Not all chief marketing officers earned their title, owing more to seniority rules, nepotism, or simply an HR crew that made a poor choice. However, what's more common are CMOs who at one time were the best choice to lead marketing teams but then got lazy. They didn't keep up with trends, and when digital marketing overtook traditional marketing, they just didn't get on the bus.

Are you on the fast track to becoming the next CMO in your company? It's a good idea to learn from, read up on, and follow in the footsteps of the greats. You can be a fantastic CMO, a mediocre one, or a total failure--and it's all up to you. Check out these 12 common habits of successful CMOs and make sure you're on the right path:

1. They keep their eyes on the future

Marketing is an industry that's evolving at lightning speed. A successful CMO knows where marketing stands today, how the company is dominating it, and where the company wants to be every day in the next 12 months.

2. They revere native advertising

Consumers don't want hard sells or pitches--they want native advertising that looks like regular content, is entertaining and informative, and has nary a sell in sight. A successful CMO knows what the consumer wants and how to dish it up.

3. They're people persons

Obviously, right? Marketing is based on the ability to work with people, read people, and deliver to people. However, not all CMOs are natural social butterflies. Socializing (well) is a skill that can be learned, faked perfectly, and always improved on. Successful CEOs practice.

4. They're fantastic mediators

Not all CMOs are actual marketers coming up with new campaigns or choosing a brand's motto. Much of a CMO's job is making sure the marketing team is working as a unit and handling issues that come up between departments. For natural parents, teachers, or mediators, this will be much easier. Otherwise, some CMOs may need a coach.

5. They're totally on the digital bandwagon

There's certainly still space for traditional marketing techniques, but the reality is that the digital realm is king. Ideally, a CMO has a background in classical marketing but also plenty of experience in digital marketing. They know how sales funnels work in a virtual landscape, and words like mobile readiness don't scare them off.

6. They're not stuck in ruts

Humans are creatures of habit, but that's a death sentence for a marketing team. The marketing landscape is evolving, customers are evolving, and CMOs need to keep up. Just because a marketing tactic worked last year (or even last month) doesn't mean it will now.

7. They're all over big data

The management and analysis of big data should be dictating any marketing team's next moves. However, if the CMO doesn't revere the importance of data, don't know how to wrangle it, or can't translate it into actionable tasks, it's worthless. Successful CMOs find a means of data collection that works for them.

8. They're leaders

This one should be a given, but not everyone whose title includes chief is a natural leader. This skill can certainly be honed, sometimes with the help of a consultant. But successful CMOs don't say yes to a promotion or job offer just because it sounds impressive or because of the pay, or because a consultant says to. They make sure they understand the issues. CMOs need to be leaders to ensure the company's success.

9. They're on the thought-leader track

CMOs are experts in their industry and ideally on track to becoming thought leaders. This means focusing on personal branding, sharing expertise, and making a name for themselves (and their company).

10. They have just the right amount of experience

In rare cases, there are highly successful CMOs in their early 20s or late 70s. However, too little experience or unbending, rigid experience can be detrimental. There's no magic number, but somewhere in the middle may be ideal.

11. They have the ability to innovate and think outside the box

There's no one-size-fits-all formula for being a flawless CMO and mistakes will be made. However, marketing has always been about innovation opportunities. A great CMO is innovative and always forward-thinking.

12. They're committed to the company

Loyalty can go a long way in business, and it's unfortunately becoming less and less common. A fantastic CMO is committed to the company and his or her employees, and will watch for ways to lift them up. 

 

Published on: Nov 10, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.