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5 reasons why CMOs make good CEOs

Prasenjit Roy, Senior Vice President – Marketing, Netmagic, on why the transition from CMO to CEO is a logical extension.

“A highly successful CMO already has some of the essential raw material needed to be a CEO—focus on performance, ability to build a team and a focus on the consumer. In this VUCA ambience, it is critical that the person who steps into a CEO role needs to be from the market facing domain, have a ready pulse of the clients, be aware of the competitive landscape, have knowledge of shifting disruptive technologies and a deep, embedded relationship with the influencer segment who can be the real advocates. And a CMO in addition to other tasks also needs to do all of the above as an integral part of the routine portfolio.”

#1 They’re focussed on customer centricity
“In todays business scenario, customer centricity is a critical point on every CEOs radar. CMOs have been, and continue to be, the nucleus of consumer problem-solving. They’re the ones who know how to listen, communicate and strategically market to customers who live and breathe in the digital world and social space. That said, it’s no surprise that today’s CMOs are continuing to shift into CEO roles that need more holistic approaches to consumer appeal.”

#2 CMOs work across all functions
“Marketing is a great training ground as you develop key skills that are needed in a CEO role. In many marketing roles, you have to demonstrate results and accomplishing results requires leadership across the enterprise. Many functions work primarily within the function; marketing can’t. This experience of working across all the different functions is great preparation for executive level positions.”

#3 They’re already working closely with HR
“Additionally, Marketing needs to work closely with HR on the employee front, branding for prospective employee and looking at avenues to boost employee morale using internal communication tools. The HR-type aspects of that experience (ie, staffing, developing the organisation structure, creating the organisation design) helps to acquire skills needed by a CEO.”

#4 CMOs hone skills beyond marketing
“As per a survey conducted by Korn/Ferry International, majority of the business executives who were polled believe their CMOs have the know-how to excel in CEO positions owing to the following criteria that are beyond their marketing acumen. CMOs are highly data literate, they embody empathy, they touch every part of the business, they could play a torch bearer role in the digital transformation of the firm, they know how to combine data literacy with creativity, and they are polished communicators and represent the brand voice.”

#5 They know how to ask the right questions
“As you become a CEO, you do need to pick up some new skills such as multi-functional leadership, taking true end to end accountability for the business and so on. But the biggest difference between being a good CMO and a good CEO lies in the questions you need to focus on. One need to move beyond the ‘What’ (strategies, plans, and numbers) to two important questions—the ‘How’, and the ‘Why’.

“The ‘How’ refers to how results are delivered. This covers capabilities that may be needed, how to structure the team, how different groups and teams work together, and also how you can grow in the short term and create sustainable growth for the longer term.

“The ‘Why’ refers to creating a sense of shared purpose and values and the ‘smell of the place’ that guides everything the team does. In other words, the answer to the simple question of why you expect your employees to wake up in the morning and come charged to work to give their best.

“Marketing also plays a vital role in the strategic and commercial life of the organisation and more and more CMOs are showing themselves to be viable candidates for leadership roles. Infact it’s aptly said, ‘CMO roles are very much a CEO-role in training.’” 

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