CMOs have become a Scape Goat for Poor CEO Behaviour.

The average tenure of the CMO is the shortest of anyone in the C-Suite. For Fortune 500 companies, the average CMO lasts 4.2 years and the average CEO lasts 6.7 years. That’s a big gap. According to The Drum, the average client-agency relationship lasts a mere 3.2 years.  The amount of investment in learning the business, understanding objectives, understanding the brand and creating effective processes all take a lot of time. To turn that all over every 3-4 years and start over can’t be good. 

So what gives? Why so much ineptitude?  Surely, there is significant due diligence in the process of hiring CMOs. And I’m sure the same holds true with agency partners. Are there that many professionals on both client and agency side that are unqualified? Is there just a massive talent gap and people faking it till they make it? No. That’s not it at all. There’s a rigour that’s lacking. And it starts with the CEO. 

More specifically, it starts with CEOs that are hands off. CEOs that are unclear about their business goals. CEOs who look at marketing as a ‘necessary evil’ and cost centre vs. the department that can help deliver on their business objectives. Business leaders who ‘defer’ to their head of marketing preemptively absolve themselves of any wrong doing just in case things don’t go as planned. Losing market share? Fire the CMO. Dip in sales? Fire the CMO. 

Marketers need their CEOs to be vocal, involved and clear on business objectives. The issue is one of clarity, communication and connectedness. We need CEOs to communicate their business objectives with a level of clarity that takes the guesswork out of any marketing investment. So that the massive amounts of time, human capital and dollars spent are done so with a clarity of purpose across internal teams and external partners. And we need them to stay connected to the activity, provide feedback and ensure things stay in line with where the business is going. 

Quite simply, tell your CMO what the goal or destination is and they’ll chart the path to help you get there. Otherwise, they will toil and teams will focus on irrelevant KPIs as a means of justifying their existence. Help stop the endless cycle of scape-goating.