What Makes A Great CMO ?

I’ve often said that the best CMO is a CEO who believes in Marketing. But beyond this, what makes a great CMO? This is germane not only to CMO’s whose average tenure is about 2 years, but also to CEO’s who need Marketing to drive results.

What Makes A Great CMO?

CMO Competency Research

Egon-Zehnder International (EZI) has taken a close look at this and has some interesting insights. Over the past 5 years, EZI conducted 25,00o CMO appraisals across 300 companies to better understand what differentiates great CMO’s from average ones.

Assessed skills included: results orientation, team leadership, collaboration, strategic orientation, organizational development, change leadership, customer orientation, and market knowledge.

Markers of a Great CMO

EZI’s assessment shows that 2 factors stand out in differentiating great from average CMO’s:

1.  Results Orientation

“Results orientation means driving uncompromisingly for better outcomes, often achieving them through skilled use of robust analysis and benchmarking”


2.  Change Leadership

“Good CMO’s are adept at advocating change and communicating a clear and compelling new direction…they set clear targets that focus people on achieving the change and develop metrics that both monitor and motivate it”

You could easily summarize the above as “set a direction and then deliver on it.” And, this is entirely consistent with a previous post, “What Do CEO’s Really Want From Marketing?,” where I discussed Lou Gerstner’s definition of CMO success: great CMO’s build the brand and build the business.

Makers of a Great CMO

What Can CMO’s Do?

1.  Success Metrics — One thing that most CMO’s can do better is to develop clear Marketing success metrics and then use them to assess the performance of their Marketing efforts. I’ve written extensively about the need for Marketing to be more accountable, particularly with Advertising and Media.

  • Does your advertising build your brand equity ? Which creative or media choices contribute most to this growth?
  • Does driving your brand equity scores build your revenue and profitability ? Which equity attributes are most critical to better business outcomes ?
  • Does your advertising build volume, share and revenue ? And, what’s the short and long-term ROI impact ?

2.  Reward Metrics — The same metrics can be used to reward your organization. Whether you recognize and reward people on an ad hoc basis, or with more formal annual Marketing Awards events, every CMO has an opportunity to continuously recognize great performance by individuals and groups by emphasizing progress on the same metrics.

Success Metrics & Reward Metrics


Set a Direction and Then Deliver On It

Like most good insights, it sounds simple but is, of course, hard to execute in practice. Lou Gerstner was right. Great CMO’s just build great brands and drive better business results. And, the Egon-Zehnder research just proves it.

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3 Responses to What Makes A Great CMO ?

  1. Cari Gatto says:

    Randall, another informative blog post! Fortunately there are great new tools to measure the outcomes of marketing activity that will hopefully facilitate the shift in thinking towards more ROI-based strategy development and decision making.

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Cari — Thx for the comment. Judging by their average lifespan, CMO’s certainly have a tough job. That said, metrics and measurement can be an important ally to the CMO if used correctly. I’ve often seen examples of Marketing groups that don’t want their programs measured, but now more than ever, CEO’s and CFO’s are demanding accountability for every Markeiting investment. Part of the CMO’s job is to set a direction and then hold themselves and their organization accountable for delivering against it. Randall

  2. Randall, thanks for sharing this study. As I’ve been interviewing CMOs around the country for my book, I have talked with several “top performers.” They realize that they impact the company/brands growth and take that role seriously. They don’t fall into the trap of “brand building equates to broadcast advertising” and therefor don’t spend their primary energy on what tv spots to create. Sure they may run commercials, but they are much more focused on delivering brand value to customers, engaging them in new more efficient ways and measuring the sort-term and long-term impact they are having. It is refreshing to meet these top performers and be encouraged that some CMOs out there really do get it!

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