5 Leadership Attributes of a Successful Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in 2020Technology, and more precisely, the internet, has revolutionized every sphere of our lives. One sector where that revolution is very evident is in the world of business, where it has disrupted operations. One part of the business world that has wholly metamorphosed is marketing.

In today’s world, a business intending to maintain a market lead or increase its market share has to embrace digital marketing. And no other digital marketing role is as essential and critical as that of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It is the CMO who outlines the overall vision and mission for the marketing team. They design the long-term plan, allocate resources, and delegates roles to their juniors in the marketing team.

So in this article, we are going to take a look at some of the key attributes that define a successful CMO. They are as follows:

  1. Vision and Strategy

A CMO occupies an executive managerial position in the marketing team. Their work is to come up with the vision of a long term desired goal. Then match that goal with feasible plans accompanied by resources to facilitate their execution.

In a nutshell, the CMO is the steward of the direction the organization’s digital marketing endeavors will take. They need to be a person with a vision, a good and clear vision. Otherwise, all the time and resources by the organization will go down the drains.

The CMO also has to be a person who can come up with a good strategy. Having a vision on its own is not enough. You need to match those visions with a comprehensive approach, which includes planning, controlling, delegating, and organizing.

The CMO is part of the organization’s top organs tasked with making forward-looking decisions that will capitalize on available opportunities while overcoming the challenges. Except the CMO’s primary focus will be managing the organization’s digital operations and ensuring the organization’s communication to its target market is well structured and disseminated efficiently.

They need to pay close attention to both the customer experience offline and user experience online. To ensure the make the purchase journey as easy and convenient for the customers and users as possible.

Figuratively speaking, a CMO will need a virtual magic crystal ball to show them what actions will lead to the desired long term goal. As they do that, they need to put in mind the market dynamics and find out how to play those dynamics to their advantage.

2. Flexibility and Adaptability

CMOs are managers, but they are managing a field where the dynamics change quite often. As we have mentioned before, digital marketing runs on technology, which is something that keeps evolving fast.

So much so that marketers often find themselves in a sticky situation where what worked last week, simply does not work now, and will definitely not work next week. That is because of the underlying changes in technology.

For instance, Google keeps updating the underlying algorithms powering its search engine. Thus, SEO managers have to keep tweaking their approach to search engine optimization as soon as there are new changes in how Google crawler bots operate.

The leadership style of a CMO has to be flexible and adaptable to the current changes in the market. The dynamics involved in achieving a given goal may change overnight. It is upon the CMO to respond quickly and be on top of the situation as soon as possible. They need to take charge of the changes and promptly readjust their plans to ensure the organization’s bottom lines are still met despite the new sudden changes.

Other than the technical aspects of the job, there is also the human aspect. Today’s working force is increasingly becoming young, especially when it comes to work powered by ICT. The leadership skills of the CMO need to put into account that managing a youthful team will require a different approach from when managing a team of people in their late 30s to 60s.

Today’s workplace has a considerable number of older millennials fresh out of college and eager to conquer the corporate world. They are also an impatient lot, who get bored quite quickly with monotonous work quite easily.

They are also digital natives, making their reliance on ICT to accomplish their tasks, for communication, and general creativity is quite high. The CMO needs to take all these factors into account when they want to communicate and coach a team comprising of Millennials.

3. Technical Competency

The CMO must know his craft; what it takes to drive a successful digital marketing campaign. For that to happen, they must be armed with the technical skills necessary to understand the task and execute the plan successfully.

They need to have the technical competence and capacity to understand the underlying technology for the various digital marketing roles. Sure, most of the work will be executed by a specialist in the specific field of digital marketing to whom they will delegate the work.

However, the CMO needs to have an understanding of how the technology behind the task works. That is the only way they can come up with the right vision and executable plans for the job.

Also, if they lack the technical competency of the work, their ability to do control will be limited since they will not understand when something is going wrong.

For instance, when they assign a SEO task to the SEO expert. If the work is done in the wrong manner, the CMO can only know something is wrong if, in the first place, they have some understanding of how SEO works. Otherwise, the mistake will go unnoticed during the project launch phase, and it will only become evident once the results start trickling in, at which point it will be costly to correct.

