Within only three months of the Pandemic, the Wall Street Journal published an article “The Average Tenure of CMOs Falls Again” citing an average tenure in 2019 at 41 months and the median at 30. That was compared to an average tenure of 76 months (median 53) for their CEO counterparts.
I can’t imagine the number is going to rise for 2021.
The CEO shares responsibility for CMO success. And given the importance of the CMO position to the business, it’s worth an investment.
The CMO is not a “set and forget” hire. Successful onboarding and ongoing access, support and guidance from you helps to ensure an effective start and positions your new CMO for long term success.
Here are 11 things you can do to ensure alignment with your CMO and set them up for success:
- Share your aspirations freely and openly. It’s likely that you recently hired a new CMO to fix a problem and bring new skills to your executive team. But if you’re not openly sharing your priorities (and accept reasonable feedback on timing, budget and staff) you’re already putting them in a position to fail.
- Be open about your personal agenda. For example, if you plan to sell the company (or acquire other companies) that’s important information for the CMO to know, especially since the role is all about shaping public perception. And the specific levers that marketing pulls are extremely powerful in driving corporate outcomes. It’s also not unusual for CEOs to use company marketing and PR resources to enhance their public perception and positioning for the next big thing.
- Negotiate the CMO’s mandate during the hiring process and communicate it to all executives on the team. Aligning organizations requires a delicate balance between incentives and disincentives and if that’s made clear at the outset, it can be carried through annual reviews and incentive compensation.
- Aggressive yet achievable goals. You’re already reporting key performance indicators to the board and investors and the CMO plays a key role in achieving them. The best scenario is to work collaboratively with your CMO to define what that success looks like.
- Make good on commitments made during the hiring process. Many times, CMOs fail because the CEOs haven’t made good on promises. This is more prevalent in private companies where CEOs have less accountability, but it can make or break the CMO role. If you document commitments in the employment contract and make good on them, there’s a much higher likelihood of loyalty and longevity in the role.
- Adjust resources. If your current budget and staffing isn’t enough to do the job, then you need to adjust the resources or change goals. The right CMO will help you build that plan quickly (within the first 100 days). As the CEO, you should support those resource requests as much as possible—because if not, you’ll be in danger of conveying a lack of commitment and possibly looking for a replacement sooner than you thought.
- Plan ahead (even before hiring). It’s likely that your new CMO will suggest a 100-day plan before starting the job. Work with your CMO and give them your full backing, using political capital to obtain all of the necessary resources needed from your direct reports and their organizations. Otherwise, the plan is likely to fail. The CMO should also be involved in all relevant meetings and planning cycles so that you can integrate their vision with yours.
- Navigating the Organizational Politics. As the CEO, the organization (and its dynamics) are likely your creation. So, if you have an executive assistant, give them permission to debrief the CMO on the political landscape. Even if you disavow politics, companies are still social organisms and are subject to human nature. The CMO is an organizational development position, so the more they have a handle on this situation the better.
- Address immediate issues. You probably didn’t go fully into detail about your organizational challenges during the CMO hiring process, especially if it’s a turnaround situation. Therefore, your CMO needs the gory details as soon as possible so they can address the most immediate problems.
- Communicate your sacred cows. Every company has things that can’t be changed, despite overwhelming logic. Let your CMO know as many of those as possible so they’re not jousting at windmills.
- Delegation and accountability. If you’re replacing a poor performing CMO with a new one, you and other execs were probably picking up some slack. The new CMO should be eager to show you what they’ve got. So, give them as much rope as you can and make sure you’re both communicating regularly and transparently while creating space for them to succeed.
Written by Ken Lempit. Have you read?
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