What is a CMO?
CMO is short for “Chief Marketing Officer.” It is part of a senior management classification sometimes known as “C-level” or “C-suite,” the “C” short for “Chief.”
This puts the role on the same tier as senior management positions within the organization such as CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CTO (Chief Technical Officer), or COO (Chief Operating Officer).
As the title suggests, the CMO has final responsibility for the organization’s marketing efforts. Marketing refers to any effort or campaign the organization might take to become “top-of-mind” in their industry or sector among their target audience.
If your marketing campaign is successful, warm prospects exposed to the campaign will think of your brand first when considering your type of product, service, or solution offering.
The role of a CMO, for companies that have them, is therefore pivotal. It encompasses advertising, PR, branding, brand awareness, and brand trust. All of these vectors are key drivers of revenue to the organization. If the CMO fails, the organization likely fails as well.
However, many organizations—especially small and mid-sized companies—don’t have a CMO. Either they don’t have the budget, or they don’t understand the benefits of a C-level position to lead marketing efforts.
What does a CMO do?
As part of the C-suite, the CMO is a leader. (S)he probably won’t be writing ad copy, sending press releases, designing ad creative, making social posts, performing on-page SEO, haggling with billboard owners, or a million and one other trench-level tasks that feed into a successful marketing ecosystem.
Instead, the CMO assumes responsibility to the management, board, shareholders, investors, or other stakeholders that all of the above gets done, and gets done effectively. This will almost certainly involve a broad understanding of the full marketing stack, but leading a marketing team is different from executing a marketing campaign.
Leading a marketing team involves:
- Vision. Individual workers often can’t see the forest for the trees. They become siloed in their own responsibilities, lose track of the bigger picture, and end up working at cross purposes with other members of the marketing team. The CMO must help construct, and then maintain, a 30,000-foot view of the organization’s marketing goals, so (s)he can steer the team toward them on a path of consistent progress.
- Hiring. In the hiring and firing of marketing personnel, the buck usually stops with the CMO. CMOs may not know how to execute every stage of the marketing campaign, but their discretion, intuition, and experience as a leader are invaluable in hiring the people who do know how to execute, and who will do so effectively.
- Review and Accountability. Once the marketing team is in place and knows its objectives, they are accountable to the CMO. The CMO can’t be everywhere at all times within the organization’s marketing ecosystem. (S)he has to trust that people do their jobs. But at the C-level, you “trust but verify,” with periodic check-ins and reviews to make sure the team is on task.
- Laser-Like Focus on the Numbers. Like every C-level executive, the CMO must be relentless in pursuit of quantifiable goals. (S)he must cut through the narratives right to the numbers. If key performance indicators (KPI) aren’t headed in the right direction, the CMO must intervene.
- Team Building. Effective teams don’t happen by accident. They are carefully crafted, cultivated, and smoothed over. An effective CMO balances personalities with responsibilities mediates disputes, soothes frustration, and encourages synergy between team members by whatever means available.
- Training and Resources. Team members’ last jobs may not have prepared them for their new role within the organization, even if the previous role was very similar. CMOs may not conduct all the training themselves in person, but they make sure their reports are properly trained to do what they do. Marketing best practices change quickly, and a CMO is responsible for keeping the team abreast of the latest, most effective methodologies.
- KPI Review. Key performance indicators (KPI) are the metrics selected by a team to track their progress. They are essentially the team’s “report card.” In the case of marketing, KPIs could include search ranking, social engagement, web traffic, cost per lead acquisition, cost per customer acquisition, and customer lifetime value. A CMO might not look at the KPIs every day, but they will check in periodically to identify bottlenecks that C-level leadership can help correct.
[bctt tweet="A CMO’s most important job is to get all team members who touch marketing to buy into the overall vision of marketing, a purpose greater than each team member’s tiny domain." username="digitalpart"]
Why does a company need a CMO?
A company does not necessarily need to have a dedicated CMO. Depending on the size of the organization, the C-suite may have to double up, with CMO duties being taken on by the CEO, COO, or other senior managers.
But even if there isn’t one individual within the organization with the sole title of “CMO,” marketing teams need leadership to fulfill their role within the organization.