It is, therefore, imperative that the CMO know a little bit about every task they will be delegating to their digital marketing team. If they don’t have in-depth knowledge, they can always refer to online sources for the best practices and check to see if the person to whom the task was delegated has followed these generally approved guidelines.

4. Ability to Analyze Data and Interpret it

Any manager, CMO or not, has historically been expected to possess the ability to analyze data, come up with a conclusive report, and from that report, get some insights on the direction forward.

A CMO job entails going through tons of data from the various marketing endeavors. They need to look at the report on SEO, content marketing, social media, email marketing, PPC campaigns, and SEM among others.

Needless to say, a CMO work entails going through lots of reports from the various marketing department. What will determine just how successful they will be is their ability to quickly and effectively go through all the data. Crunch the numbers and draw up summarized reports.

The reports can then be used for several things, including making a presentation to the members of the board and drawing up insight on the next course of action. That will be the most crucial part of their work, using the report to come up with the next best course of action.

They use the company’s historical performance to chart a new course that will hopefully avoid the pitfalls the business faced in the past. You can say drawing intelligence from the past performance, but a good CMO will go over and beyond just the company’s records.

They could look at the performance of other companies in the industry; some of this information can be obtained online and in business journals. Then study the company’s various digital marketing strategies, the results obtained, and from that come up with suggestions for their own company’s plans.

The data does not necessarily have to come from the company the CMO is leading. If they could avoid that altogether, the better for the company since some mistakes happen at a substantial cost, it would be better to learn from other companies’ mistakes than waiting to learn from the company’s own mistakes.

A company with a CMO who observes the market, and identifies the best practices and avoid the wrong moves, will benefit more. That is when compared to a company whose CMO is only relying on the historical records for the company to deduce intelligence on what to do and what not to do.

5.  Innovative Thinker

The importance of innovative thinking and general creativity cannot be overemphasized when it comes to digital marketing. As a matter of fact, innovativeness can make or break a marketing campaign.

We are living in a world where ads are constantly bombarding the end consumer, from the TV, smartphone screen, social media, billboards, the internet, and smart speakers, among other electronic devices. It is easy for the end consumer just to shut it all out by becoming numb to all the marketing efforts trying to get them to pay attention to a product announcement.

As a CMO, you have an uphill task to break that numbness, and the surest way to do that is by churning out exciting marketing content. That calls for a great deal of innovative thinking, generally thinking outside of the box.

In a nutshell, as a CMO, you must come up with both subtle and obvious ways to entice the target consumer to want to pay attention to your ad, and after that, take the desired action. That is why you see some advertisements are so memorable that people keep singing along to their jingles years after they stop airing.

Getting the customer to view your ads is the first step in a long journey that includes enriching the user experience on your platform, understanding the buyer journey, customer behavior and a host of other behavioral patterns and experiences by the buyer.

From that insight, you are then expected to come up with ways to make every effort to convince the customer to make a purchase as effectively as possible. That means with little time and effort going to persuade them to take the desired action.


The above are just a few of the key traits that a Chief Marketing Officer ought to have; due to lack of space and time, we could not include everything.

If you are looking to go into a career as a CMO, you should also take up some leadership courses, which can be found online, or you can attend leadership classes. A CMO occupies the top ranks within an organization, and their role to a great extent, is managerial.

They manage a team of digital marketers underneath them and will require solid leadership skills for the team to operate effectively. The CMO will without a doubt, need some people’s skills, which is the ability to interact with people and form a friendly and trusting relationship quickly.

The CMO also needs to command respect within the team they are leading. Here we mean respect in the sense of people submitting to your authority because of your insightful leadership. That should not be confused with fear of your authority, which can be counterproductive.

The CMO also needs to have long-term insights about the affairs of the organization. While also keeping tabs on the current happenings in the organization, but without interfering too much, especially if the task has been delegated to a junior officer who is a specialist within the given field.

As we mentioned above, a CMO is a manager at an organization. Therefore, taking general managerial classes touching on leadership, motivation, coordination, controlling, planning, organizing, and accounting could go a long way in making you a successful leader.

As a leader, you need to know how to work with people, and sometimes that requires you to listen to the input of your juniors in ranking at the organization — particularly employees who have direct contact with the task. Their input could be valuable and something you cannot see given you at only seeing things from a long-term basis, yet there is something they currently see that could derail the long-term plan.


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