16 Skills Every CMO Needs in 2023
It’s not easy to be CMOs today. They are tasked with everything from lead generation to digital strategy, sales support and even product development, and these are just a small part of the ever-growing list of responsibilities modern CMOs are asked to take on.
Plus, with the widespread rise and acceptance of data-driven marketing, many are left wondering if there is any value left in being a creative marketing leader.
Today’s marketing heads will need to tap into the most creative parts of their brain and listen to their team’s best ideas. By marrying data with creativity, marketing executives can lead their teams to innovate better and deliver more creative, compelling content and experiences, to engage customers more deeply and drive better business outcomes.
So what traits do these successful creative marketing leaders possess? CMO.com interviewed marketing executives across industries and identified these qualities as the top attributes a creative CMO must have to succeed in 2024 and beyond.
As the pace of change in marketing and technology continues to accelerate, successful CMOs must stay informed on the latest trends and quickly adapt and drive change where needed.
This means that agile leaders don’t wait until the end of the year or planning cycle to review results and adjust their marketing programs. Instead, they turn to real-time analytics and feedback to make adjustments and improvements on the fly. Creative CMOs must be able to think big and move fast on opportunities that will help differentiate their brand from their competitors.
Modern CMOs will also look to make their marketing planning and processes more agile. Instead of spending months or years on planning, an agile marketing initiative will involve a series of quick sprints before launch, each of which lasts only two to four weeks in total. After launch, the team reviews goals, accomplishments and results, and plans for the next sprint of initiative.
2. Big Data Analysis
Successful CMOs today need to have a deep understanding of consumers, including their likes and dislikes as well as their needs and expectations at every stage of the customer journey. But to get and keep customers’ attention, CMOs must have the ability to understand and dig into their data with analytics tools, gathering real-time insights to inform their marketing strategy and programs.
Creativity can help brands to break through the noise and stand out from their competitors, but it needs to be informed by data to unleash its full potential. The best CMOs will creatively leverage all the data at their disposal to drive more informed, strategic decisions around how they can connect the right message to the right person at the right place and time, with creative, relevant content that will make a lasting impression on their customers.
Marketing leaders will also want to hire top talent who have more advanced analytics modeling skills to not only understand big data, but to synthesize and turn those data points into actionable insights and stories that will resonate with the business. CMOs then need to take that data to drive the necessary changes internally to provide greater value and better experiences to consumers.
CMOs have become part-time brand publishers, acting as the “heads of their brand’s publishing house” to manage and improve the quality of their content as well as engagement with customers and prospects.
As more companies start publishing content and compete for consumer attention, it is becoming harder to reach your target audience. To cut through the noise, CMOs must look for ways to create content that educates and entertains their consumers. A good brand story is what will make your brand noteworthy and win consumer eyeballs and dollars.
As the CEO of Prezi Peter Arvai says, “data alone can’t tell a story.” A creative CMO knows how to strategically bring the data to life through content that connects with consumers on an emotional level, to create a deeper, more engaging relationship with them.
Great CMOs also have a remarkable aptitude to pull together the right marketers and storytellers to deliver a unique and highly personalized customer experience for their target audience, with compelling content that resonates and differentiates their brand.
4. Customer Centricity
To capture the attention and loyalty of today’s consumers, marketing leaders need to make sure their brands are helping to solve people’s toughest challenges and are making their lives easier. Modern CMOs must look to establish relationships with customers and become their trusted advisor, rather than focusing solely on closing the deal.
The most effective CMOs are ones who use their data analytics to continually create value for consumers at every stage of the customer journey and deliver a positive, consistent experience, regardless of the channels or devices consumers use to connect with their brands.
5. Executive-Level Influence
Thanks to the rise of customer-centricity, marketing is increasingly gaining more power and voice at the executive table. As such, modern CMOs need to be able to collaborate cross-functionally and gain the respect of their executive peers.
To do so, marketing leaders must ramp up their technical, financial and strategic skills. Today’s CMOs must have the ability to lead their brand beyond the marketing organization, engage and influence their executive peers, and show (and prove) how marketing can help grow the brand and the business.
6. Collaborative Leadership
Silos exist not only within marketing departments, but also across the organization. They can create tension and conflict between employees and undermine everyone’s efforts to win and keep consumers happy.
As research from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and GfK has found, successful marketers must cultivate close relationships with other functions in order to achieve their marketing objectives and drive growth for the business. The most successful CMOs will look to break down silos, foster open communication and collaboration, and build strategic partnerships with other departments, working toward the common goal of delivering winning customer experiences.
