How To Hire a CMO

CMO showing their team something

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Is a dynamic role that requires comprehensive knowledge and experience to perform.  When hiring a CMO, it’s essential to understand your industry, how you currently market your business, how your competition sells their products or services, how your customers behave, and what their expectations are.  All of this that the landscape is constantly changing!

Respecting these factors is important for your search team to remember when choosing candidates, as some experience and previous performance may not translate to your market.  What worked elsewhere may or may not work for you.  Seeing how they present their understanding of your market and how things apply will be crucial to the success of that CMO.

In this guide, I will show you the best practices for hiring a CMO and help you pick the best CMO for your business based on your business needs.  First, let’s define the role of a CMO, and understand their responsibilities. Seeking professional help? I can connect you to a specialist CMO executive search firm or consultant, in your region.

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What is a Chief Marketing Officer

A Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the C-level executive responsible for the company’s marketing activities.  The main responsibility of the CMO is to “make revenue happen” by increasing sales in various ways.   These include areas such as marketing communications, market analysis/research, brand management, input on pricing, product marketing, and customer service.

As the role becomes more modern, it is more important than ever that CMOs recognize their need to keep their ear to the ground and observe the marketing practices across various industries and markets.  Learning how they can help the company deliver the same products and services in new and innovative ways.

Given this, business development is a key role of the CMO.  Where businesses should lead by them to help them improve and reimagine the way the product can be presented and sold to capture more market.  While also constantly looking for new channels to market your products, finding and capturing more customers.  Some companies even have the title of Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer (CMBDO), or even simpler Chief Growth Officer (CGO), to emphasize much more business development aspects of their role.

The roles CMOs have in the business

It’s important to recognize your company’s needs when hiring a CMO and what they should be responsible for, given your corporate structure.  The common roles they carry out are:

  • The Marketer – Leading the actual marketing of the business, working with their teams to produce creative campaigns and promotions which appeal to the customer and develop the brand and its image while driving revenue.
  • PR Lead – Most companies lean on their CMO for PR, making them responsible for the corporate brand, image, and look.  Making them accountable for the creation of many press releases & coordination with the appropriate media as part of their general content strategy.
  • Competitive analysts – being fully aware of your market, the global marketplace, and your current and potential customers is required of a CMO.  This enables them to drive business, develop and capture the market.  A CMO observes how your business is positioned in the market relative to your competitors and how companies worldwide are repackaging goods into unique products through new channels, which create and capture new markets.
  • Content creator – a CMO needs to create a cohesive brand to which your customers are loyal.  They do this by making a unified voice with a purpose for your customers to identify with.  Communicating this through the content they create, from advertising, product presentation, and the content across your websites and social media platforms.
  • Business Developer – the CMO should take ownership of the company’s P&L., ensuring there is an ROI on marketing spending.  The CMO is generally responsible for revenue and lead generation in smaller organizations.  This means they have to manage and create new avenues to collect new potential customers and then convert them to increase revenue while managing the cost of sales to ensure they are worthwhile sales.  This role includes their need to push the company to use the latest technology and tools to enable sales and achieve better campaign returns.

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Required knowledge of a CMO

You need to recognize your core requirements before you hire your CMO or even begin a search for the position.  Does your business get all its sales from Social?  From Search engine marketing?  Newspaper/TV advertisement?  These are all, in their own rights, complicated fields to master.  So it’s necessary to assess your marketing channels and competitors’ marketing channels to understand what skills you need to maintain your current channels while also developing new ones which capture new customers on new channels and your competitors’ customers.

Prioritizing the most valuable skills and knowledge required will help you hire a CMO for your business who will perform best at what you currently and also have additional knowledge you can use to develop your business further.

Working in limited markets – Many businesses experience significant limitations on how they can advertise their products.  Some of these include:

  • Alcohol
  • Banks
  • Cannabis
  • Cosmetics
  • Gaming
  • Gambling
  • Health products
  • Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Tobacco & nicotine products

Due to the regulations on these example businesses, it’s challenging for a CMO from another industry to perform well quickly as they have to learn what they can do legally in that industry to promote their product.  And understand the main routes to market in that specific industry.

However, equally there out of industry experience could be what helps you create a unique brand to dominate your market.  Establishing their understanding of the limitation they will be working with will be a key part of many of the discussions in these businesses

If you work with executive search firms, they can connect you to executive recruiters who specialize in executive search within your industry and in the roles specifically like a CMO.  Helping you know how to hire a CMO for your specific business is the value they bring to the table.

Who does the CMO report to?

