Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 13 seconds

At just 3.5 years, CMOs have the shortest tenure in the c-suite, according a recent report by Korn Ferry. Against this backdrop, CMOs are facing a host of challenges, ranging from staffing to technology to budgets.

arrow 31187 640 small“Short CMO tenure is a reflection of a lack of understanding of how powerful this role can really be in terms of driving business outcomes,” says Caren Fleit, leader of the Global Marketing Officers Practice at Korn Ferry. “This often leads to lack of clarity around tangible deliverables and also to hiring a CMO whose skills and experiences may not be aligned with business needs.”

The average tenure for c-suite executives overall is 4.9%, the report finds. The 3.5 year CMO average tenure is down from the 4.1 year average in 2016. The longest average CMO tenure is in the industrial sector at 4 years, and technology industry CMOs have the shortest tenure at 3 years. Korn Ferry reports that he average CMO is 54 years old, which is tied for youngest in the c-suite with CFOs.

The report comes at a time when the CMO role is changing dramatically. Many firms are eliminating the role altogether or blending it with other c-suite roles. At the same time, many CMOs are being asked to do more. In addition to traditional brand guardianship and product marketing, CMOs are being often responsible for data analytics, technology and sales support, according to an article from Campaign US.

Claire Telling, the author of the Campaign US article and CEO of Grace Blue Americas, said today’s CMOs are “balancing the need to generate revenue results while also keeping a careful eye on team structure and budgets.”

Some of the top concerns she has been hearing include:

  • "Is my team strong enough to drive results fast enough?"
  • "When will the marketing budget scalpel come?"
  • "How long do I have to get the job done?"

Telling suggests that many CMOs, before entering their new role, will use capabilities and talent assessment tools. They’ll do this to evaluate their staff and identify gaps in skillsets to determine what staffing changes need to take place in order to best position the team for success.

CMOs are also coping with the reality of having to do more with less. The big challenge here is to not cut budgets and staff back too much that it impacts the organization’s ability to execute effectively. She says one potential solution is to identify multi-talented “utility players.”

Lastly, all CMOs want to know how much time they realistically have to reach the goals they laid out when they took on the role. “In other words, when does your boss trade in the scalpel for the guillotine?” she writes. 

Last modified on Sunday, 16 February 2020
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