What Skills Separate a Marketer from a CMO?


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Marketers attract customers through practical application and management of marketing tactics. However, CMOs can’t be as one-dimensional.

Article 4 Minutes
What Separates a Marketer from a CMO?

The constantly changing role of a CMO focusses more on business development, with an increasing emphasis on data and customer analysis, ensuring that client satisfaction becomes obsessive. Because of the need to be tech savvy and agile within a consistently evolving market, the Economist brands the new generation of CMOs as ‘Entrepreneurial’.

What's the difference between the two roles?

A marketer controls the communication stream between a company and the consumer. Marketing projects are designed with the aim to increase awareness of a business and attract new customers by identifying the services required by the customer. Marketers can be working on a few projects at once, the role is varied, fast paced and there is more pressure on hitting short—term targets and goals.

When comparing a marketer role to a CMO, we need to look at the current digital landscape. Pete Krainik, founder of The CMO Club, says that:

In this day and age the CMOs who can lead the brand beyond the marketing department, those who know their influence over customer experience, over sales, those are the best.


The role of the CMO should be to take the brand beyond the marketing department. Rather than focusing on the day to day delivery of tactical marketing communications, they are required to define the strategic direction for the brand and offer strategic support to CEOs, aligning marketing with the C-suite.

Changes to the CMO role

Increasingly, Chief Marketing Officers have to be data-centric with an increased awareness of marketing technologies. The job has become much more digitally focused and data heavy; a cross-channel experience is now essential. Lead generation, sales support and ensuring customer satisfaction are key aspects of a CMO’s role.

“As channels, time, business goals and customers change, [CMOs] need to be the ones with partnerships across the organization, and the strategies in place so [they] can wrap up the entire organization,” - Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the CMO Council.


The transformation of the CMO job specifications, is a step away from the production of the marketing campaigns and is more of an overseeing role, where all aspects of brand engagement are monitored so that the campaigns can be optimized. According to Influitive:

As the modern CMO’s role becomes more complex, so do the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.


The focus on data and analytics dominates the job focus and dictates the design and delivery of products. However, as the skill profile broadens, some companies are struggling to find CMOs who are able to flourish in all aspects.

Difficulties when hiring CMOs

Companies such as Mckinsey & Company have found it difficult to place marketers, looking to progress into a CMO role. They have found that:

Turnover rates for CMOs are therefore high relative to those of their C-level peers, and CMOs are in short supply.


The broadening of the role into a more technically advanced and digitally focused position, has increased the separation between Marketer and CMO, making it more difficult for marketers to develop the necessary skillset for the role.

However, synonymous with the evolution of the marketing sphere, so are the roles of the CMO:

To include leadership for end-to-end customer-focused processes, technologies and people. Growth, innovation and change can't be achieved by marketing alone — C-suite peers are equally accountable to meet business objectives as a cohesive team.


Gartner Report emphasizes the importance of upper management in driving forward the business through innovation, not solely through traditional marketing.  

The modern CMO role

Previously a leader in brand management and creativity, the CMO’s role today is far more technology focussed; measurable campaign impact, analytics and customer growth have increasing importance. Whereas a marketers’ role remains fairly similar, with added emphasis on digital, CMO objectives have evolved passed solely marketing. There are still some crossovers, including the creation of business opportunities and having an obsessive customer focus.

However, the separation between marketer and CMO continues to grow. Digital technology continues to advance and the focus intensifies on new multi-channel marketing. The role of CMO will continue to adapt, as they cannot afford to concentrate on one-dimensional marketing techniques; it is imperative that marketers looking to progress diversify their skill set to meet with these challenges.

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