Save the CMO: Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

It’s no surprise that alignment of the CEO and the CMO is important in every organization. However, during uncertain times like these, making sure both parties see eye to eye is more important than ever before.

An analysis released earlier this year from Korn Ferry found that CMOs still have the shortest tenure in the C-suite at an average of just 3.5 years. CEOs have the longest average tenure at almost 7 years. There are probably as many reasons for the disparity in tenure as there are CMO departures, but failure to reach a meeting of the minds is likely at the top of the list.

One of the thorniest issues is the lack of clarity about marketing’s contributions to company performance. CEOs know CMOs manage the brand and generate awareness and leads through advertising and outreach, but for the relationship to succeed, CEOs should lay the groundwork for transparency at the outset and encourage strategies that maximize marketing’s chance of success. Here are five tips to implement now to ensure alignment going forward.

  1. Encourage the CMO to hire people with complementary skills. As we discussed in the first episode of the “Save the CMO” series, the scope of marketing’s role is enormous. Even the most skilled CMO won’t be an expert in every facet of a modern marketing operation, which includes disciplines from AdTech to email marketing to SEO and measurement. So, to ensure CMO success, CEOs should encourage the CMO to bring people on board with skills that complement their expertise.
  2. Set clear expectations for marketing’s contributions. CEOs need to make it clear they want reports that reflect marketing’s impact, not an accounting of the department’s activities. Activities are important, obviously, but they must be tied directly to results. Reports like attribution revenue by department, funnel velocity, funnel volume, total attribution influenced by department and marketing-to-sales handoff & conversion rates are key. (Learn more about these reports here.)
  3. Align marketing and sales with regular meetings. CEOs should encourage if not require regular meetings between the leaders of sales and marketing. The heads of sales operations and marketing operations should meet on a weekly or biweekly basis too, with results reported to their respective leaders. Marketing and sales are interdependent, so it’s imperative that they jointly identify what works and what doesn’t and take intentional action to continuously improve results.
  4. Define what percentage of leads come from marketing and sales. Related to the alignment point above, it’s important for the CEO to reach an agreement with the heads of sales and marketing about what percentage of leads should be generated by each group. In practice, this percentage allocation is usually ill-defined, and that can lead to serious issues and finger-pointing between the two departments and result in a negative effect on company performance.
  5. Give CMOs permission to fail — within reason. Remember the 80/20 rule? It applies in marketing too. In a healthy marketing department, about 20% of campaigns should be experimental with 80% devoted to tried-and-true methods that raise awareness and generate leads. Experimental programs won’t always work out, but the important thing is to give the CMO leeway to try new things with the stipulation that they’ll move on from strategies that aren’t producing results.

CEOs who recognize the scope of the CMO role, especially during times like these, set clear expectations, demand better collaboration between marketing and sales, and encourage calculated risk-taking will set their CMO up for success. A CEO-CMO meeting of the minds can not only increase CMO tenure — it improves company performance.

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