In days past, a CMO was able to expend nearly all of their energy on visionary work promoting their companies’ products and building their brands. In today’s increasingly complex corporate environments, this is no longer the case. A CMO can easily see their time consumed by activities that don’t relate to their core objectives. The possible solution – a Chief of Staff for the CMO.

The Highs and Lows of a CMO


You’ve just completed your most successful off-site as a CMO.  Over the last two days, you and your team have developed a vision for the marketing strategy that you’ll be executing against over the next 1-2 years.  It was a challenge getting everyone on the same page, but you feel that you left with your team fully aligned.  You’re riding a high, and so is the rest of your team of bright, creative marketing minds. 


You return to the office and begin to play catch -up on all the work that you’ve missed over the last 48 hours.  Reality sets in.  One e-mail after another involves a request for a report on your team’s performance or analysis of various campaign KPIs.  There are also numerous day-to-day administrative tasks that have stacked up on you.  This was not what you thought the CMO role would be like.  Sound familiar?


Staying Focused on Big Picture Thinking Requires Help


As a CMO, you find yourself in the job you always aspired to.  You are guiding your company’s marketing vision, and you’re heavily involved in shaping your company’s overall corporate strategy.  You’re focused on marketing strategy, building your company’s brand, and providing direction on the various campaigns that your team is running.  This is what you love – the big picture, visionary thinking that your entire career has uniquely prepared you to do.


Unfortunately, you feel like you’re spending an excessive amount of time lately addressing your sales leaders’ detailed questions about lead volume numbers.  You’re continually building reports and presentations to report to your CRO or CEO.  Administrative tasks seemingly consume more hours every week, and all of these more menial tasks are taking the ‘fun’ out of your role.


If the situation above sounds like you, then what is the solution?  The answer might be a Chief of Staff.  My colleague, Kyle Bushey, recently wrote an article describing why CMOs might need a Chief of Staff and also detailing how to identify a great candidate for this role. But why is this necessary, and how do you determine if this is right for you?


Why a CMO Often Needs a Chief of Staff


Every CMO is responsible for building a team of left-brained, creative thinkers, and mapping them to the sales force.  In reality, this is not a fair match-up.  Sales teams are typically comprised mostly of a large number of sales reps, each of whom are trying to accomplish the same goal – to sell more product.  A sales leader often has a Sales Operations leader who spends the vast majority of their time analyzing the performance of the sales team, including the lead flow at the top of the funnel.  With their finger on the pulse of the sales team’s performance, the Sales Ops leader also often serves as a second-in-command as it relates to sales strategy, a luxury that the CMO rarely has on their team.


By contrast, a CMO has numerous distinct roles across his/her team, many of which operate in virtual silos with very different objectives.  As a testament to the diversity of roles a Marketing leader is responsible for filling, see Ben Redfield’s recent article on Getting Great Marketing Staff.


Ultimately, a CMO often doesn’t have the dedicated analytical AND strategic partner that the sales leader has in his/her Sales Ops leader.  And while strengthening this analytical muscle with a best-in-case Marketing Operations function is a good place to start, it is likely not sufficient. 


What Does a Best-In-Class Chief of Staff Do for a CMO?


In addition to infusing more analytical rigor to the Marketing function, a CMO’s Chief of Staff can also:


  • Assist in driving your strategic vision, and in converting strategy into tactics.
  • Provide support in dealing with “people issues” and administrative tasks.
  • Communicate at an executive level, and be self-sufficient in delivering internal reports and updates.


See the list of core competencies here to get a feel for the core skills that you should be looking for in a world-class Chief of Staff. 


Making It Happen


The trend toward CMOs employing Chiefs of Staff is well underway.  Many CMOs that we’ve interacted with over the last 6-12 months have expressed that this concept is a “game-changer” for them.  Not only does it free up time for them to focus on what is most important, but it also makes the Marketing function far more effective in interacting with their sales counterparts. 


Contact SBI today and ask to be connected with one of our Marketing strategy experts.  We can tell you more about what we’re seeing across our CMO clients, and we can help you assess whether or not a Chief of Staff role is right for you.


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Chad Wittenborn

Bringing growth leaders into alignment around emerging best practices, enabling them to outpace their competitors and make their number.

Chad deploys a highly analytical approach, leveraging a background heavy on growth strategy, sales effectiveness, and operations, to drive top-line revenue growth.  Prior to joining SBI, Chad held a variety of growth leadership roles in industries ranging from Manufacturing to Healthcare.  He has worked closely with sales, marketing, and operations leaders to identify obstacles to growth and to execute initiatives to overcome those barriers. Chad has delivered results by leading projects involving structural transformations of sales organizations, new service line launches, incentive plan overhauls, performance management programs, and CRM implementation and adoption.

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