Personal Traits Versus Business Skills: Creating the CMO Fit for the Future
By Alistair Norman

Personal Traits Versus Business Skills: Creating the CMO Fit for the Future

When today’s CMOs started out their first marketing roles, they couldn’t possibly have predicted the challenges that they would face when they reached this milestone in their careers. So what does the modern CMO look like?




Ten years ago a CMO would have been managing brand, marketing communications and sales support from a central marketing team. Today a CMO is also responsible for leading digital transformation and delivering a multi-channel customer journey that involves the entire business.

Add to that the pace of technological change, the struggle to get a complete view of the customer and the difficulty of measuring ROI and it’s clear that CMOs are having to rewrite the marketing rulebook. Given this, what are the personal traits and business skills that today’s CMOs need to succeed?

Leadership behaviours and skills drive over 57% of CMO’s career success and over 77% of their market success. But what are the personal traits of today’s CMO?


Quick to adapt and drive change when needed. You throw away the annual marketing plan and replace it with faster test, measure and learn approaches. 

76% of people feel that marketing has changed more in the past 2 years than in the previous 50.


Taking risks, trying new approaches and being brave is part of the job. Ok, you might fail but you’ll learn from it. 

“In 2016, you’re likely to get fired for not experimenting. Bravery is rewarded,” says Eric Johnson, Founder and President of Ignited.

Vision Maker

Not just of the marketing team but everyone from the boardroom to the shop floor. You lead the digital transformation and you educate, influence and motivate teams to be brand ambassadors and improve the customer journey.


You’re digitally savvy. You understand it, plan for its future and cut through the noise of a confusing and ever-changing digital landscape. You’re data-savvy because it will help you get closer to your customer. You’re up to speed with technologies and how they will plan, deliver and measure your marketing effort.

“The CMO of tomorrow is the data nerd of today,” says Ashu Garg, Partner, Capital Foundation.

There’s lots of buzz around the digital transformation but the right decisions can make all the difference.

Not so much “digital marketing” now, more “marketing in a digital world”: 98% of CMO’s said that offline and online are merging. One third have fully incorporated digital techniques into their marketing operation, according to Gartner.


Change happens over years, not months, and you provide a steady hand to the board with a realistic view of what is achievable with budget constraints & organisational ambition.

But a problem exists: In 2015, the average CMO tenure was 44 months, according to Spencer Stuart’s newly released 12th annual study. That’s down from 48 months in 2014.

And how about the business skills of today’s CMOs?

Culture shifter

You change culture through effective communication focused on organisational behaviour and allow the organisation to accept digital change. Culture is the key to the role of the CMO.

60% of marketing leaders at the Kellogg Marketing Leadership Summit claim direct responsibility for corporate culture while 95% believe a company’s perceived culture affects consumer buying decisions.

“The uncomfortable reality is that there’s often a disconnect between the external view and internal view of a brand,” says Penry Price, Vice President, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn.

Customer advocate

You champion the customer at all levels and put them at the heart of decision-making to improve both the customer journey and the customer experience.

“We’re entering a new era in technology where consumers are choosing experience over products,” says Bryan Krzanich, CEO, Intel.

Deliver value from technology

Leading the digital transformation by analysing data, harnessing the value of automation and growing social and digital commerce is top of your agenda. 

Social marketing, digital commerce, marketing analytics and customer analytics are top technology investments for CMOs in 2016 – Gartner 2015


You know that creating a brand story that is imaginative, inspiring, relevant and personal in all your content marketing is the way to cut through the digital noise and develop stronger customer relationships.

60% of B2B marketers say that one of their top content marketing challenges is producing engaging content.

According to HubSpot, content marketing in 2015 generated three times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62% less.

Aptitude for the long haul

Too many CMOs are working around the fact that they have limited or no experience of the above and the personal abilities of the CMO need to be superhuman.

Many CMOs tend to last a short time but the real key to success is a length of tenure that can demonstrate results throughout the organisation. This only comes with a natural ability to deal with change at pace.

Today’s CMOs are pioneers, facing new challenges and an expanding remit every day. They are setting the new standards and the teachers of digital business.

Despite the digital transformation and an ever more complex customer journey, they are still relying on two marketing constants: the importance of the customer and the experience they have with your business. Using these to develop marketing strategies means that the possibilities and the rewards are endless.


  • Today’s CMOs need to be brave, experiment and innovate.

  • Being agile enough to match the pace of the change is the new normal.

  • The CMO’s role is more important today across the organisation as customers become more empowered.

  • Understanding the customer journey and creating relevant and engaging content is the way to stand out and win loyalty.

Discover how a thriving B2B community can prove substantial ROI for CMOs and inbound marketing activities.

Download The CMO’s definitive guide to online B2B community building.

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