CMO of the future As I come off another executive-level marketing search, and think about what the CMO of the future will look like, it reminds me of the discussion I had with the CEO client during my initial intake meeting about how these roles have dramatically transitioned during my recruiting career.  We all know how changes in consumer behavior and advances in marketing technology have redefined marketing, with the chief marketer square in the vortex of this swirling transformation. When I first started recruiting and placing these individuals back in the mid-1990’s, their job descriptions really didn’t change much during the following decade. Indeed, those by-gone era JD’s would make great displays in a CMO history museum. Recently, I cleared the dust off an old file folder containing a CMO job description circa 1993, and no where could any reference to customer experience be found.  The only mention of marketing technology was literally a few words buried inside the “Requirements” section:

“Knowledge of marketing software preferred.”

I love it.

Top students who are now graduating from B-schools will some day join the ranks of the VP’s and CMO’s which raises the question: What will the CMO of the future look like? Based on discussions with many of my most seasoned executive-level marketing candidates, a couple of predictions stand out.  As if their current myriad of responsibilities is not enough, the CMO of the future (and Vice President of Marketing for that matter) will need a much deeper understanding of the roles of CDO’s, CTO’s, CIO’s, privacy chiefs, Customer Experience Officers and other executive leaders. I talk a lot in my writings and presentations about the importance of being collaborative join today’s marketing environment, not just at the highest levels but at all levels. Many of my senior marketers tell me that in the future, a CMO or Marketing Veep’s career will absolutely depend on it.  That’s because their sphere of influence is expanding. There is an interdependence among an organization’s key decision makers that did not exist with the previous generation of more traditional marketers who tended to be much more siloed. Technology was technology, sales was sales. The complexity of modern marketing requires an unwavering ability to wield influence as well as enlist support across organizational disciplines.  “Chief Influence Marketer” might be an apt title to reflect this even more critical competency of the CMO of the future.

The other prediction relates to the career path of CMO’s.  In my own search practice, I’ve observed that a growing number of the Presidents and CEO’s I work with have marketing backgrounds. While I don’t have hard research to back this up, empirically I can state with certainty that the percentage of marketers in these tops jobs is growing faster than those with predominately finance, operations, IT or other backgrounds. Many marketing seers not only expect that trend to continue but to accelerate, particularly among marketers with P and L experience over significant online businesses.  We all know how marketing is more measurable and effective than ever before, and how expectations of what marketers can achieve has never been higher.  This all bodes well, I am told, for marketers now in mid-career who aspire to get that top job of CMO in the future.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 80 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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