The Worst Performing Companies Have Analytical CMOs


Avid’s recent interview with Kim Whitler on board-level marketers left us with this important statistic: “Marketers on the board help increase firm performance, specifically revenue growth.” So now that we know marketers on the board of directors can be profitable, what about the role of CMO?

Listen to Part 2 of the full interview with Kim Whitler – Episode 17 on the Avid Impact Podcast

Due to the variance in training, skill, and competency in marketing, plus the variance in types of positions, it can be difficult for a CEO to find the right person for the CMO job they want to create. Whitler describes this discovery as an ah-ha moment for her. Her realization that CEOs are not experts at interviewing, designing roles, or hiring the right people led her to propose that CMOs take the reigns when it comes to finding the best fit. “CMOs need to be much more adept at finding the right roles, the right company culture, the right environment, the right design so that they can succeed,” Whitler says.

In what could be considered game-changing advice for the success of chief marketers, Whitler says that CMOs should be honest with themselves in figuring out what the CEO really wants. This would require not just listening to the CEO but also getting into the specifics of the job and looking at what the responsibility is, what the work chart looks like, who reports up to you, and what’s in the budget. Pick your people and determine what you hope to accomplish, then assess whether or not you have the right structure and team to be able to achieve it.

Whitler explains,  “The worst performing marketing companies are those where the CMOs are predominantly analytical without any creative skills… Anybody can tell you ‘go target this group and here’s what they want,’ but you now need to convert that insight into information… that change the consumer’s mind and behavior, and that requires an artistic component.”

It is not just the CMO but a strong team working with them that drives positive impact. However, the right people can be difficult to come by. “Talent in particular… is a big issue and it seems like maybe it’s because of the complexity of the organizations,” says interviewer Alan Hart, and Whitler agrees. Not only that, but she attests to seeing a recent shift in work ethic. “It can make it challenging if you have a lot of variance in the degree of commitment to the project, the team, the company.” This deficit of work ethic can make it very difficult to fill out a team where you need a lot of players pulling their fair share of weight. Whitler’s personal solution to this problem involved a rigorous 5 hours of interviewing in order to hand select the fearless people ready to take on the challenge. “When you get somebody who has a great attitude, who is a tremendous leader, who steps into the gap, who has a great work ethic, who’s dependable, who’s reliable, who’s a positive energy, who makes the team better… that person is gold. Conversely, if you get the opposite, it is cancerous to a team.”

Success of the CMO and the marketing organization starts with introspection as to what type of marketing leader you are. Once you know yourself, finding a successful environment to thrive is up to you too. Couple these challenges with the tall task of building a strong, talented marketing team and you can see why the role of CMO is such a tough role today — it’s no wonder we are starting to see successful CMOs rise to the role of CEO.

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