If you are or ever have been a CMO, I bet you can relate to at least one of these experiences.
You love your company, but you don't feel free to contribute to growth as much as you'd like.
You know you're at the top of your game, but you don't think your talents are being utilized to their fullest potential.
You don't know exactly what is expected of you, because your job description isn't clearly laid out.
These are just a few of the scenarios that contribute to the high rate of turnover among CMOs, according to a recent study on the subject by the Harvard Business Review.
Compared to the rest of the C-suite, CMOs stay in their jobs for the fewest number of years. Recruiting firm Korn Ferry has found that the average length of time a CMO lasts is 4.1 years, compared to 8 years for CEOs and 5.1 years for CFOs.
Add to this the troubling fact that a separate survey found that a whopping 80% of CEOs said that they did not trust marketers - including their own CMOs.
What's the disconnect here? How do we repair this broken relationship? Here are a few starting points to consider.
CEOs: We must be clear about our expectations.
As the leaders of our companies, we've got to do what we can to set our hires up for success, not failure.
One of the first big steps we can take in that direction is to simply be clearer about our expectations. We don't need formal studies (although they exist) to tell us that CMOs are tasked with a variety of responsibilities that often differ hugely from company to company.
This, of course, means that a CMO moving from one company to another could find him or herself in a completely unfamiliar role - even though the title remains the same.
To prevent this kind of disharmony from arising, ask yourself these questions.
- What responsibilities does your CMO need to take on?
- How much authority do they have to make high-level decisions?
- Can they hire and fire in their own department?
- Are they authorized to change strategic direction, not just tactics, as they see fit?
Once you've made your decisions, it's crucial to communicate the answers to your current or potential CMO. If there are any differences in expectations, explore those thoroughly. Your expectations must align with the CMO's if he or she is to succeed.
CMOs: Participate in designing your role.
One of the Harvard team's most critical findings was that most CMOs who felt satisfied with their jobs had participated in designing their role.
While this is certainly easier to do during the negotiation process, before you join a company, there's no reason that you can't enter into this conversation with your CEO when you're already on board.
If you're going through interviews and negotiations, take the time to look carefully through the position description. Note any responsibilities you think are missing and any questions you have about your level of oversight or authority.
Once you've got your written list, discuss these issues with the CEO. Both parties must be willing to give and take a little. If you reach a wall, try asking for another review of your position 6 months in, once you've both had a chance to see how things are working.
CEOs: Take responsibility for any CMO problems you may have contributed to.
Assessing and reflecting on one's own leadership is an essential part of leading a company.
Have you unconsciously contributed to any difficulties with your CMO?
Have you restricted their purview unnecessarily?
Do you have a clear idea in your mind of what their job entails? Have you communicated that to them?
Make sure that you're making it easier for your CMO to thrive, not throwing obstacles in their way.
CMOs: Ask for specific metrics, expectations, and/or budgetary areas that will be used in measuring your performance.
If a CEO isn't forthcoming with the metrics or budgetary concerns that you'll be measured by, don't be afraid to ask. It could be that he or she simply hadn't considered sharing them with you - or even that they're not sure how to answer.
Since CMOs have such widely differing job functions, it's important to know how your performance will be measured. Laying that out transparently, so you and your CEO can agree upon it, will help prevent misunderstandings later.
Harmony in the C-suite can be a challenge to maintain, but it's absolutely possible. All it takes is a bit of effort, understanding, and open, transparent communication from everyone involved.