Hiring the Right CMO for your Company

The role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is crucial within businesses today, responsible for shaping an organization’s strategic direction and driving revenue through marketing initiatives. But like with any c-level position, it can be a long, winding and sometimes difficult road to finding the right person for this pivotal position.

If you’re currently seeking your next CMO, here’s what to look for in order to find someone who is your perfect fit.

Ample Firsthand Experience

Formal education is key and very helpful in this career path. But a strong history of marketing experience is non-negotiable for someone who will be an effective CMO. Your potential candidates should have at least a decade of relevant experience if they don’t have an MBA; less (but still a few years) if they do have an MBA.

Also look for experience in leadership, and for any indications of the presence of the soft skills required for the CMO position. If you find someone who has gone out of their way to take on additional responsibility in their previous positions, they likely have insight into how other marketing functions work, which is important as well. A CMO should have a broad understanding of marketing, beyond the specific area in which they started their career.

An Understanding of Your Specific CMO Role

Though all CMOs share certain responsibilities, not all positions are created equal. For example, the role of CMO at a scrappy startup will look very different from the role of CMO at a complex enterprise company.

The industry, and type of company, you’re in will influence what your particular CMO role requires. For example, a CMO in a B2B software organization will likely end up working very differently than a CMO in a B2C retail organization would. Your ideal candidates should have experience in your specific type of company and industry.

Also, consider your company’s culture. If it’s highly academic and the rest of your leadership team has MBAs, then your CMO probably should have an MBA too. And depending on your industry, it might be important to keep an eye out for candidates who have augmented their experience with additional certifications, as well.

An Array of Specific Hard and Soft Skills

While all CMOs will have their own strengths, there are some common denominators among the most effective ones that predict success. The most important hard skills to look for as you vet applicants include: Management, expertise, data analysis and financial understanding. And, the most important soft skills to look for include: interpersonal skills, public speaking ability, passion, accountability, ability to see details and the big picture and excitement about innovation.

If a candidate is missing a couple of these, they don’t need to be dismissed altogether. After all, all of the hard skills can be learned through education and work experience, by shadowing knowledgeable individuals in the organization or making use of training resources. Any missing soft skills, on the flip side, can be honed through mentorship, feedback and practice. A couple of gaps can be worked through, if everything else about the person is a fit for you. But if a candidate is missing more than a couple of these skills, that’s a good indication they are not quite ready to lead as CMO yet.

A Clear Personal Brand

Finally, your next great CMO should have their own personal brand. They should be at least somewhat established as a leader in the marketing field. If someone you’re interviewing has a well-visited blog, an active (and highly followed) Twitter account, has spoken at conferences, or has contributed articles to industry websites, they likely have deep expertise and a strong POV about marketing that will serve your company.

If you find a candidate who checks all these boxes, you may have just found your next C-level leader. It’s time to celebrate, because the right CMO can do a lot to catapult your business toward your next level of success.

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