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The Job of a Chief Marketing Officer

February 27, 2023
5 Mins

The role of the CMO is critical in driving business growth, and as a result, there are many expectations placed on them. However, the challenges they will face will differ depending on the type of company they are joining.

In this blog post, we will explore what a CMO needs to do in four different types of organisations: Start-Up, Turnaround, Re-fresh, and Maintenance.

1. Start-Up

Being a CMO in a start-up is tough. Demands on time are high and resources are often limited which means you will need to be creative in how you approach things. The real challenge for CMOs in start ups is balancing the focus on the business Vs the focus on the customer.

  • Build structures and systems for scratch without a clear framework or boundaries
  • Build a high performing team of the right skillsets and experience
  • Build brand awareness from scratch while keeping existing customers happy
  • You get to see things from the beginning without legacy.
  • New hires have natural sense of energy and urgency that comes with a start up.
  • Creativity often flourishes in start up environments.

2. Turnaround

As a CMO in a turnaround situation, your primary focus should be on identifying the root cause of the company's problems and developing a plan for marketing to address them. You will need to work closely with the CEO and other members of the executive team to understand the company's challenges and develop a strategy that will help to turn the business around.

  • Reenergising a demoralised team with a new strategy.
  • Having a quick impact and being decisive in decision making.
  • Making difficult people choices that may create short term disruption.
  • Usually very little resistance to new strategy as everyone recognises change is needed.
  • Relatively small wins can have a big impact and create disproportionate momentum.
  • People love a turnaround story so PR (for yourself and the business) can be easy if progress is made fast.

3. Re-fresh

In an organisation that needs a refresh, there is no crisis, but it may face challenges if it continues marketing as it is, without shifting focus. Often successful businesses continue with the same marketing approach and strategy simply because it worked in the past, meanwhile the context they operate may be changing; either from a market, internal or consumer perspective.

  • Established ways of doing things that no longer deliver high performance marketing results.
  • Convincing employees and stakeholders that change is needed.
  • Team changes will be more difficult as results don’t necessarily reflect poor performance.
  • Usually some areas of strength and high performance in team to be capitalised on
  • Established brand will have lots of insight and learnings already
  • Successful brands usually have lots of external stakeholders e.g media partners that want them to continue to be successful - creating a wider network of good will and support.

4. Maintenance

For a new CMO one of the most challenging situations is to land inside a business that is experiencing massive marketing led success, requiring you to simply maintain that growth. Why is that hard ? Well because in some respects the only way is down. Whatever happened before worked, so if you change it you may jeopardise the growth trajectory, but if you don’t you may be seen as ineffectual. The CMO job here is to build on the success incrementally.

  • Playing strong defense while demonstrating you can also do offence
  • Living in the shadow of a previous rockstar CMO and managing the high performing team they built/ hired.
  • Figuring out how and where the next stage of growth will come from
  • Strong high performing team reduces the amount of time spent restructuring and hiring required
  • High performing marketing teams are (in the main) easy to motivate for future success
  • Successful future strategies may already be in place and just need executing.

Whatever type of business you are joining, as a new CMO the first 3 months will be critical to get right. Make sure you know what type of organisation you are joining so you can hit the ground running and understanding the challenges and opportunities before you start.

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