Advice for a New CMO
Candid guidance from 23 marketing leaders
working with Altimeter Group, Causes.com, Collective Bias,
Comedy Central, Cox, Ford, LocalResponse, PubMatic, and more
Curated by David Berkowitz
Chief Marketing Officer
@dberkowitz / @MRY
Where did this advice come from?
In June 2013, I joined agency MRY as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). It’s my first time in such a role.
On my first day the job, I posted a note to a private community asking some friends from my professional
sphere, ―What advice do you have for a first-time CMO?‖
The responses were inspiring. Right away, I knew I had to share them, and soon I had permission from
everyone to post their advice publicly. I was hungry for more though. I reached out to some others who
held marketing leadership roles, worked with CMOs, or have given me great advice in the past. Many of
them fit all three criteria. More advice poured in, representing hundreds of years of executive leadership
While this advice originally started as some private pointers for one agency’s new CMO, it’s relevant to
marketers in a range of industries, and to people who aspire to marketing leadership positions. I know I’ll
be learning from this advice for years to come. Maybe you will too.
As for you, if you have advice to contribute, share it online with the #newcmo hashtag, and you can email
it over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Perhaps there will be an updated or second edition as more
Thanks, and enjoy the collected wisdom here.
Guide to Contributors
5. Marc Barach
6. Richard Binhammer
7. Toby Bloomberg
8. Valerie Brown
9. Joe Chernov
10. Toby Daniels
11. David Deal
12. Aaron Goldman
13. Rachel Happe
14. Larry Harris
15. Max Kalehoff
16. Peter Kim
17. Dave Knox
18. Joe Kutchera
19. Charlene Li
20. Nihal Mehta
21. Scott Monty
22. Mark Naples
23. B.L. Ochman
24. Ted Rubin
25. Shiv Singh
26. Don Steele
27. Zena Weist
23 leaders, 1 image:
a word cloud of all of the advice here
Marc Barach - @MarcBarach
I think that the vast majority of one’s success is in knowing how to set priorities. It’s
common sense that working on the right items and not working on the wrong ones is critically
important; especially in young companies where resources are scarce. But there is always a
lot of pressure on a CMO to do all the things that are expected to be done; after all,
everyone reads daily of all the latest (and invariably the greatest) strategies and tactics that
others are executing to great success. This causes the CMO to adopt a checklist mentality -
do I have an effort being placed against every initiative that my boss or my board thinks I
should be executing? Doing so covers your ass, which is a fair goal, but not one that is
necessarily correlated to success.
Every strategy or tactic needs to be evaluated on the basis of whether it has the propensity
to really move the needle. What are the programs that truly have leverage on the
business? Those are the ones which must be prioritized and others should be put on the
shelf until perhaps later. Be immune to shallow and sensationalistic thinking, resist pressure
and work on the right problems, goals and solutions based on analytical assessment of the
situation. Invariably, the most important business goals are usually best addressed by the
most fundamental strategies and tactics. Those might be a lot less flashy than the latest
crop of miracle cures being sold in the marketplace but get the fundamentals right and you
earn the right to experiment and ultimately cut a swath of your own.
Richard Binhammer - @Rbinhammer
Principal, Binhammer Social Business
My word of advice is if you implement
change, don't assume people or
processes got it done. Follow up and
make sure, or things you thought were
moving forward may fall back....
Toby Bloomberg - @TobyDiva
Director Social Media Integration, Cox Media Group
As CMO you're not only in a position to help define the vision of
the agency but execute to drive the business forward. In the
course of your strategic direction, changes will occur, and
perhaps new positions and functions will be created.
Oftentimes information inclusion regarding the back-story of who
'needs to know' is siloed and retained in the c-suite. My
suggestion would be to remember your social media
experiences and authentically share more than a few high level
details with your employees. The more your staff understands
how and why the pieces fit into the your direction and into
their worlds the better they'll be able to help you turn your
ideas into reality.
Valerie Brown - @valeywood
VP Marketing, Causes.com
• My Management Motto: "Surround yourself with
smart people and get out of their way" – Ari
• Losers Fear Innovation: Respect is achieved in
marketing through innovation. Fewer things feel
better than being first. It’s a high-risk, high-return
game but it comes with endless respect and
• The Consumer is in Charge: Follow consumer
trends or you’ll always be running to catch up. As
a marketer, data has always been my guide.
Joe Chernov - @jchernov
VP Marketing, Kinvey
It's no longer about activities, it's about results. And results need to have numbers
associated with them. Go into a board meeting long on anecdotes and short on data, and you
are in for a long meeting.
Speaking of board meetings, brevity is your best friend.
