By now, you’ve probably heard the news: the role of the CMO is changing.
Gone are the Mad Men-style days when the CMO’s main job was to create flashy ad campaigns.
It now requires a range of skills, including:
- Strategic thinking
- Organizational alignment to deliver better customer experiences
- Data-driven decision-making
This shift has also changed the typical path to the C-suite.
Expertise in marketing is no longer the only way in—sales know-how and a customer-focused philosophy have landed many successful CMOs in their positions.
In fact, only 1 in 3 CMOs have reached the C-suite based on their marketing experience, according to this article by Adrian Ott (based on the book Getting to the Top: Strategies Around Career Success by career guru Kathryn Ullrich.)
Here are the CMO career paths of 3 leading professionals which have helped them progress to where they are in their careers today.
1. Customer-centric marketing expert
Unsurprisingly there’s no shortage of CMOs who have extensive marketing experience behind them. Getting to the Top states that 34% of all CMOs hail from a marketing background.
While his path may seem conventional, Bill set himself apart from his peers with his deep focus on customer obsession. His customer-centric focus and data-driven marketing strategy have helped him drive results at Zendesk, Salesforce, and Fox Interactive Media.
Bill believes “that the brand is the sum of every single customer interaction that they have with you.” A positive experience for your customers is what’s going to keep them coming back. And this isn’t just with your support team—it’s with all of your go-to-market teams.
That’s why, in his previous role as CMO of Slack (one of the fastest growing applications in history), he elevated the customer experience by putting all teams that interact with customers–sales, marketing and customer success–under one umbrella with shared metrics.
He explains that his role was “uniting all the customer-facing teams. Usually sales, marketing, and support are operating in complete silos and by having them under one banner we can think about things like ‘What do those interactions look like?’, ‘How do we make those hand-offs?’, and ‘How do we relentlessly eliminate those bad experiences and put in good experiences?’”
This, as Bill explained in his 2016 Advocamp talk, prevented them from making bad decisions that weren’t in their customer’s’ best interest.
What’s Bill’s advice for moving up the marketing ranks? In our “Ask Me Anything” webinar with him, he said “It doesn’t matter if you’re employed or not. It matters if you’re employable. Always be crafting your skill set. Always be learning.”
2. Domain Expert
According to Ullrich, the next largest group of CMOs are those who have a depth of experience in a specific area (25% to be exact). These domains of expertise can be in a specific industry (like financial services or healthcare) or a specific department (like customer success or product management).
Meagen Eisenberg, CMO of next-generation database provider MongoDB, has built her career in tech. Starting as a Product Marketing Manager at IBM, she then moved on to become Director of Worldwide Programs and Marketing Automation at ArcSign, and then Director of Global Demand and North American Field Marketing at HP Enterprise Security.
Before joining MongoDB, Meagen served as VP of Customer Acquisition & Marketing at DocuSign, where she oversaw their award-winning advocate marketing program.
Meagen talked more about her background in tech in an interview with Forbes. “Through a series of roles from Trigo/IBM continuing to Postini – I found myself in the role at TRIRIGA (eventually IBM) that focused on technology within marketing, and I found a niche in demand generation marketing,” she says. This helped her gain more experience in technology and marketing, allowing her to become an expert in the field.
Meagen suggested that, “If you want to deliver a modern customer experience, you need to understand a technology and then know how to deliver it.” Staying updated with technology will help you market to your customers more effectively and provide a more comfortable user experience.