Given the importance of the position, the CMO reports directly to the CEO.  The CMO’s oversight of the totality of marketing activities makes the position indispensable.  The CEO usually wants to stay very close to the activities of the CMO.

How to compensate a CMO

CMOs are very well paid.  The impact of a CMO excelling at their job is revered within a high-functioning executive team, so the compensation is in line with the economic impact they are having on the company.

On we can see the USA based CMOs base pay per percentile:

10% – $164,509

25% – $206,390

50%(Median) – $252,390

75% – $317,990

90% – $377,715

The average compensation after bonuses + benefits = $408,638

Best Practises on how to hire a CMO

When your company decides to hire a CMO, you need to understand what you need your CMO to do and the experience and skills they need to bring to your company to achieve your objectives.  Here are my best practices for hiring a CMO, which I recommend everyone to follow.

Develop a Search Team

You can hire a CMO alone, but it is not advised to do so.  In a small or large business, no matter your position, you will not understand in depth the needs of your company required of the CMO you’re aiming to hire.  You may also have biases due to your position in the corporate structure on what the CMO needs to do.  Or even the priority of those tasks. 

When hiring a CMO, the search team typically includes the CEO and CHRO at a minimum.  If there are other key stakeholders that have extensive marketing knowledge on your executive team, you can consider including them.  The challenge you may face is that many feel like they are subject matter experts in marketing.  Marketing is easy to fail at, costing the company countless dollars, which is why a world-class CMO is so valuable to companies. 

Define Your needs

Get clarity on what you are looking for in your next CMO.  What has been working well for the company, and where have you been struggling?  Establish what you perceive as the role of the CMO you are hiring.  What changes in the market is your company facing?  How do you hire for your future needs and not just the burning platform of today? 

These conversations within your organization will help you align your needs.  What experience do you require and want, and what attributes may you want to avoid?  Must candidates be from the same industry as you, or could you broaden the search field?  The more effort you put into getting a clear picture of what you want will help you identify quality candidates sooner.

You may need to even conduct a confidential search if your CMO is under-performing.

Create Job Description

As you define your needs, the pieces required to create a solid job description will emerge.  Let’s explore some of the common things most companies are looking for in a CMO:

  • Being the most senior marketing person, all decisions pertaining to marketing efforts will fall under this position.
  • Social media and digital platforms need to be managed with care and excellence.  How will SEO play in the promotion and growth of the business?
  • Corporate messaging will be owned by the CMO.  What is the narrative?  How will the world know about the company’s values and what you have to offer?  
  • Helping drive revenue.  The growth of the company is directly tied to the outcome of the marketing effort.
  • Effectively managing the brand.  This could be one of the most important parts of the CMO’s job.  All work coming out of the marketing group has to further the wanted brand.
  • Ensuring the company remains relevant by focusing on innovation.  Creativity is key and the marketing group needs to be constantly coming up with new ideas based on trends being witnessed in the market.
If you are struggling to develop a job description for your CMO position, one idea is to look at previous performance reviews of the last person in the role.  It can often hold a list of attributes needed by looking at what the person was doing well and what needs improvement.  Also, talk to the CEO as the feedback was likely coming from the top of the company.
Should you still need assistance, turn to your executive search partner as they will have staffed CMOs and helped draft detailed job descriptions.  Boyden has conducted thousands of marketing leadership roles like CMO and can easily assist you. Contact Me if you would like to be connected to someone at Boyden.


Promote the role

Are you hoping to fill a new position or replace a current standing one?  If you need to replace a current one, advertising the position internally and externally may be a bad idea.  You can promote the role on various platforms, but the downside may be the number of unqualified applicants that will waste your valuable time.  Should you try going at it alone, be prepared to invest the required time.  It takes full-time attention to conduct a search properly.

Work with an executive search firm

Executive search can be a long process.  It takes a business, on average, 76 days to replace a CMO that leaves without notice.  Given this, it can be a major distraction for the leadership team, and this distraction could go on for a quarter or longer.  An executive search firm can help you expedite the process and find top talent that would otherwise have been unavailable to you.

An executive search firm can use its knowledge and skill to manage the entire recruitment process on your behalf.  They will help reduce the risk of a bad hire.  Finding a CMO is hard, and offloading the intense work to a firm like Boyden will allow you to remain attentive to your business.

Please contact me if you have any questions about executive search or need help conducting an executive search locally or abroad.  I can even help you establish a whole leadership team in a new country.  I have 25+ yrs of experience working with Boyden working as a Managing Partner.  We have executive search specialists with experience in every industry in 43 countries across the globe.

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