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Top 10 Reasons CMO Tenure Has Risen, and Why it Will Stay
Jan, 25,2013
Founder and CEO, Moksha Group

Tenure is inextricably linked to one thing: value. If a role or person is delivering value to its organization, there’s little doubt the company will want to keep it that way. Chief Marketing Officers have had a notoriously rocky time maintaining tenure in the last decade, but are now uniquely able to deliver unprecedented value to their organizations. And their tenure is on the rise.

Every year, a Spencer Stuart studyreveals changes to the average CMO tenure. Within the last 5 years, it jumped from a paltry low of 23 months in 2006 to a respectable 43 months in 2011. CMOs still don’t last as long as other C-suite executives (CEOs have an average tenure of 8.4 years, and CFOs well over 10 years), but the trend is positive and appears to be lasting.

The rise in CMO tenure implies both that CMOs are choosing to stay, and that CEOs are wanting them to stay. CEOs are actually better understanding the value of a CMO, and are realizing marketing is not a short game like sales. They seem to have caught up to Peter Drucker’s decades-old observation that, "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."

Here are the top 10 reasons CMOs are keeping their jobs:

  1. Strategic-mindedness.  Good CMOs are ruthlessly focused on what matters to the business: developing markets, creating evangelical customers and growing the top line. They think strategically like a businessperson, not like the long-passé stereotypes of an order taker (“You want brochures with that?”) nor the “make-it-pretty” artist.
  2. Panoramic View of the Customer.  While the head of services and support lives and dies by customer success, CMOs engage with, and analyze, customers at every stage of a company’s relationship with them. Marketers determine what will draw prospects into the company’s “orbit” and what products will sell. They keep an ongoing dialogue with them to nurture them along the sales cycle.  And they work to turn them into customer evangelists who will proselytize the company.
  3. Data.  CMOs sit on petabytes of data that, when managed and analyzed well, make a company’s crystal ball for growth and profitability that much clearer. Customer data includes demographics, behaviors, preferences, transactions, and other insights that help lure in and lock in exponentially more satisfied customers. Sales, revenue, and margin data help ensure the financial and operational health of the company as a whole. Product data reveals usage, best-sellers, and other information to continually improve offerings.
  4. Operational Sophistication. Marketing automation software, analytical tools, and the connectors to CRM systems also allow CMOs to better measure continuously improve their teams’ performance and impact — not just in nebulous impressions, clicks and other metrics to which a CEO says “So what?” — but in the metrics that matter to company livelihood:  pipeline, revenue, Net Promoter Scores, and customer satisfaction.
  5. Expanded Scope of Influence.  CMOs are expanding their influence within their organizations, and gaining broader internal experience and exposure. Social business is tearing down traditional organizational silos in favor of creating consistent, superb, cross-company customer experiences, and CMOs are the stewards of that experience.
  6. Impact on More of the Buyer’s Journey.  As consumer and professional buying behavior continues to shift to more research being done prior to even engaging directly with a company salesperson, marketing is responsible for an ever-growing piece of the buyer’s journey. In B2B, that number is already at a staggering 67%, according to Sirius Decisions.
  7. Geekiness.  Our digital, social, and mobile world is still an enigma to many, so CMOs are often the bestgurus within an organization. Unlike their predecessors who were more comfortable with storyboards than software, CMOs today are leading company-wide initiatives that leverage new technologies and social constructs to grow the business, develop product, build relationships with prospects and customers, and more. In some companies, the CMO has even taken on many of the traditional responsibilities of a CIO.  
  8. A Brain that Fires on Both Lobes.  The “nouveau CMO” is a rare breed. Their requisite skill set demands that they be as left-brained as Einstein and as right-brained as Picasso. Left-brain analysis of the market, customer, pipeline and revenue data, means CMOs can keep pace with the CEO and CFO on the objective stuff. And because CMOs must understand how to get under the skin and into the hearts and minds of their customers and prospects, CMOs can finesse visuals, verbiage, and value propositions with their right brain sentimentality and creativity. 
  9. Fast Track to CEO.  Because of their broader operational experience, strategic mindset, finger on the pulse of the customer and market, and superb communication skills, some CMOs are finding themselves at the helm of the company.  Next month, Citigroup’s CMO Michelle Peluso will take the helm as CEO of Gilt. She previously was CEO of Travelocity. Last year, both Mercedes and Audi USA promoted their CMOs (Steve Cannon and Scott Keogh, respectively) to CEO. The CMO career path is more attractive than ever.
  10. Length Matters.  As CMOs stay longer in their roles, they’ll be able to point to progressively better results as the desired outcomes of their long-term programs and strategies kick in, and create uplift for the short-term tactical plays as well. Also, consistency and continuity of brand and customer experiences are key to marketing effectiveness. When you don’t have a new CMO repeatedly trying to mark their territory, growth isn’t stunted by the market confusion and brand dilution that can result from too many of those transformations. Lastly, more experience increases one’s chances of success and high impact. CMOs are getting that experience, and they will increasingly be the rising stars in the C-suite.