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CMO Insights

How to become and be a successful CMO

February 2024

What does it take to become a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)? New research from Deloitte provides unique insight into the thoughts, experience, behaviours and activities of CMOs and offers a comparison with senior marketing executives (SMEs) to determine how to become and be a successful CMO.

Chief Marketing Officers are visionaries and strategists for an organisation’s marketing, but the role now encompasses a wider scope than ever before. Increased expectations from other C-suite leaders, budget constraints, digital transformation and changing customer preferences have changed the role from department head to enterprise business leader.1 Delivering elevated customer experiences requires effective coordination across all functions of the business. As custodians of the customer experience, CMOs therefore need to exert responsibility and material influence across the breadth of the organisation. Marketing exists at the intersection of consumer behaviour, technological innovation and human storytelling, and the CMO needs to be at the forefront.

The aim of this research is to help CMOs understand how they compare with their peers and for senior marketing leaders to understand what they need to do differently as they make their transition to the top role and the C-suite. The research explores topics related to leading your board, leading your colleagues and team, and leading yourself. This report examines how CMOs and SMEs compare in their behaviour, activities and experiences, revealing how to become a CMO and a successful leader.

Methodology

 

The study was conducted by Deloitte UK during October-November 2023 and surveyed 38 Chief Marketing Officers and 34 senior marketing executives in the United Kingdom. The respondents had a wide range of experience with half having 11 or more years of experience in marketing, and nearly a quarter of the CMOs having more than 20 years. The organisations were across six key industries: Consumer; Energy, Resources & Industrials; Government & Public Services; Life Sciences & Health Care; Professional Services and Technology, Media & Telecommunications. Annual revenues of the organisations ranged from less than £5 million up to more than £50 billion and were a mix of B2B and B2C.

Trend 1: Senior marketing leaders building influence with soft skills

Modern marketing leaders finds themselves as the vanguard of corporate leadership and collaboration. As custodians of their organisation’s narrative, they collaborate not only with their marketing colleagues, but with colleagues throughout their organisation. Soft skills, rather than technical skills, have emerged as the key currency for marketing leaders – and are essential for effective cross-functional collaboration.

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Trend 2: The evolving role of marketing leaders

From navigating digital transformation to changing ESG policies or the increasing impact of generative AI, marketing leaders need to be able to respond quickly and dynamically. Understanding the most pressing issues for CMOs provides invaluable insight into what is important today and what will be critical tomorrow.

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Trend 3: Striving for success: the path to becoming a CMO

Senior marketing leaders face many challenges and obstacles as they strive for the role of CMO. Providing unique and deep insight into the personal experiences of both senior marketing executives and CMOs, our research reveals the specific challenges encountered and provides advice for career development. Today’s marketing leaders need to make the right connections, navigate the potential pitfalls of self-doubt and develop the right skills and traits the role of CMO requires. Once they have achieved the position CMOs need to stay on top with essential behaviours and strive for a healthy work-life balance – often not an easy task.

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Endnotes:

1 Course correcting the evolution of the CMO. Deloitte Insights, 2020.

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