May 20, 2016

CMO's - Are You Part of the Problem?

Spencer Stuart recently released their 2016 CMO Summit Survey  --  a survey of more than 150 marketing leaders across industries to learn what skills they prioritize, how they are developing talent and what they are doing to build their own careers.

The skills CMOs need on their teams

A review of the summary findings, showed no surprises in the skills CMOs said they needed on their marketing teams:
  1. Digital Marketing (incl Social) (62%)
  2. Data Analytics and Insights  (49%)
  3. Strategic Thinking (42%)

Also not surprising, it was these same three skills that CMOs indicated were the most difficult to find when hiring, albeit in a slightly different order:
  1. Data Analytics and Insights (57%)
  2. Strategic Thinking (51%)
  3. Digital Marketing (incl Social) (45%)

CMOs tell us their strengths

When these same CMO’s were asked their greatest strengths as marketing leaders, their top 3 strengths were:
  1. Strategic Thinking (71%)
  2. Driving Results (64%)
  3. Empowering Team Members (40%)

Data and analytics, as well as digital marketing were significantly further down on the list -- both under 20%.

As a marketing leader who is actually strong in data analytics and insights, it was this final nugget that brought the “difficulty in hiring talent with these skills” situation into crystal clear focus for me.

The CMO's greatest strength is their Achilles heel

I’ll spell it out:

Marketing professionals (both junior and senior) with these desired skills (to varying degrees) exist out there in the world.

Marketing professionals with the aptitude and attitude to build and develop these desired skills also exist out there in the world.

Marketing professionals will choose to work in organizations where their talents and strengths are recognized, appreciated and valued by leadership

Marketing professionals will choose to work in organizations that enable them to develop the highly valued skills needed for career advancement

Marketing organizations led by CMO’s who are not strong in desired skills will not attract marketing professionals (junior or senior) with those skills nor those with the aptitude for those skills BECAUSE the CMO is not strong.

Are you with me now?

It is the CMO who sets the vision, drives the culture and sets the priorities for their marketing organization. Where the CMO is not strong, that inexperience likely prevents him from effectively evaluating experienced, talented candidates in that area. Additionally, the candidate herself will likely perceive the CMO’s inexperience negatively -- as a challenge versus an opportunity. The CMO’s lack of understanding of the candidate’s area of focus will likely lead to less of his attention, less support and fewer opportunities for future visibility and career development.

And what about the 71% of CMO’s claiming a strength in strategic thinking and 64% with a strength in driving results? If this strategic strength is so prevalent at the top, why aren’t we seeing more marketing professionals with strategic thinking skills? Why aren’t their “empower team member” efforts succeeding here? Additionally, truly strategic thinkers with talents at driving results would be able to successfully develop the needed skills and evolve their teams.

Chicken or Egg?

Where CMO’s have been unable to achieve that evolution, my suggestion is to take a moment of self-reflection and look closely at the role they themselves may be playing in stagnating the talent on their Marketing team.  Accepting the reality of what may be behind the “skill shortage” challenge they are experiencing may be a first step toward a solution.