The best gift you can give your CEO and BOD is a pattern to recognize. You don't need a
complete data set, just enough that they can string together a pattern. (Hat tip: Jascha Kaykas-
Speaking of pattern recognition, some degree of vanity metrics is fine, again as long as if the
person you are presenting to can identify a (familiar) pattern and extrapolate a desirable
outcome down the line
Sales = your most important ally
Hand off to your team anything they can do 80% as well as you can. After all, your job is no
longer doing, it's leading. (Hat tip: Elle Woulfe)
Toby Daniels - @tobyd
Co-Founder & CEO, Crowdcentric
Openness is a crucial component to how
you're perceived, so an attitude of "hey,
we're all in this together, let's work
collaboratively to move the industry forward"
is better than taking a them vs. us
approach. In other words, compete on
openness and avoid underhanded tactics
that undermine your competitors.
David Deal - @davidjdeal
Senior Vice President, iCrossing
Think less like a marketer and more like a
business leader. Get aligned with your company's
chief business needs, whatever they are for the
coming year (not just branding needs). Speak
knowledgeably to your CEO about those overall
goals (e.g., expanding into new geographic markets;
developing new services); and show how your own
goals align with those business goals.
Also, get embedded with product/service
development and customer satisfaction if you can.
Aaron Goldman - @aarongoldman
Chief Marketing Officer, Kenshoo
My best advice is a bit of a no brainer for us digital
marketing natives, but be sure to connect everything
you do to the bottom line -- especially in the B2B
space where the path to purchase is long and winding.
Can be too easy to dismiss or invalidate the hard efforts
of your team as not having direct impact on revenue. By
tying together your Demand Generation (DG), Marketing
Automation (MA), and Customer Relationship
Management (CRM) tools, you can properly track each
of your initiatives and measure leads, closes and upsells
that your programs originated or supported. With hard
data in hand, you'll not only know which marketing tactics
to prioritize, you'll be able to justify that paycheck.
Rachel Happe - @rhappe
Principal & Co-Founder, The Community Roundtable
Ask lot of questions that will give you the
narrative of the brand, then distill it in a way
everyone can repeat it, authentically. Every so
often, I go back to the YouTube videos of Ira
Glass of This American Life talking about how
he learned to tell a good story to get re-
Larry Harris - @glarrisharris
Chief Marketing Officer, PubMatic
As you are the CMO of an agency, I'll just emphasize that your
primary job is positioning the shop for new business. Promoting
great work, original content-development/insights, packaging of
the shop's proprietary techniques, tools and technologies, hitting
the big brand events and your use of your social media voice –
these are some of the strategies and tactics you will need to use
to keep your agency front and center.
Most agencies and most CMO's go too light on the PR. PR
properly used can give your agency that critical 'on-fire'
momentum that drives new biz wins. Last, but not least, both
awards and case studies matter – not just because they get
attention but, also, because they make your internal folks proud
and turn your clients into brand advocates.
Max Kalehoff - @maxkalehoff
VP Product Marketing, Syncapse
In a B2B situation (like you're in now), a couple of things I'd keep in mind...
• Establish very clear goals.
• Decide what you're going to measure and what you're not, and create a clear
• Take leadership in the revenue funnel, not just the top, but throughout – to sales and
• Push as an advocate of the customer, and gain as much ongoing knowledge as you
can. Talk to lots of customers, all the time.
• Sell. Sell. Sell.... as any sales person would.
• In an agency, I imagine it's easy for people to go crazy, all over the ranch doing custom
one-off solutions. Push for repeatability so you can stack equity. That makes it easier for
sales people to sell, for account services people to upsell, and for staff to drive
efficiency and profitability. Strong positioning and product marketing can help this.
Read more in his post on CMO Tenure at http://www.attentionmax.com/cmo-tenure
Peter Kim - @peterkim
Chief Solutions Architect, Dachis Group
1) The worst thing you can do is be ordinary.
2) Be patient and trust your gut.
3) Try not to burn any bridges.
Dave Knox - @daveknox
Chief Marketing Officer, Rockfish Interactive
I find the CMO at an agency needs to focus
on breadth, having a grasp on nearly every
aspect of the organization. The best thing
you can do is find someone in each office
and each function that can be your ears
on the ground. You can never be in front of
everything taking place, but those folks can
be your canaries in the coal mine so to
Joe Kutchera - @joekutchera
Social Marketing Advisor, author of Latino Link
1) Duke Ellington, the American composer and big band leader, used to adapt
each part for his individual players in order to customize the arrangements
around the strengths of each player. Relating that concept to business,
consider the book Strengthsfinder. It impressed me how if we focus on
bringing out the best of each colleague (as opposed to "fixing" his/her
deficiencies), we'll actually create happier, stronger and more effective
2) Keep your eye on where the majority of revenues come from (e.g. US).
3) Balance that with where future growth will come from (e.g. BRIC/Latam
4) Bill Gates takes one week a year to escape from the rat race and read "big
idea" books/research. I love this idea because we get so overwhelmed with
data, magazines, emails, etc that it's important to make time to see the big
picture. Can you take your team on retreats to do just that?