Similarly, creative CMOs must build solid relationships with their C-suite peers, collaborate and leverage the talent and skill sets they have across the organization to grow the business together.
7. Mental Ambidexterity
Success comes from a marketing leader’s ability to bring together the best of technology and marketing to delight consumers. This requires both the analytical and creative brain. Data analytics help CMOs understand customer needs and interests, but creativity is what fuels real change and innovation to help their brands meet and exceed customer expectations.
Data and technology should never replace creativity. Instead, successful CMOs will seek to marry data with creativity to find new, more innovative ways to engage, entertain and delight consumers.
The best CMOs and CEOs are empathetic. They actively listen and try to understand the customer’s needs, wants and the pain points that are keeping them up at night. And the best CMOs represent and stand for the customer’s voice at the executive table.
As the Forrester VP and principal analyst James McQuivey says, those who build their company’s brand have a deeper understanding of their customers, and they are the ones who can best bring those customers to life.
Most CMOs are expected to lead and run their organizations as a profit center. What this means is that creative CMOs must be able to work creatively with their limited budget and resources and find out-of-box tactics to achieve their marketing objectives.
An example of this would be leveraging other functions to gain new insights, review strategies and plans, and engage and collaborate on marketing efforts end-to-end.
10. Risk Taking, Innovation and Disruption
Creative CMOs are not afraid to experiment and take smart risks. They analyze the performance data they have, develop hypotheses and test them, to continuously improve their marketing efforts and results.
The best CMOs are great at spotting opportunities for innovation and growth and encourage their teams to do so by giving them the space for experimentation, even if it means failing on some occasions.
Great CMOs also question why things are done in a certain way in the past, and they are not bound by these conventions and rules if there is a better way to do something.
11. A Deep Understanding of Organizational Culture
Innovation doesn’t always succeed without failures. That’s why it is extremely important for CMOs to foster a culture that doesn’t punish employees who innovate but fail sometimes, but one that encourages continual learning and rewards creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
Successful CMOs will also empower their teams to take ownership and make decisions by delegating responsibility and authority. Great marketing leaders recognize that they don’t always have the best or right answers, so they actively listen to others and will advocate their ideas if they have better solutions. This creates a culture of accountability and cultivates leadership at every level of the organization, which are key to engaging and motivating employees to perform at their best.
12. Building the Right Team
Marketing is an ever-changing discipline. The best CMOs know that they won’t have all the skills they need to run their marketing teams. And what they will do is building and surrounding themselves with experts who can fill their skill gaps. They will also adapt their leadership styles to engage and inspire this diverse team to perform at their best.
13. UX And Coding
Since marketing and technology need to work closely to realize marketing’s full potential, it will be extremely useful for CMOs to develop basic skills in UX design so they can help build the products and experiences consumers want.
Similarly, to be able to increase influence and build more productive partnerships with other C-level executives such as the CTO, CMOs will find it helpful to have a basic understanding of coding languages and how things work in the development world. This helps CMOs understand their CTOs better so they can collaborate more effectively.
14. Measuring Impact
Leading CMOs not only approach data creatively, but they also measure their creative success through the data and insights they have. They also think creatively about the metrics they use to measure marketing success.
As the Spredfast’s CMO Jim Rudden says, marketing is in “a period when many of the traditional measures that marketers have used are being questioned,” so creative CMOs must be able to strategically navigate between these different systems of measure and find the most effective way to demonstrate marketing’s impact on the business.
Creative campaigns, like content marketing, are long-term investments, so their impact may not be seen immediately. The best CMOs must be able to predict which campaigns will deliver the best long-term value, get buy-in, and partner with other organizations across the business to successfully drive their marketing efforts.
Modern CMOs are increasingly expected to run their teams like CEOs. They need to be able to have a clear vision for the future, excite employees and get them on board with bringing this strategy to life.
To thrive, effective CMOs must become strong business leaders who understand the global world and are at the forefront of new technologies and emerging trends. Successful marketing leaders must be able to leverage these insights to innovate and find better ways to engage and serve consumers, as well as inspire their organizations around these ideas to drive change and marketing success.
16. Getting Stuff Done
Most CMOs are great at coming up with lots of new ideas based on the data they have. But they also need to know when there’s enough data and ideas to take action, and when they need to dig a bit more before making a decision. They must also be able to channel their creativity in a disciplined way that drives business results.
What other skills do you think are essential to today’s CMOs and marketing leaders? Which one of these are you personally working on as a marketer?