Why CMOs Should Worry About Marketing Leadership's Future And What They Can Do About It
Deborah Op den Kamp
Much has been written about how the CMO role has changed in light of recent innovations like social media, mobile devices and Big Data. However, there is an astonishing dearth of information around what it takes to get there – i.e., what the next generation of marketing leaders should be doing to prepare themselves to take the reins. Important questions abound: Will they be ready when the time comes? Are organizations providing them with the right help? Are they being groomed for the demands of tomorrow and not just today? Are they engaged? Based on Russell Reynolds Associates’ recent survey of nearly 1,500 CMOs and rising marketing leaders globally, we’re sad to say that the answer to these questions, resoundingly, is NO.
CMOs have two reasons to be concerned. First, despite the fact that CMO turnover is traditionally very high, our survey revealed that less than half of marketing heads can name a ready successor if one were suddenly needed. Worse, there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. A whopping 79% of CMOs lack confidence in the bench strength of their teams. As investors (and therefore CEOs and boards) become increasingly focused on succession planning at all levels of the organization, CMOs would be wise to address this issue quickly.
Another (related) reason CMOs should be concerned is that rising marketing leaders don’t feel they’re getting the development support they need – and they plan to vote with their feet. A paltry 10% feel their manager is effective at developing them, and only 8% feel similarly about the development provided by their broader company. Given this context, it might not surprise you to learn that 50% of rising leaders say they plan to leave their organization in the next two years or less. But just imagine if half of your team walked out the door over the next 24 months.
So what should CMOs do? Our research identified three groups of developmental experiences that CMOs believe are most critical to success in the chief marketing position of tomorrow. By focusing rising leaders on these experiences, CMOs can significantly improve the performance, development, succession and retention of their teams. But getting it right will be tough. The development areas that CMOs feel are most important also happen to be those that rising marketing leaders say their organizations are the LEAST effective at offering.
Here are the three groups of developmental experiences with specific recommendations:
- Strategy and Innovation. Seventy percent of CMOs cite “strategy and innovation” experiences as critical to development, with a particular emphasis on setting strategic vision and product innovation.
- Recommendation: Give your No. 2 a crack at developing the annual plan or let her take the lead on launching a new product or turning around an ailing brand.
- People and Relationships. More than 65% of CMOs cite “people and relationships” experiences as critical to development, with a particular emphasis on building cross-functional relationships at the executive level and leading cross-functional teams.
- Recommendation: Swap one of your direct reports with a counterpart from another function or give him a major project requiring input from multiple functions and levels. Partnerships with IT are particularly helpful given the growing centrality of data and mobile devices to marketing strategies.
- Emerging Marketing. More than 60% of CMOs cite “emerging marketing” experiences (i.e., those that differ from traditional marketing experiences like print advertising and in-store branding) as critical to development, with a particular emphasis on data/analytics, digital marketing, and working internationally.
- Recommendation: Embed your senior marketers with your CRM or digital agency for a few weeks – and make sure to provide international rotations too.
You can read this article on Forbes.com.