The Top Five Skills That Set Up CMOs to Become CEOs

Aurelie Guerrieri

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Propelled by the digital world, marketing is graduating from being a support function to being core to revenue generation. Ashu Garg, General Partner at Foundation Capital, has called this era "The Decade of the CMO." This change in marketing is also something I've experienced and one of the reasons why mobile marketing is so strategic for executives.


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In the podcast season #GrowthHacking is Dead, Long Live #GrowthMarketing, Garg explains that "The change in expectation around customer experience is driving marketing to the forefront."

In this era—where customers expect open, synchronized, and immediate communication with brands—marketers are central to thinking about the customer experience holistically. In doing so, marketing becomes the glue to the company and the fuel to its growth.

This change in marketing positions CMOs particularly well in the succession line to CEOs. I've asked Garg to share attributes successful CMOs exhibit that prepare them well for the top job.

The key is neither being "mad men" nor "math (wo)men." "You have to have both left and right brain activity in the same individual," Garg says.

"The first capability is demand generation. CEOs look to their CMO to educate the market about why customers need the service and, eventually, to drive a qualified pipeline to the sales team."

"Secondly, given the technology and the customer experience [expectations], CMOs have to own the cross-function engagement, so they have to have strong field and channel operations capabilities to be able to work with their salespeople and customer support and to work across the organization."

"The third skill is a real strength around systems and operations. Marketing today is a technical capability, and CMOs need to be able to develop the technology platforms required to manage data, benchmark performance, drive insights into customer relationships, etc."

"The fourth skill, and this isn't a new one, has been around for a long time: CMOs still own corporate marketing. They've got to build a brand, deal with analyst relations, handle PR, handle a crisis, and so on."

"The last skill (and this skill is particularly important for B2B companies) is product marketing. CEOs look to their CMO to be able to tell the story for the product and the company in a manner that it relates to what customers are looking for and how it fits into their business system or their needs. "

Garg argues that the mandate for every CEO in the world is a dual goal of driving growth and disrupting themselves. There will be challenges that marketers who've mastered these five skills are well prepared to take on.

Enjoy this article? Please share, comment, and read more marketing strategies in The Mobile Native's Guide to Marketing.

Aurelie is the founder and CEO of Akila One, a growth-focused consultancy helping CEOs of digital companies like IAC Applications, Deloitte, Rakuten Viber, Cheetah Mobile, and many others scale their businesses from 50 to 500.

Earlier in her career, Aurelie ran Cheetah Mobile's global B2B marketing and business development organizations, was instrumental in building QuinStreet toward its IPO and brought SendMe to $120M annual mobile revenues. McKinsey-trained, she holds an MBA and an MSc in Engineering Chemistry.

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