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The Top 8 Skills Your Successful CMO Will Need

Written by
Noel Hooban

The role of marketing professionals within organisations has evolved significantly in recent years thanks to advanced technology, sophisticated data-gathering, and renewed perspectives.

Nowhere are these changes more evident than in the executive position of the chief marketing officer. The skills required for success in this important leadership role are broad and critical.

So what are the tops skills your CMO of the present and future must possess for your team and your organisation to optimise results?

Flexible and Adaptable Management Style

Chief marketing officers are first and foremost managers. The reason they attain this position is that they have leadership and coaching skills on top of technical marketing capabilities.

While CMOs have long needed leadership skills, the future CMO needs the ability to flex and adapt to changing interests and work habits of younger generations. In typical settings, CMOs now have management teams of older millennials who are leading entry-level professionals fresh out of college. Millennials are digital natives, meaning their expectation and reliance on technology for work, communication and creativity are heightened.

For adaptable CMOs, the ability to align your communication and coaching styles with what works well for these employees impacts success. Intranets, virtual conferencing, and other team project tools enable efficient interactions in the workplace. As importantly, the contemporary CMO must understand that experienced professionals on his or her team are often very tech-savvy, and capable of infusing digital tools into marketing strategies.

Team structures are evolving in marketing departments as well. Elite companies find that smaller and more flexible work teams are vital to success in the fast-evolving customer-centric marketplace of today. Thus, the CMO needs the versatility to interact with and lead a variety of dedicated teams while keeping everyone together on the same cohesive strategy.

CMO presenting

Vision and Strategic Planning

The role of the CMO has also become more prominent within the executive management team. Marketing has become a critical driving force in the evolution of company growth plans. Therefore, the top marketing officer needs to be a visionary who can help the executive team make forward-looking decisions based on marketing opportunities and challenges.

The customer and user experiences have been crucial to success in attracting and retaining customers. Therefore, marketing is heavily involved in facilitating digital operations and integrating digital marketing strategies in with them.

Strategic planning is closely aligned with vision. Top CMOs have a virtual crystal ball in their abilities to recognise marketplace trends and patterns before they begin to play out. In very competitive markets, early detection of emerging customer trends offers significant advantages.

Technical Competency

You simply cannot make it in today’s business climate as a marketing officer without solid technical competency and familiarity with technology. Marketing teams incorporate a broad range of professionals with skills that range from web programming to business intelligence, content creation, and digital media buying. The CMO must be able to understand how all of these people interact and be equipped to lead and engage in internal strategic conversations.

About half of all marketing positions currently require technical skills, and marketing leaders are struggling with a massive skills gap.

Marketing Skills Shortages and surplus

Younger professionals fresh out of college, or with some work experience, are sometimes more attune with newer marketing technology than long-established professionals who started their careers before the tech boom in marketing.

CMOs must know technology to make appropriate hiring decisions and to encourage strategic development and implementation that is typically tech-driven.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Historically, a high-priority skill for marketing professionals was creativity. While you certainly still need people to come up with effective promotional strategies and designs along with compelling content, analytics skills are now equally important — or even more so in some cases.

No company can survive in the digital age without a data-driven marketing system that includes a robust software solution and the capacity to collect and analyse big data.

CMOs need analytics skills to participate in the formulation of strategy and infrastructure development, data collection processes, analysis, and program development. Even after the correct tech setup and procedures are in place for gathering data and turning it into reports, CMOs need to interpret results from critical reports.

Quality interpretation leads to optimisation of the customer experience, targeted marketing efficiency, and high return on marketing investment.

CMO analytics skills

Account-Based Marketing Approach

The single lead or contact-based approach to lead generation exists, but it is not the way top revenue-generating companies go about things. Account-based marketing focuses on the needs of an organisation and breaks it down by department, channel, and decision-maker.

ABM allows your firm to optimise revenue by getting in touch with the right people at the right time with the right message. Successful connections lead to high levels of customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, and higher revenue. Additionally, rather than selling to just one contact inside an organisation, your business could sell to several decision-makers of the buying process within a company who have different needs and interests.

Customer and User Experience

As already noted, customer and user experience are driving forces in successful businesses in the digital era. The expansion of the internet and mobile technology gives customers access to many options for meeting their needs. Leading providers realise that delivering a high-quality user experience on websites and mobile apps, and throughout the buying processes produces higher sales and happy customers.

Typical marketing agencies and firms now have dedicated user experience experts. These professionals understand all facets of researching and optimising UX. For CMOs to successfully lead people in this area, they too need to know how CX and UX are evaluated, developed, and continually improved.

Innovative Thinking

The need for creative thinking by marketing officers is closely tied to UX skill requirements and the executive leadership role. Customers and behavioural data gleaned from them are primary sources of feedback on company performance and future direction. This information puts the CMO squarely in the driving seat at identifying opportunities for additions, deletions, or modifications to products, services, and processes.

By monitoring and improving the UX, the CMO naturally looks for indications that customer approaches and demands have shifted. If your company can get solutions in place at the time of peak demand and update buying paths to suit market preferences faster than anyone else, you can cement your leadership position in the market.

CMO looking at mobile phone

Content Management

Content marketing is synonymous with a complete marketing plan and system in the digital era. According to a Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study Report, at some point, 89 percent of B2B buyers go to the internet as part of product research. In most cases, they go to Google and search for information and resources to help resolve a core business problem. Content marketing includes the development and optimised distribution of blog posts, eBooks, videos, whitepapers, and other content pieces.

CMOs need to understand the entire content management process so they can lead content planning and execution. This process includes a content creation plan where topics and pieces are created in alignment with the needs and behaviours of targeted prospects.

Also, CMOs need a firm grasp on distribution, including traditional methods as well as through content syndication. Furthermore, content management involves creating communication synergy between your content message strategy, social media communication, and follow-up conversations via such channels as email and telemarketing.

Wrap Up – The Successful CMO

This list of top CMO skills paints a clear picture as to the complexity and diversity of this role in contemporary marketing environments. One of the most significant illustrations is the shift to more onus on technical competency and analytics, which have become key factors in driving more business. CMOs also need such diverse skills to lead millennials in planning and execution of marketing strategies in the digital age.

Very few people can be great at all things. The very best leaders surround themselves with people who can complement their existing skills and who are also better than them at other tasks. The successful CMO should be able to do both.

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