For most organizations, marketing has many moving parts. These tasks may fall to in-house marketing specialists, in-house IT specialists, in-house employees with no marketing experience who are being asked to wing it, or (more often) outsourced to freelancers. It can become messy quickly, with a dozen or more employees and contractors fighting over turf and guarding their own jobs.
A CMO’s most important job is to get all team members who touch marketing to buy into the overall vision of marketing, a purpose greater than each team member’s tiny domain. The CMO must take all those rowers and get them pulling their oars in the same direction. Only then can a marketing campaign actually get somewhere.
What does a CMO get paid?
One of the things that stop small and medium-sized organizations from bringing on an experienced CMO full-time is the C-level salary requirement.
According to PayScale.com, the average base salary for a CMO is over $170,000, with a range from $90,000 to $274,000. Add in bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions, and we’re looking at a total compensation package that could reach as high as $342,000.
Glassdoor.com puts the national salary average for a CMO at just under $177,000, with a range from $87,000 to $361,000.
Is A CMO Higher than a Vice President?
A CMO is on a management tier higher than a vice president. Many more organizations have a VP of Marketing than a full-time CMO. A VP of Marketing is a marketing leader whose roles may overlap significantly with the role of a CMO.
The difference is that at the C-level, it’s less about soft management skills and more about the numbers. In an organization with both a CMO and a VP of Marketing, the VP is more likely to be in the trenches with the team, and responsible to the CMO for hitting KPI targets.
CMO Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can businesses of any size outsource the role of CMO?
The short answer is “yes.” Small and medium-sized organizations may not have the resources needed to put together the compensation package that an experienced CMO would demand. For them, outsourcing the role of CMO may be the most practical option to obtain the benefits of C-level marketing leadership at a price tag they can afford.
However, even larger organizations and enterprises may find the cost savings available from outsourcing the CMO role to be an attractive option.
How do you outsource the role of CMO? With a “fractional CMO” or “fractional marketing director” service. Some marketing companies hire experienced marketing professionals with C-level leadership abilities, whom they hire out to organizations on a contract basis.
This temporary CMO comes on board to upgrade the company’s marketing ecosystem. The company pays this CMO only a “fraction” of a full-time salary, paying them only for the time they actually dedicate to the organization. A fractional CMO may work for multiple organizations at one time.
Fractional CMO contracts may last anywhere from six months to a year or longer, working for the client organization anywhere from ten hours a week to twenty hours a week or more. Hourly rates for a fractional CMO range from $200 to $300 per hour.
On an hour-by-hour basis, this may actually be more than the company might pay to a full-time or interim CMO. But remember, the company is only paying this leader on a contract basis for a fraction of the standard workweek. Also, there isn’t the expectation of ongoing employment, with the same hefty compensation package due to the CMO every year.
So what can an outsourced CMO do in six months to a year? Whip the marketing team into shape with the kind of actions a full-time CMO might take, including:
- Conducting a marketing audit to see what campaigns are working, which ones need improvement, and which ones need to be phased out.
- Upgrading team methodologies to reflect current best practices.
- Identifying KPIs, setting benchmarks, and holding the team accountable for meeting them.
- Building, training, and re-invigorating teams.
The goal of an outsourced marketing director is to upgrade the organization’s marketing ecosystem, level up their results, and equip the permanent marketing team with the tools, systems, and processes they need to continue to achieve those results once the fractional marketing leader moves on to the next organization in need of C-level marketing leadership.
Q: Is CMO a skillset that is hard to hire internally?
CMO can be a hard position to hire internally, even for larger organizations. An employee’s skill at launching a successful Facebook ad campaign or writing a great sales script does not necessarily qualify them to sit at the table with C-level leadership and take accountability for the actions of a cross-disciplinary team.
A VP of marketing may be eligible for elevation to the CMO role, but it isn’t a one-to-one transfer. The VP level is more about soft skills; the C-suite is more about accountability and hitting the numbers.
It’s not an easy needle to thread. Most organizations rely on executive recruiters to find qualified CMO candidates.
Q: How is a CMO used in healthcare?
