How To Avoid 3 Big Pitfalls That Sink CMO Careers

How To Avoid 3 Big Pitfalls That Sink CMO Careers

Aug 9, 2018 Business by master#@

When companies stumble, the C-Suite often takes the blame. Remember Colgate’s foray into the frozen food aisle? But global marketing leadership expert Thomas Barta cautions it’s unfair to associate every failure with one person at the top. It takes a village to launch a big brand campaign or product line that falls flat.

“If they could turn back the clock, I suspect, top marketers like Blockbuster UK’s former CMO Bryn Owen and Sony Ericsson’s Dee Dutta would now challenge the business model more,” Barta says. “As we wrote in The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, doing marketing isn’t the same as leading marketing.” Barta shared tips on pitfalls chief marketing officers need to avoid in 2018, and beyond, to thrive in their careers.

Doing marketing isn’t the same as leading marketing.(Photo credit: on Unsplash)

Lacking leadership skills. The biggest skills gap in the marketing industry today? “Leadership—full stop,” says Barta. He and co-author Patrick Barwise conducted a global study, involving over 68,000 executive assessments, on what makes a CMO successful. The research revealed that while 71% of all CMOs have business impact, only 44% felt good about their career outlook.

“Most marketers have decent marketing skills, but they lack the even more important skills to lead marketing,” Barta says. “And leading marketing isn’t about digital or campaigns—it’s about C-suite acceptance and about making change happen.”

Failing to show ROI. “Over 50% of all board members in a recent study didn’t believe that their firm’s marketing money was significantly driving top-line revenue,” Barta says. “In other words, people don’t believe marketers are spending the money well.” Only two-thirds of CMOs surveyed said they brought in a strong return for their company.

While ROI could be higher in marketing overall, CEOs often underestimate how much marketing drives the business from top to bottom. This disconnect may be what’s sparking the trend of companies replacing their CMOs with “growth” officers. “If marketers aren’t seen as driving profitable growth, they are seen as cost. There’s no in between.”

Missing the “V-Zone.” The Value Creation Zone is the sweet spot for marketers, where customer needs and company needs overlap. “Too many marketers side only with customers—and therefore have no seat at the top table,” Barta says.

(Graphic courtesy of Thomas Barta)

The upside to these shortcomings is they’re solvable. Personality type has no impact on the chances for CMO success (less than 1%, according to Barta’s study). That means great marketing leaders are built, not born. For examples of how to effectively lead a global brand’s marketing efforts, see Diageo’s Syl Saller and Adobe’s Ann Lewnes. “The great news is [their] success is in reach for others too.”

What’s your leadership style? Take this free personality test based on Barta’s leadership success study to find out.

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