Is your candidate for Chief Marketing Officer the real deal or a pretender?


Too often we find out things too late, things we wish we knew about a new executive before offering them the position. Consider a scenario-based approach that simulates what it’s like to have the candidate already in the role.


Choose the wrong CMO and your revenue goals will suffer, and you will waste a precious year of growth that conflicts with the board’s expectations. An ineffective Chief Marketing Officer is catastrophic for the sales leader and puts your entire corporate strategy at risk. A previous article, The New “A-Player” Profile for B2B Marketing Leadership provides a profile of the right Revenue Growth leader to run marketing.  How do you validate that your candidate for Chief Marketing Officer is the ‘A’ player you think he or she is?  This article contains two scenario-based approaches that you can use to smoke out pretenders, and clearly identify your right candidate.


As a guide to matching talent to your corporate strategy, leverage the, “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook. Turn to the Corporate Strategy section and flip to the Talent phase.


Below are two scenarios for you to emulate and modify to match the unique needs of your company.  The first trial scenario is something you would assign to the candidate as homework and to bring to discuss in a late stage interview. This gives you insights into their ability to think strategically and move from academic theory to execution.  The second example provides a live fire interview scenario question that uncovers the candidates skills in demonstrating ROI and their ability to communicate marketing impact to an executive audience.


Trial Scenario: Marketing Campaign Strategy


For this job trial scenario, envision yourself as the new marketing leader for ACME. You have a clear opportunity to put your stamp on the company’s success.


In the past ACME has invested only in brand, sales support, and limited demand generation. Now ACME has increased the marketing budget to run a Q1/Q2 acquisition campaign to boost sales in a specific region. Time is of the essence, because the company needs to hit its growth goal. The projected revenue number is on track, but your marketing campaign can provide the fail-safe that ensures success. Your task is to create a marketing campaign strategy that delivers $10 million in revenue (average selling price = $100,000) from the minute you launch all the way through the mid-year point. The core buying season is January through April.


Budget and Assets


  • Budget:
    • $500,000
  • Personnel:
    • ACME campaign manager
    • ACME product marketing manager
    • Lead development representative (responds to inbound calls and makes
    • outbound calls)
    • Sales reps (50) and sales VP
  • Assets:
    • Personas and buyer process maps for end users
  • Resources:
    • Marketing agency (creative)
    • In-house website design (landing pages, email, website content, and so forth)
    • Marketing automation
    • Access to prospect lists from past interactions

Ask the candidate to describe how you will approach the campaign; their suggested campaign planning framework is the deliverable. The merit of the plan will be determined by how well they leverage available resources, contribute strategic thinking, and recommend a campaign approach that will drive results.


Interview Scenario: Marketing ROI 


To judge proficiency in marketing ROI, the competency interview should cover the following ground:


  • Establishing executive-level success metrics
  • Tracking marketing contribution as a percentage of sales revenue and
    marketing contribution as a percentage of opportunities in the sales funnel
  • Improving the quantity of sales-ready leads
  • Capturing campaign-level click metrics and associated results through closed-loop tracking
  • Monitoring program versus staff costs
  • Developing and tracking metrics and success criteria for all marketing programs and activities

During the marketing ROI competency interview, the candidate should be able to answer these questions to your satisfaction:


  • What marketing metrics have you seen B2B companies track?
  • How have you taken the metrics and applied them to business strategy and goals?
  • How would you use these metrics in a go-to-market strategy (for example, market share gain, market expansion, new market exposure)?
  • What experience do you have managing a marketing budget?


If you candidate is put off by homework, then that’s a data point that gives you an insight that they are looking for a coronation to the throne of marketing leader. Is that attitude right for your company?  


By leveraging these two scenarios you can smoke out the disaster CMOs and put yourself in a position to hire the right revenue producing ‘A’ player.  To go deeper into matching talent to your corporate strategy, leverage SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook. Turn to the Corporate Strategy section and flip to the Talent phases. Also, you can access the Workbook’s interactive tool to benchmark your strategy against the market leaders. If you would like help understanding the results or to have a conversation about getting a complimentary pdf copy of the workbook, contact us here.


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