Chief Marketing Officer Role | CMO Job Description | Marketing Executive Recruiters

      It’s Time to Reimagine the Chief Marketing Officer Role

      Top Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt

      By Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt — Top Marketing & Sales Executive Recruiter Ash Wendt has deep experience and unmatched expertise in sourcing extraordinary talent for C-suite roles centered on sales, marketing, operations, and finance. As a founding partner of Cowen Partners, Ash Wendt is also a pioneering thought leader frequently quoted in The Wall Street Journal and other prominent journals.

      The chief marketing officer (CMO) role has always been a contentious one. Businesses recognize the importance of marketing to a company’s success and growth, but many CEOs and top executives are hesitant to assign a CMO position. Part of the reluctance comes from the inability to track the impact of a marketing campaign on the company’s bottom line. 

      Demand generation is the main responsibility of a CMO, which is to say a CMO creates targeted campaigns to bring awareness to a business’s products and services. A company can see an increase in engagement and brand awareness after a marketing campaign, but the sales increase can take longer to spot. It’s also often unclear what responsibilities should fall under the CMO umbrella. The role is often extremely varied from company to company and the job responsibilities are always inconsistent. The vague nature of the role has given it one of the highest turnover rates in the C-suite group. On average, a CMO stays with a company 3.5 years. In comparison, a CEO sticks with a company for an average of 7 years. 

      Why Upgrade the CMO Role?

      The advancement of technology is just one of the reasons why the CMO role needs to be reexamined. The speed with which market trends change and audience attention shifts these days makes customer engagement more important than ever. It also makes it increasingly difficult to focus energy on long-term brand building, which is a big part of the CMO role. Another common issue with CMOs is that their position focus is becoming increasingly narrow. Many CMOs put all of their energy into marketing communications when there are so many other important business aspects that could use their attention. For example, many companies are having the CMO expand the focus to customer experiences and product road mapping. 

      Expanding the CMO role has several benefits. First, by working with more teams such as sales and customer experience, the CMO can bring these departments together into a more cohesive unit. Marketing is a core aspect of the business and should be integrated into nearly every aspect of business processes. By allowing the CMO to work with the VP of sales and coordinate with the chief revenue officer, this can be accomplished. 

      Second, the more responsibility the CMO has, the more they’ll feel heard and like a real member of the C-suite. CMOs tend to be left out of the big decisions because CEOs and COOs see them as simple marketers. More responsibility will give them a bigger voice in the company and require more say in important company decisions. 

      Marketing impact will stay the same

      Expanding the CMO role shouldn’t have an impact on your company’s marketing efforts. If anything, it’ll actually make marketing more effective because the CMO will have a more comprehensive understanding of customer needs, sales cycles, and more. The CMO will still be focusing on expanding the company brand and audience, but now excellent customer service can be integrated into the approach. Combining these two business aspects is particularly vital because marketing interacts with customers wherever they’re at through social media channels, events, and even product placement. In effect, the CMO should also be viewed as a steward of the customer experience. 


      Review the CMO position within your own company to see what changes could possibly be implemented. Perhaps your CMO is already effectively managing your marketing needs. If this is the case, don’t feel pressure to reinvent the position. However, it doesn’t hurt to look for potential areas of improvement. Have a conversation with your CMO to get their take on the role and what it could be missing. They might tell you they need more interaction with the VP of sales to ensure a consistent brand message, or maybe they’ll express interest in working more with the product development team. 

      Reimagining the CMO role is an opportunity to shake things up at your company and get people thinking about innovative new communication techniques and branding ideas. If the CMO role isn’t having the impact you want right now, reinventing the position to cover more areas could be the key to more effective communication. The change may require a title adjustment as well. Perhaps instead of CMO, the position will morph into chief growth officer (CGO) or a combination chief marketing and business management officer. With the CMO role changing for so many businesses, now is a good time to ask whether your company needs to make a change as well. 

