The big debate: Is CMO succession in crisis?
Industry TrendsSuccession PlanningMarketing, Sales, and StrategyC-Suite Succession
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September 07, 2017
Industry TrendsSuccession PlanningMarketing, Sales, and StrategyC-Suite Succession

Marketing Week

Marketing Week featured Russell Reynolds Associates research, “Marketing Moves 2017: Q1 – Q2,”​ and quoted Consultant Richard Sanderson in their article, “The big debate: Is CMO succession in crisis?” The article is excerpted below.​​ 

When appointing a new marketing leader, boards and CEOs must weigh up whether the skills they need exist within the current team or whether they should hire an external recruit who embodies the evolving CMO skillset. 

When it comes to the crunch, external hires are growing in popularity. During the first half of 2017, 72% of publicly reported CMO appointments were external candidates, up from 64% during the same period in 2016, according to research by Russell Reynolds Associates. 

The executive search firm recorded 187 marketing leadership appointments over a six-month period, the highest number for the past five years. 


According to Richard Sanderson, executive director of marketing, consumer and retail at Russell Reynolds, this reflects the fact tech businesses are on an accelerated growth curve, meaning they quickly reach different stages of maturity that require different leadership skills. 

“In the very early stages [of a company] we see marketers that look a lot like product marketers, then as growth starts to accelerate within tech businesses we see more channel-based marketers who have a strong focus on demand generation or revenue optimisation,” Sanderson explains. 

“Then at later stages of their growth, appointments in tech organisations seem to be more about narrative storytelling and brand experience, so you often see more brand-centric marketing leaders take on these CMO roles.” 

Bridging the experience gap 

The rapidly evolving nature of marketing is exerting real pressure on the talent pipeline, meaning today’s CMOs need to be fully rounded individuals and not the channel specialists of the past, says Sanderson. 


Resist job title obsession 

A factor encouraging marketers to consider leaving their company for a role in a new business or sector is the time it takes to be appointed CMO. Russell Reynolds’ research finds that for internal appointments marketers have to wait on average 7.3 years to be promoted to CMO from the next most senior role. 

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