CMOs Don’t Last Long: Why a Learning Culture Matters
Of all the C-suite roles, the tenure for chief marketing officers (CMOs) is by far the shortest: 40 months (about 3.5 years)having fallen from 43 months in 2019. Compare that to the tenure of a chief financial officer (5.1 years) or a CHRO (5 years), or a CEO (6+ years), and it’s pretty clear that CMOs face challenges that the other roles don’t.
Why Is CMO Tenure So Short?
While part of the quick turnover certainly comes from individuals leaving for greener pastures, there’s no denying the involuntary aspects of it as well. A few thoughts on why that is:
1. The pressures on CMOs to deliver immediate results. It’s no secret that CEOs want results now. And many traditional CMOs, whose focus on brand building and awareness may be the right long-term strategy, may not always have the tools or background to be able to tweak operations to optimize the short-term performance.
2. Digital requires constant learning and investment in new technology. If you think about data alone, the methods to collect and analyze information on potential customers and website visitors has changed exponentially just in the last 5 years. Then, add on mobile, AI, XR (AR/VR), video, podcasting and other emerging areas and it becomes a question of focus: What do you do next? CEOs can always see what competitors are investing in and the question naturally falls to the CMO: Why aren’t you doing the same thing?
3. Budgets, similarly, don’t allow for investment. Because marketing is rarely looked at as a long-term investment, it often gets the short shrift when it comes to budgeting. That’s not true everywhere, but there’s often little wiggle room for today’s CMOs, who often have to spend a lot of resources and money trying to drive revenue today. That leaves the companies unable to invest in long-term technology solutions or even branding initiatives that would benefit them in future years.
4. Everyone thinks they know marketing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the CEO, chief financial officer, the chief product officer, the chief revenue officer, the head of communications, the head of HR – everyone thinks they are a master of marketing. We’ve never heard of a CMO telling a CFO how to best depreciate technology assets on a balance sheet, but we’ve certainly had the experience the other way around – the CFO suggesting new marketing ideas because his spouse CMO spouse does this or that.
Why Creating a Learning Culture in Marketing Will Help
According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), top-performing companies are five times more likely than low performers to have extensive learning cultures. It makes sense: In high-performing organizations, employees share knowledge with their colleagues at a greater rate than low-performing companies. High-performing companies invest in training and value employee education in new areas, which can spark creativity and motivation. Top performing companies also tend to put leaders in roles as teachers, rather than simply bosses. They also hire the strongest candidates and communicate the commitment to learning upfront to potential employees.
How to Create a Learning Culture in Marketing
So how do you do it? If you think about the data above from marketing perspective, it’s definitely possible to improve your team’s performance by approaching your role as a CMO differently. Here are some things you can do to create a learning culture in your department:
1. Stop thinking of your role as a boss. Think of it as a coach. We love sports, as it’s a more extreme version of the business world. In sports, coaches help their players succeed. Similarly, shouldn’t you as a CMO or VP of Marketing do the same? After all, your job isn’t to just tell people what to do, it’s to help them best do it, provide them strategies, help them improve their efficiency – provide them a framework to come up with creative ideas. In other words, if you’re creating an environment where all you do is create tasks, your team isn’t going to respond after a while because their job is just completing those tasks. They will burn out, and you’ll be faced with more turnover and less experience in your key roles.
2. Teach what you know. Maybe you had a particular specialty when you were more junior in marketing? Perhaps it’s some marketing framework or approach that you created that brought you success? Why not do an afternoon lunch & learn or maybe an after-hours quick training. In the Zoom-era with the pandemic, you could easily set something up so that you let your team you’re serious about their development and continuous learning.
3. Encourage outside marketing training and continuous learning. Part of creating a learning culture in marketing means providing opportunities for professional development for your team. If you can’t do it yourself (as in the example above), you should make sure to secure funds for corporate marketing training. Choose providers that will help you in areas where your team could use a boost in skills and knowledge. At Marketing Nice Guys, we have ½-day, 1-day, and two-day virtual marketing training options that can give your team a fun, practical learning experience in up to 12 topics.
4. Set aside learning days. Similar to the above point, what many companies do these days is set aside set days or time for employees to “learn.” And it doesn’t have to necessarily be marketing. It could be playing the guitar, learning history, or any other endeavor. But make it part of employee goals. And make sure they keep you up to date on what they’ve learned. How will that help you ask? Creativity comes from applying knowledge. It doesn’t matter if it’s in marketing or not. Oftentimes, the most creative solutions come from outside sources!
5. Quick on-the-job rotations. Marketing roles are so specialized these days it’s difficult for marketers to get experience in other marketing channels and disciplines. So why not do some cross-training where your managers in one area, train managers in another. For example, let’s say you have an email marketing manager who can help train your social media manager on the basics of sending an email and segmenting audiences. Such training provides two benefits: a. If the email manager takes a vacation or is out, that social media manager can step in while that individual is gone; and b. The social media manager gains some additional skills as he or she seeks to advance his or her career.
How a Learning Culture Improves Marketing Performance
When you think about the end goal, your role as a leader should always be about improving your team’s knowledge and skills. After all, if the team’s skills and knowledge improve, your team’s performance improves. Yet, so few executives still look at it that way their role affects skill development. By creating a learning culture in marketing, you are helping your team:
· Gain new skills that team members can apply to their work today, making them more efficient, and directly improving performance on marketing goals.
· Boost creativity and problem-solving because the more our employees know, the more they can apply.
· Stay motivated and retained, as research has shown that employees that continue to learn stay with employers longer and remain more loyal.
· Advance their career prospects, as learning new additional marketing skills helps them go to the next level.
There’s no guarantee that simply by creating a learning culture, you still won’t be short-circuited in your tenure as marketing leader. But you’ll certainly have made work better for your employees, and your legacy, no matter how long, will still be a positive one for the people who worked under you. In a way, even if you have a short tenure, that can be satisfaction enough.