      5 Tips to Help You Hire the Best CMO for Your Startup

      A chief marketing officer (CMO) is an essential role within any startup. The right CMO can build out your marketing team, improve brand awareness, and drive sales. Hiring for this role, however, can be a bit complicated, especially for startups. Many startup CEOs have a hard time accurately assessing the right time to hire a CMO. In many cases, the CMO is brought on too early or the wrong person is selected for the role. 

      When to Hire a CMO

      At a certain point, a startup CEO’s knowledge of marketing is no longer adequate for the business’s growth. When you’re first starting, the CEO or COO may do a great job managing the marketing side of the company. As the business grows, however, the marketing becomes more complex and questions arise that require a more experienced marketing perspective. When your business reaches this point, you’ll notice competitors pulling ahead and your growth flatlining. A CMO can come in and revitalize the business and reignite growth. 

      Another clear sign it’s time to hire a CMO is if your team is telling you they need more leadership. Talk to the marketing managers and get their insight. They may require more direction and industry experience to move the business forward. If your marketing staff needs a leader, it could be time to hire a CMO.

      Choosing the best CMO for your startup

      Now that you’ve determined you need a CMO for your startup, it’s time to figure out what kind of CMO would be best for your company. Below are five tips that will help you find the right person.

      1. Figure out what kind of CMO you need

      CMOs can specialize in different aspects of marketing. For example, there is the storyteller CMO who will perfect your brand voice and image. The storyteller will help you connect with customers and will build an excellent brand strategy through content marketing, partnerships, and events. 

      The analytic CMO, on the other hand, is more experienced in market analysis. The analytic CMO is experienced in growth marketing and will know how to track trends, measure campaign success, and create lead generation funnels.

      Understanding business needs will help you determine which areas of the marketing strategy you need to improve. It’s difficult to find a CMO who is the full package, often referred to as a unicorn. As long as you understand your biggest areas of need, however, you should be able to find someone to fill your most pressing marketing gaps. 

      • Choose someone who knows how to structure teams

      No matter the main experience and skill set of your CMO, you need someone who can strategically structure the various marketing departments. During the interview process, ask candidates how they’d structure your teams and have them work together. A few teams that fall under the CMO’s control include content marketing, customer relationships management, brand marketing, marketing communications, and product marketing. Your business may have a few more or could be missing a unit that would drastically improve sales. A CMO should be able to come in and structure marketing groups efficiently and cohesively. 

      • Ask for specific referrals

      During CMO recruiting, don’t just ask colleagues for CMO referrals. Simply asking for a CMO referral will get you a wide assortment of contacts. Get specific with your needs and say, “Do you know any CMOs who are expert storytellers with experience in brand building and customer outreach?” The more specific you can be, the more likely you’ll be to find a qualifying candidate. 

      • Get insight from a marketing professional

      You may think you know what your company needs, but it’s easy to miss the mark when you’re busy focusing on other aspects of the business. Pull in a marketing professional to gain more insight on marketing talent and demands. You may be surprised by the assessment you receive from the marketing advisor.  

      • Perfect the job description

      A big reason startups fail to attract the CMOs they need is because of a poor job description. Before posting anything, review the document to make sure expectations are set and realistic. Don’t be too broad with your description either. If you have specific areas of marketing that need attention, cater the job description to fill that role. This will help you narrow your CMO search and it’ll also make it easier for recruiters to find you the right person for the job. 

      Why CMO Turnover is so High and How to Retain Marketing Talent

      A chief marketing officer (CMO) is the person responsible for managing the marketing side of your company. This c-suite position ensures your company mission and vision is being accurately conveyed to the public. They also keep the marketing strategy on track so your business continues to reach a larger audience. A successful CMO will ultimately have a big impact on your company’s revenue and overall profits. 

