Where do successful CMOs come from?

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Gartner recently noted the importance of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) as key drivers of business growth. “As CMOs take on more responsibility and take ownership of CX, understanding the influence they have on business growth is critical to succeeding in this rapidly evolving role,” — Gartner. In some cases, the CMO is also considered more like the “Chief Customer Officer”.

Before joining Salesforce, I was both Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Customer Officer (CCO) for Enterasys Networks. At that time I was working with Jim McLeod, director of digital experiences and creative services. MacLeod is now Vice President of Marketing at EBSCO. MacLeod is one of the most creative and talented digital marketing professionals I have ever worked with. The biggest challenge I faced as a newly appointed CMO was my education and work experience in marketing – I had none. I studied Electrical Engineering at undergraduate and graduate universities and developed my career primarily as Vice President of Engineering and Chief Customer Officer, Head of Global Customer Services prior to have the opportunity to lead global marketing as a CMO. MacLeod and the rest of the marketing team had to teach me the art and science of marketing. We accomplished a massive marketing transformation during my three-year tenure as CMO, including rebranding a $750 million public company in less than 90 days. When we finished, MacLeod and our marketing team received a Forrester Groundswell Award for our successful and highly innovative business practices.

MacLeod and I recently connected and talked about successful marketing leaders and their backgrounds. So where do successful CMOs come from? What educational and professional experiences are necessary to be a successful CMO?

The brilliant president and chief marketing officer of Salesforce, Sarah Franklin, who was recently recognized by Forbes as the sixth most influential CMO of 2022, began her career as a chemical engineer. “After 13 years at the San Francisco-based tech giant, Franklin became CMO in January 2021. Since then, the former chemical engineer has made innovation her focus — and uses her marketing clout to drive it. sees leading the platform company to prepare for his role as CMO, as it provided him with deep insight into the breadth and depth of the business,” Forbes.


The road to chief marketing officer (CMO) is diverse and multifaceted

Jim McLeod

The business world has been changing on an unprecedented scale and speed. The pandemic created decentralized, digital-only business engagement models that were digital first, lasted through 2020 and continue to shape our future today permanently. Customer expectations, buying behaviors, engagement preferences and expanded channel usage have redefined existing business models and created new ones. As the world changed, so did marketing. The role of the CMO has also evolved with a greater focus on customer experience and brand loyalty. Welcome to the experience-based economy of trust. Research found that 88% of customers say a company’s experience is as important as its products or services, up from 80% in 2020. team support with holistic success of all stakeholders as guiding principles .

The Chief Marketing Officer is one of the most unique positions within the C-suite. It is a position that has historically been one of shortest average occupancy times among his peers. A key contributor to this is the rate of change within marketing. The role of the CMO has also evolved in recent years due to a more decentralized and digital approach to stakeholder engagements. Today, chief marketing officers (CMOs) must lead the organization by connecting the business, adapting and predicting market opportunities, and advancing the goal to drive overall business strategy.

Marketing is a field in constant evolution, and with it new skills necessary to conquer the public of tomorrow. CMOs need to be able to accurately predict upcoming trends that will impact their business and get other stakeholders to align with these new initiatives. Due to the ever-changing landscape, the path to becoming a CMO is different for everyone at every company. Some of today’s most innovative CMOs are marketing lifers, and others have “grown up” in disciplines outside of traditional marketing roles.

In hindsight, there is often a visible path from the beginning of a person’s career to their current position. But there’s no clear path for an ever-changing position like chief marketing officer. Over the past decade, there has been an onslaught of new marketing challenges and innovations. How many leaders of tomorrow are taking on new challenges today? If you’re a CMO, please share your story with Jim and I on Twitter – we’d love to share your experiences with our marketing community.

jim macleod

Jim McLeodVice President of Marketing, Digital Experience, EBSCO Information Services

This article was co-authored by Jim McLeod, Vice President Marketing, Digital Experience for EBSCO Information Services. The beautiful infographic for ‘The Road to CMO’ was also created by MacLeod. For more than two decades, MacLeod has found the best way to get the public to take the right action. Whether on the agency side or in-house, B2B or B2C, MacLeod finds creative ways to cut through the noise, focus on the most effective message, and grab people’s attention. MacLeod publishes a weekly newsletter, Marketing Podcast Recap, where he presents the key takeaways from marketing podcasts in an easy-to-use infographic.

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