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CMO's Roles & Responsibilities
The top things CMOs need to do to keep and thrive in their job
The CMO role is incredibly hard. In part because the job requires a mix of art and science, in part because the total impact is not as directly measurable as say, the sales team. Most marketers grow up with a superpower in one of the three areas of marketing expertise - brand/comms, demand gen, or product marketing. When they get to the top role, they need to be good enough at all three to hire exceptional leaders, hold them accountable, troubleshoot issues, and lead with conviction to the CEO and board. I hear the following complaints from CEOs:
My CMO doesn’t understand the customer and business (PMM weakness)
My CMO can’t prove the value of marketing (DG weakness)
My CMO isn’t driving enough awareness for the company (Brand/PR weakness)
It’s tough. To be an exceptional CMO, we need to do some of ALL of those, plus some executive management duties. Here’s a list I recently developed:
CMO Roles and Responsibilities
How are we approaching the market? ICP, Product, Pricing, Messaging, Customer Insights, Competitive insights, Community. These are all PMM strengths - you need to develop them and staff them appropriately so you can help lead the company.
Do we have the financial and marketing plan right? Be an officer of the company and make sure the top-down planning is grounded in the reality of bottoms-up. If you sign up for (or are assigned and accept) a number and miss it, you can get fired. Get in front of a good plan that is properly funded and hit-able. If the CEO makes the wrong plans repeatedly, they will be fired too.
Do we have the goals and budget right – the company & the team? What goals and budget does the team need to make the plan? Are our different teams’ plans aligned (especially sales and marketing)? Have we communicated focus and measurement clearly and sufficiently to the company and our teams?
Are we spending money on the right things to grow the business and hit the goals? Have we set up attribution effectively to know the impact of our spend (source and influence)? Given the insights of first, last, multi-touch and ABM metrics, how should we change spending buckets or media channels? Are we sharing this information effectively to let people (especially CFO, CEO, board) know at a high level why we are making decisions?
How are we pacing vs. the plan? For the month, quarter, and year? What do we need to get there?
How can we grow faster (spending efficiently)? Shit! And you thought hitting an aggressive goal at 103% was amazing. It is. How can you do better? It’s never good enough. You hit the bar, they raise it.
Align with sales on impact, spend, and approach - Not only does the CEO need to think you’re amazing, you’ve also got to have the CRO on your side. All of his/her reps need to be getting enough leads, they also need customer references, pricing refactored, more leads, and enablement on the new products. Plus you need to be aligned on your reporting so you’re sharing (and troubleshooting) the same pipeline, revenue and other metrics with the leadership team and board.
BUILD AND MANAGE THE TEAM AND EXECUTION
Hire and train an exceptional team - A frequent criticism I hear from CEOs about their CMO is that they haven’t built a strong enough leadership team, or fast enough. It’s tough when you’re trying to hit short-term high-performance goals to imagine swapping out several leaders. But if the CEO doesn’t think you are hiring exceptional, next-level-of-growth leaders, they lose confidence in your leadership. Oh, and also make sure they are all trained and know the ICP, product, strategy and their functions. So hard, so critical to everything else on this list getting done.
Develop and evolve the plans of action - This is where you get into the brass tax of “what do we have to do to hit the goal (efficiently)?” Part of working with the C-Suite on the company plan is doing bottoms-up planning with your team. What did you do last year? What can you do better/different? How big could you go with a much bigger budget? How much can you cut and still deliver the majority of leads needed? I find that in annual planning, I like having a team offsite to vision, the exec offsite to get some direction, another team offsite to adjust our ideas and vision to that offsite, and then sometimes even one more to action the final plans. Oh, and then again after the company plan changes from something big and unexpected.
Coach Employees and Troubleshoot Issues - How can one little bullet add so much work? 1:1s with your team are necessary (weekly/biweekly, depending), 1:1s with your peers, your peer’s directs sometimes… lots of meetings on the issue de jour. Really you could fill up your whole calendar with these meetings and never get to the important, not urgent stuff. BEWARE. (Blog to come - I’m in love with narrative documents ahead of meetings - having people spend meaningful time summarizing all of the information in a document that you can read and react to so the meeting can talk about issues instead of updates. Proper use of pre-read materials can save a lot of time in 1:1s and troubleshooting meetings.)
EVANGELIZE THE COMPANY & MARKETING STRATEGY - It’s hard to have any time left for this after all the things above that are so important. This doesn’t necessarily need to BE you, but you need to make sure it’s happening.
To the company – execs & company - marketing should be presenting on board meetings, all-hands meetings, exec meetings with some frequency letting the company know the plans, impact, and highlights. You can help develop your leaders by letting them take on some of these high-profile opportunities
To the market - Not all CMOs are experts in their field, but they are responsible for helping the company develop experts, evangelists and stories to get more awareness for the company. You either need to understand how to do it or hire someone who does and give them enough budget to make it happen.
That list feels impossibly long, but those are the plates top executives are juggling. You don’t have to do it all on your own. You have to know what needs to be done and get the right people in place jamming on all of these things. You need to tie them together and represent them to the board, CEO and company.
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