Healthcare organizations face a more challenging marketing environment than ever. Traditional regional providers compete with retail healthcare providers and telemedicine providers for market share among patients in a way they never had before.
A CMO can help a healthcare organization get up to speed with its marketing efforts to effectively compete for patients. They can also lead campaigns to help organizations meet the high bar of consumer trust that patients hold their healthcare providers to.
Q: How is a CMO used in marketing?
A CMO is a “Chief Marketing Officer,” a C-level executive responsible for all marketing campaigns. Marketing teams rely on the role of CMO to approve KPIs, set benchmarks, and then hold the marketing team accountable for meeting them.
The CMO is, concurrently, accountable to upper management, shareholders, the board of directors, investors, and any other high-level stakeholders for the effectiveness of the organization’s marketing efforts.
Q: How is a CMO used in financial marketing?
Financial organizations also face a high bar of credibility, trusted as they are with clients’ money and sensitive personal information. A CMO can help a financial organization marshall its marketing resources to promote not only brand awareness, but also brand trust and brand ambassadorship, amongst its target clientele.
[bctt tweet="Action marketing not only creates brand awareness—it encourages prospects to take action on that awareness, usually by converting to a lead or making a purchase." username="digitalpart"]
Q: What is the difference between thought marketing and action marketing?
Thought marketing is the process of achieving “top-of-mind awareness” with warm prospects through gradual buildup of brand awareness and building of brand trust. Through repeat, positive exposures and touchpoints, the prospect builds positive cognitive associations between the brand name and the solution. It might not prompt the prospect to immediate action, but it is essential for long-term dominance in use of verticals.
Content marketing via blogs or YouTube videos, as well as organic social media growth, are thought marketing techniques, although they can also furnish opportunities for action marketing.
Action marketing not only creates brand awareness—it encourages prospects to take action on that awareness, usually by converting to a lead or making a purchase. Action marketing can create revenue quickly, but with a high burn rate—you will lose more prospects than you convert. Direct-response lead funnels and sales funnels are examples of action marketing.
Despite being distinct, thought marketing and action marketing can go hand-in-hand. For example, a blog or YouTube video can be armed with a call to action at the end to give the warmest buyers a chance to convert right then and there.
Q: What is the role of competitor analysis in marketing?
Competitor analysis is critical to successful marketing. Remember, the goal of marketing is to achieve top-of-mind awareness for your brand relative to your industry. You want your brand to be the first name that comes to mind when a prospect thinks of your industry.
By the law of exclusion, that means you don’t want your prospects to think of a competitor’s brand name first. Unless some sort of synergistic partnership can be formed, you’re trying to beat your competitors at the marketing game. You need to size up your opponents.
This might involve taking stock of their brand messaging and their brand strength. How high does their website rank? How engaged is their social following? How much money are they throwing at direct advertising? What would it take to beat them?
Competitor analysis also involves taking stock of the message itself. Does it fully address the desires and pain points of your target audience? Could you craft a better message by targeting primary driver emotions?
Competitor analysis can provide the marketing team with ideas for new campaigns. If a competitor is throwing a lot of money at a particular type of campaign, it must be fruitful for them and might be worth trying. But if they take up too much space in that channel to unseat them (able to outbid you for paid search ads, for example), it might not be wise to go toe-to-toe with them. Instead, it might be wise to seek out a different channel for advertisement.
Finally, looking at a competitor’s brand messaging gives you an idea of what works for them, and also ideas of how to differentiate yourself—ways to make your brand distinct and memorable.
Q: What is the role of content creation in marketing?
Most users go to the internet looking for content, not companies. Many companies make this mistake and push the company instead of content.
Content is a lure that brands can put out into the public square to attract warm prospects’ eyes to the brand. They may not have realized they were even looking for a solution to the problem they are Google-searching content for, but the content could be their pathway to discovering a solution they never knew existed.
“Content” is a catch-all category. Usually, it refers to blogs, podcasts, and videos, but it could also include emails, sales letters, white papers, “lead magnet” eBooks, and anything that a prospect might find valuable.
Over the long term, copious and authoritative content has some of the best ROI of any marketing activity. It is great for SEO, brand authority, and brand trust.
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