The key competencies of a CMO

I was recently asked by a startup founder for my thoughts on the key competencies of a CMO. Here’s what I shared in no particular order.

Relationship Building – A CMO’s role needs to intersect with Sales, Sales Strategy, the CFO, Product. Building strong connections with these leads, building joint plans, overcoming differences of opinion to build a partnership of equals in a role that can sometimes be under appreciated or seen as ‘wishy washy’ is not easy but yet is critical for the success of the business.

A maniacal focus on the customer – If a business is to be successful in positioning its offerings to potential buyers, everything needs to start with that customer. A CMO needs to spend lots of time with customers, understanding their pain points, translating this into messaging and content, learning about the channels they use, the sources of influence they trust, building a community and so much more. To the previous point, they then need to help other leaders in the business understand and buy into this.

A Data Driven Mindset – Marketing is more and more a data driven function. The CMO needs to define, measure, analyse, and drive action from a core set of KPI’s which are tied to the overall business metrics and get everyone behind them on this. Their success will depend on it.
Innovation & Learning – At the same time, creativity is key. The field of marketing is constantly evolving with new channels, new generations of buyers to appeal to, an influx of marketing technology to integrate, and that’s all to say nothing about the impact of AI on the field. A CMO should always be learning, experimenting and innovating in how they go to market.

People skills – Goes without saying but I’ll state it anyway. Your CMO will need to attract, retain, and develop the talent on their team – up levelling people as they go to give them more headspace. In any startup they’ll have quite limited resources, so they’ll have to do this by being very effective in how they lead. They’ll need to develop a clear successor, they’ll need to be able to manage out people who run out of runway, those who they mis-hire etc. They need to be excellent people managers that build trust and loyalty.

Communication – Last but by no means least, being able to define a Vision for not just marketing, but also contribute to the vision for the company, and then communicate that convincingly both internally and externally is also critical.