      On paper, these roles seem like a great opportunity for an experienced marketing manager to come into an organization and drive results. More often than not, however, a CMO is hired only to discover the role is not as described. The disconnect between CMO expectations and role responsibilities is just one of the reasons why this position has one of the highest c-suit turnover rates. According to Forbes, the average tenure of a CMO is 44 months; that’s less than four years. Turnover isn’t good for any position but especially not at the c-suite level. 

      Common mistakes that drive away a CMO

      The first step to retaining your CMO long-term is understanding the main causes of turnover. Below are two of the main reasons CMOs do not stay long at a company. 

      Lack of CEO support

      Prior to hiring a CMO, the CEO is often the one assisting with the marketing plans. When a CMO is brought on, it can be difficult for the CEO to relinquish this important responsibility to a new leader. A majority of CEOs also don’t fully grasp the intricacies of marketing and everything that goes into strategy development, yet they expect a CMO to generate revenue. The problem is, it’s incredibly difficult to translate a marketing campaign into dollars earned. 

      A marketing campaign increases brand awareness and gets people talking about your company’s services or products. This is known as demand generation. In the long run, this can lead to a bigger profit as more people know about your brand and what you have to offer. Short-term, however, there’s not a good way to show on paper how the marketing strategy is increasing sales. To some CEOs, the lack of revenue data appears to be evidence that the marketing strategy isn’t working. When in fact, they’re trying to measure the wrong thing. Instead of profit, a CEO should be looking at engagement and brand awareness.

      Limited authority and trust

      Many CMOs have faced limited authority within a company. Even though the position is at the c-suite level, CMOs find themselves micromanaged by the CEO or other leadership positions. Again, this goes back to trusting in the professional you hire for the role. A chief marketing officer is highly experienced with a solid background in marketing. Being micromanaged by the CEO or COO is a frustrating position for the CMO. Not only is it frustrating, but it also makes it hard for the marketing officer to do their job. When you’re constantly requesting approval to take a new step, it feels like your position is being undervalued.

      How to keep your CMO Leadership

      Now that you understand what could be driving a CMO away, let’s look at what you can do to retain your CMO. 

      Understand the role

      At its core, the CMO role is responsible for demand generation. Demand generations is the use of targeted marketing campaigns to drive interest in a company’s products and services. Marketing campaigns and advertisements require money to be successful, but you might not see this marketing money immediately or clearly translate into revenue. Keep this in mind and remember to pay attention to customer engagement and audience growth. 

      Encourage sales support

      Obviously growing your audience is good, but most business leaders want to see hard numbers. In this regard, encourage the vice president of sales and the chief revenue officer to work with the CMO to support marketing efforts. The sales description of the company and services needs to mesh with the image marketing is putting out, so having these two departments work together is in everyone’s best interest. 

      Follow through on what you offer

      Review the job description of the CMO and make sure it’s the role the person will really be receiving. If the job description says you’re looking for someone to build a marketing strategy that will drive growth but then you limit the person to marketing communications, your new CMO is going to be dissatisfied. Not only that, but you won’t be getting the results you really want for your company. When you hire a CMO, be ready to relinquish marketing responsibility and strategy management to the role so your company can really expand. 

      Best Marketing & Demand Generation Recruiting Firm


      The experienced marketing recruiters at Cowen Partners have a long-standing reputation for excellence when it comes to connecting companies with the brightest marketing minds in their industry.

      Our marketing executive headhunters and CMO recruiters are up to date on the latest marketing trends, strategies, best practices, and technologies, and we take great care while applying deep expertise to identify the best candidates for our clients’ needs. That is why the executive headhunters at Cowen Partners are the partners who leaders trust and rely on for their marketing and demand generation recruitment needs. It is also why Cowen Partners is one of the top marketing recruitment agencies in the U.S.

      Clients span every industry, are typically $10 million plus in revenue, and successful placements include SaaS Chief Marketing officer CMO, Product Marketing, Demand Generation, and include VP Marketing, and Director Demand Generation leadership roles.

      Check out our industry-leading executive search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a top sales and marketing executive search firm in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

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