How to Help Your CMO Survive and Thrive

1. Clearly Define the Role
“A big problem is CEOs’ difficulty articulating what the role is,” said David Edelman, global co-leader at McKinsey Digital Marketing and Sales. How much central accountability and budget control should there be? What channels should he/she orchestrate? How much power is the person given to define the brand experience, etc. “Few executive teams are aligned enough on what the full role would be for someone to succeed.”

“CEOs should hire someone whose values are consistent with the organization but bring a style and mindset that complements the team and sparks new thinking and innovation.”

2. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
CMOs are often tasked with the difficult jobs of delivering both short-term revenue growth and increased long-term brand equity. “I ask our CMO—just as we do for all managers— to set realistic goals and be accountable for them,” noted Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage Learning. “If she succeeds, we all succeed.”

3. Be Prepared to Feel Uncomfortable
When looking for a CMO, companies often hire someone who will “fit in” with the culture. That encourages status quo thinking. Chuck Presbury, executive leadership assessment expert and coach, explains, “CEOs should hire someone whose values are consistent with the organization. But in addition, they should bring a style, and mindset that complements the team and sparks new thinking and innovation. The CEO’s job is to nurture their difference in “fit” so the spark takes root and elevates everyone’s thinking.”

4. Give Them Time
Counter to the business mantra to “hire slow and fire fast,” CMOs need time to learn the nuances of the business, industry and organization. “Companies are too quick to pull the trigger,” said the CMO for a high-growth technology company. “If a CMO feels there is only a short window to prove themselves, they’ll focus on quick wins rather than marketing innovation and sustainable growth.”

Following these 4 tips in your hiring/integration process will help ensure that your CMO succeeds for both him/herself and the company.


Matthew Sawyer is Managing Partner of Rocket Market Development LLC, which helps small and medium-sized businesses find new paths to revenue. He also is an Adjunct Professor teaching business strategy at Parsons, The New School for Design.