CMO to CEO: Why CEO succession plans aren’t complete without a CMO

70% of CEOs admitted responsibility for their marketer’s poorly perceived performance due to CEO’s lack of experience or understanding of the marketing function*. Wow. Bold. And what are we going to do about that?

CMO to CEO: Why CEO succession plans aren’t complete without a CMO
Photo by Cagatay Orhan / Unsplash

Time to switch the script!‍

We need more CEOs that understand the customer and actually put them at the center of the business. We need more CEOs that have a responsibility to the world around their business, not just to the bottom line. We need more CEOs that prioritize the innovative, creative capacity of their people. We need more CMOs to become CEOs, just like Jeff Jones (H&R Block), Everette Taylor (Kickstarter), John Dillon (President of Denny’s), and Anne Hand (Super League Gaming).  

This will undoubtedly be tough to pull off, but we know there are key levers that Boards of Directors, Succession Planning Teams, and Recruiters will look for individuals to pull if they are going to elevate to the top spot in the company. These levers include:

1. Making mental (and physical) space for CEO-level concerns.

Marketers are trained to put the consumer above all else; that is what drives business. The way CMOs turn up into the board room needs to be with a broader remit and nomenclature. P&L and consumer as the teeter totter they uniquely have to balance to show up as a GM.

  • Check your calendar. Is it a CEO’s calendar, or a CMO’s calendar?
  • Check your directs. Are they empowered to run on their own, or do they need your constant approval to accelerate?
  • Check your language. How much is about media and brand, versus investors and external stakeholders?‍

2. Relationships with the CFO.

It is not new news that marketers are the great integrators of the C-Suite having to speak multiple languages and cross horizontally into the business to manage dealers, product supply, promotions and employee brand. The critical relationship for CMOs to lean into is the C.F.O. consider them your B.F.F. To get to CEO that relationship is mission critical. Time to brush up on accounting and put some of the marketing networking to the side.

  • Network with CFOs
  • Go to CFO conferences. You’ll be the only CMO there, guaranteed. But they’ll be in your corner when the Board brings up your name.
  • Take financial classes. Understand how corporate tax works, get up to snuff on legal, and be brilliant at how start-ups are reinventing your core business model.

3. Connecting consumer need with net-new revenue streams.

Let’s not forget that the CMO is also the closest c-suite executive responsible for customer value, overall experience and managing feedback in real time today. With the marketing industry changing and shifting constantly, a CMO’s remit can no longer be considered fenced to only marketing communications. They drive revenue for current AND future product opportunities.

  • Bring business cases to the table. Every new idea or change should be backed by a financial opportunity or chance to save.
  • Identify acquisitions that drive upside. Consolidation as a play will never go away. Knowing what the business is missing, and where to get it, is a core skill.
  • Go see where and how the sausage gets made. Go to the factory. Ride in the delivery truck. Take customer support calls.

Want to activate your CMO-to-CEO career transition plan? Reach out and speak to our advisors. We'd love to help!

*A recent global survey by the Fournaise marketing Group