Ginger Smith, Senior Consultant at SBI, dives into an important topic for almost any new CMO, what to do when you hit the "mid-tenure blues."

You’ve made it through the early CMO years, bringing in fresh perspectives and skill sets. Either you’re still going strong following your fast start, 100-day plan, or patience is running out and the results you set out to achieve haven’t come to fruition. Regardless, the average tenure of a CMO is less than 4 years – what are you being remembered for? How can it be improved? Should you leverage internal or external resources to continue to drive change?


For additional helpful articles aimed towards CMOs, see:


  1. Why A-Player CMOs Exercise Extreme Ownership
  2. How a New CMO gets off to a Fast Start


Mid-Tenure Checklist


Assuming it’s been at least 18-24 months, you already know and have assumed ownership over the full sales cycle. You’ve developed the ability to:


  1. Affect demand generation from MQL to sale
  2. Navigate the C-suite.


If the marketing basics are in place, begin leveraging the below checklist for mid-tenure success:


  • Stick to the Plan. Execute the plan with perfection by hitting milestones you’ve set or influenced. Don’t change the plan without engaging key stakeholders. 


  • Quantify Results to Overall Plan. Leverage this Campaign Proforma Tool to quantify impact. Avoid showing activities or simply engagement as a result. Demonstrate how marketing is driving revenue (i.e. qualified leads, brand preference, product launch, etc.).


  • Tie Early Results to Lagging Indicators. Report on the leading indicators as proof points to show marketing’s contribution to the funnel. Show the connection between the leading and desired lagging indicators. Your C-suite colleagues care about revenue driving metrics. Always present metrics in a business objective framework. Understand and leverage a revenue attribution model to properly highlight marketing’s revenue influence.


  • Play to Win. When you first started, your desire to “win” was strong. Keep your sense of creativity and strive to be a change agent.


  • Be Transparent. Things don’t always go as planned. Focus on learning from any missteps and recommending corrective courses of action. Marketing leaders who try to cover up lose credibility.


Protecting Yourself Against Underserving “Experts”


Often, CMO’s will leverage agencies or advisors to help develop and/or drive planning, leads, content, or revenue, only to find themselves underserved. Meaning they’ve hired the wrong marketing agency or consulting firm, who’s proven ignorant of the company’s revenue and/or product complexities. While good in theory (acquiring external expertise), before hiring anyone, ask these questions:


  • Do they understand your company’s vision?


  • Can they articulate it?


  • Do they have the right expertise for your B2B industry?


Foundational Checklist


But let’s go back to the marketing basics mentioned before. While the below checklist typically drives the start of your CMO tenure, at your mid-point it’s important to assess your foundational success to date:


  • Start Anew. Become emotionally disconnected from past marketing efforts, projects and firms. Understand the new goals of the company and align to those goals.


  • Leverage Cross-functional Expertise. A smoldering gap in most marketing organizations is accurately sizing market potential. Sales or Strategy functions often excel in this area of market sizing and can share aligned insights. Joining forces early also helps establish your internal peer network to prevent the perception of Sales gaining control over Marketing. 


  • Develop a Plan of Action. Developing strategies and tactics to drive revenue contribution employs a strong foundation and value proposition. Vet the plan with the C-suite.  Figure out how to complete the shift from being a cost center to a revenue source. Seek to collaborate with CMO peers from peer groups.


  • Assess Structure and Staff. Proactively assess your current team’s ability to execute the plan.  Analyze the structure and assess your team. Don’t delay the inevitable.


  • Position Marketing as a Revenue Engine. CMOs may mistake ‘running under the radar’ as a benefit when they first start. It’s not. Non-engagement likely means leadership considers marketing a cost. Engage the right stakeholders to change their mindset. Demonstrate the key role of marketing in the buying process.


  • Contribute to the 5-Year Roadmap. Marketing should serve as an asset in building the long-term strategy. Help author the plan and facilitate brainstorming/ planning sessions to develop the roadmap. Consider bringing in a marketing consultant that can deliver best practices. Be a core strategic leader in orchestrating the interconnected plan.


Leverage our Campaign Proforma Tool for help evaluating costs and conversion rates of different media campaigns such as LinkedIn, AdWords, and Email blasts.


If you would like to participate in a custom workshop focused on the digital customer experience, bring your team to engage in Dallas at The Studio, SBI’s executive briefing center. 




Additional Resource


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