order a Shiner Bock (Texas) or Creemore (Canada), plus a margarita, no salt for your friend. And measure the crap out of marketing programs in your next gig.