Speed the Path to CMO

The Top 1o Things to Do

I am currently mentoring a couple of folks who have either recently become a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or are on a path to becoming one, so I thought it’s be good to share a few tips on speeding the process.

Not surprisingly, I asked ChatGPT to generate a few ideas, which I’ve adapted and augmented through the lense of having been a CMO for nearly 14 years.

Becoming a CMO is a highly competitive and challenging process that requires a combination of education, experience, developing a broad range of specific skills across marketing sub-functions, outstanding leadership and communications abilities, and a bit of luck and good fortune. Here are 10 things you can to take to speed up your path to becoming a CMO:

  1. Be intentional.  The most important and impactful thing to do is to be intentional- it’s true in life and work. Map out a timeline, career path, progressive steps and milestones to get a sense of what it will take, and how long, and ask a few CMOs you know to provide feedback on whether your goals, steps, and timeline are realistic and achievable.
  2. Build a strong foundation. Start by pursuing a marketing-related degree, such as a Bachelor’s in Marketing or Business Administration. This will provide you with a solid foundation of marketing principles and practices. Consider pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing or an MBA to deepen your broad business knowledge and add skills in the field.  Of course, if you’re in B2B Tech or SaaS, technical degrees are also good.
  3. Gain experience. Look for opportunities to gain experience in different marketing roles, such as revenue marketing, marketing communications, product marketing, digital marketing or marketing analytics. This will help you develop a broad range of skills and a deep understanding of different aspects of marketing. Try to take on roles that will give you exposure to different areas of marketing, and where feasible consider lateral moves, say from demand gen to product marketing as a way to cross-pollinate and expand skills.
  4. Develop a broad skill set. To become a CMO, you need to have a strong skill set that includes strategic thinking, leadership, communication, data analysis, and creativity.   You have to possess strong drive, passion, intensity, leadership and communicate effectively across the organization. Focus on augmenting these skills by attending training programs, conferences, Webinars and workshops.
  5. Network. Networking is a crucial part of advancing in any field, and marketing is no exception. Attend industry conferences, join marketing associations, peer groups and connect with other marketing professionals. Networking can help you learn about new trends, job opportunities, and gain insights from experienced marketing leaders and will support your growth throughout your career.
  6. Be proactive. Take the initiative to lead marketing campaigns or projects within your organization, even if it’s not in your job description. This will demonstrate your leadership skills and your ability to drive results, raise your visibility and increase opportunities to expand your scope of responsibilities.
  7. Stay up-to-date. The marketing field is constantly evolving, and it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies (AI/ML, etc.), and best practices. Read industry publications, attend webinars and workshops, and participate in online marketing communities, forums, Slack channels. Give to get where appropriate.
  8. Be adaptable. The world of business is constantly changing, so it’s important to be adaptable and willing to learn new skills and strategies. Keep up with the latest business and marketing trends and technologies, and be willing to try new things. Test and learn. Iterate and improve. 
  9. Be results-oriented. As a CMO, you will be responsible and accountable for driving business growth through marketing and in partnership with all related functions. Focus on achieving measurable results and use data, analysis and insights to guide your decisions and strategies.
  10. Be at a supportive company.  In addition, ensure the marketing leader is personally committed to learning and development for the team. As you grow and progress, make sure to pick companies that genuinely support career growth with tools, courses and detailed guidance, and ideally, also have a formal mentoring program. I’m proud to say that at Billtrust, we do both.

Since becoming a head of marketing and, more recently a CMO mentor, I’m proud to say that 14 members of my marketing teams have progressed their careers to become CMO’s, so clearly developing talent is one of my passions.  Your unique path will include challenges and setbacks along the way.  Getting to your career goal requires hard work, dedication, patience, a few breaks and a great support system.  Even if you get a bit off track (COVID, work/life balance, restructuring, etc.), stay the course and keep focused on the ultimate goal.

In a future blog, I will cover how best to survive and thrive as a CMO.  In the meantime. I’ve covered some CMO pitfalls to avoid and best practices to adopt as a CMO in previous blogs.  Here’s to getting on a purpose-based, progressive path to your achieving your career goals!

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