“I need a CMO who can help us scale the business.”
This is the most common concern I hear from CEOs who reach out to me for counsel on marketing. I’ve had the good fortune of scaling three companies from early stage to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in tenures of 7 to 8 years. And from this experience, I’ve distilled a set of five imperatives for CMOs to successfully scale:
1. Personal Leadership Growth
As an organization scales, a CMO must transition from being a hands-on manager of a small team of individual contributors to one who sets a vision and brings out the best in a diverse group of senior leaders. CMOs need to be highly skilled at setting meaningful goals, instilling accountability, fostering effective collaboration, and developing the skills of those around them, all while maintaining a strong connection to the customer and market.
Pro tip: Block time in your calendar for strategic thinking, team building, customer contact, and peer relationship building.
2. Strategic alignment
CMOs should be tuned into market growth opportunities and ready to adapt vision, strategy, structure, and accountability to support corporate goals. Align your team with priorities including geographic expansion, repositioning, acquisitions, and new products. Regularly reflect with the leadership team on how to give strategic initiatives the right focus: new skills, a different structure, potential new leaders, bottlenecks?
Pro tip: Imagine you’re designing, from the ground up, the best organization to achieve the team’s goals. Then fit the best people to the roles and fill holes.
3. Change Leadership
Nothing stands still. Some things work and others don’t. New opportunities emerge, others disappear, priorities shift, roles change. Team members may resist, but it’s the CMO’s job to drive the vision, set the priorities, and lead their teams (and other teams) through change.
Pro tip: Look for adaptability and openness to change in the people you hire. Tap into the natural leaders within the team to help everyone embrace change.
4. Talent Management Excellence
The best CMOs build a culture that is focused on excellence and talent development. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to “hire their boss”: leaders who are (or will be) better than them. Everyone needs a development plan and ways to expand their skills, like innovation challenges and special projects to push them out of their comfort zones. If it’s time to let go of team members who are underperforming or undermining, do so with respect and compassion.
Pro tip: Make talent reviews and talent management a cornerstone of your annual or bi-annual marketing planning meetings.
5. Collaboration and Communication
With growth comes the opportunity for the most common challenge I see: misalignment. The best marketing leaders spend a great deal of time collaborating with peers: in sales, customer success, services, HR, finance, and product. Great CMOs communicate marketing’s vision, contribution, and impact while understanding other teams’ objectives, metrics, and concerns.
Pro tip: Openly share your team’s MBOs, marketing plans, and results with others, and tightly align your plans with all go-to-market teams.
As a visionary CMO who can shine in these five areas, you’ll be unstoppable.