Charlene Li - @charleneli
Founder, Altimeter Group
Parlay your new-ness to form uncommon alliances. Communications
and Sales are no-brainers, but also look at HR and IT. The best
interaction I saw between a CMO and CIO was at Aetna – these two
leaders literally leaned INTO each other when they were talking on
stage at IBM's CMO Summit. You can't fake that kind of intimacy, it's
grown only through trial and tribulations and there will undoubtedly be
Think about how you will be a leader in the boardroom amongst your
CXO peers. You have a seat at the table, but you'll have to figure out
how to be a leader for the organization when you're not the only one.
Network with other CMOs. Join 1-2 CMO networking groups because
only they truly walk in similar shoes. CMOs have shared that they
typically had to try a couple to find one that worked for them -- so be
prepared to walk and follow your gut on this one.
Nihal Mehta - @nihalmehta
CEO & Co-Founder, LocalResponse
The best CMOs I've met don't have their
head in the clouds. They are on the ground
hanging out with the hottest startups and
conferences like Summit Series or events
like Burning Man vs more traditional
routes. Be yourself, be original, find the
dirty stuff – that's marketing.
Scott Monty - @ScottMonty
Global Digital/Multimedia Communications Manager,
Ford Motor Company
As I work with C-level executives on a regular basis, I'd say the
• Clarity of communication. Whether it's your vision or
feedback you're giving on an assignment, the clearer you
can be, the better off. In my experience, the visionary
leaders who are thinking way above everyone are more
effective when they can bring that thinking home for people.
• Alignment with your counterparts in Communications. Your
subordinates will be working closely; make sure the chiefs
have a solid working relationship and shared objectives.
• Constant communication about your plan, performance to the
plan, and any changes that may be coming.
Mark Naples - @markanaples
Managing Partner, WIT Strategy
Call me Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.
When I was tabbed to run marketing at Real Media, about 13 years ago, I introduced MBOs to the 13 person
team there. Nobody on that team was familiar with them, though other departments in the company had a
great program. Sales people generally have them in most organizations, but marketers seldom
do. Management by Objective is something I feel really strongly about, since it keeps people focused on what
they need to do, without getting in the way of "how" they do it, or the tactics. Smart marketers should already
know the "why" part, or the strategy. Right? That's why the CMO is the CMO, theoretically. Getting team
members to agree in advance to a set of MBOs gives both the manager and the managed a touch
stone to return to regularly. They are vital to effective management, and to driving results.
That kind of inward-facing accountability is important, but perhaps not as important as outward-facing
accountability. Too few marketers assign a value to their marketing efforts. No matter how "ROI" is to be
calculated, whether against a strict cost per lead index or something more amorphous, like inbound call
volume or aggregated column inches (for PR campaigns), all measurement criteria for marketers should be
numbers-based, on how a given effort grows the business. Bearing this in mind, the usual gauges - like how
nice the booth is or the one above, how many placements your PR effort drove, really don't matter. The
reason marketing exists is to grow the business. Usually, that means driving sales. even when it doesn't, and
the criteria are about brand recognition or other KPIs, all roads should eventually lead to more sales.
B.L. Ochman - @whatsnext
SVP Digital Strategy/Founder, whatsnextonline.com
Educate everyone you're working with about
what's next online. Sadly, most agency people, and
just about all corporate people, simply don't keep up
their skills. Hourly billing is to be blamed for much of
that, so try to change to work on a project basis.
Insist on research and lots of it, data-based decision
making, and ROI measurement. We're way past the
days when cool ideas were enough.
And encourage risk-taking and wild experiments.
Ted Rubin - @TedRubin
Chief Social Marketing Officer, Collective Bias
Most C-level Executives, CMO included, view "Social" as media—but they don’t know how to
interact with consumers there in a meaningful way. They want to buy CPMs or Likes—but don’t
know what to do with them afterward.
CMO's also make the mistake of assuming that the social audience has the same pain and
passion points as their face-to-face or store audience. Most often that is not the case.
In order to get the real value out of Social, you must connect emotionally to the people
who are there and find out what they’re looking for. CMOs are used to ads and campaigns,
so that’s the place they gravitate, but even Facebook ads are only media buys. Ads are good
for building initial likes, but they really are targeted to demographics just like any other ad.
Your mission is to go beyond that initial like and really get people excited about your brand,
engage with you, buy from you, become a social advocate and sell for you. To do that you need
to get into the heads of your social buyers.
So assign that as a singular goal to appropriate personnel on your team. Make it their mission
to follow or friend your followers (not only on Facebook and Twitter, but everywhere online) and
listen to their conversations. Their sole mission should be to pay attention to your social
consumers. Find out what they like to talk about, the other brands they like, what their problems
are--what makes them tick. That’s not a one-and-done task either… it’s ongoing.
Shiv Singh - @shivsingh
Global Head of Digital, PepsiCo Beverages
My suggestion think of yourself as having to
manage three brands – the company's, your
CEO's and that of your employees. You'll
need to take care of all three to be able to
drive business results.
Don Steele - @donsteele
VP Digital & Social Marketing, Comedy Central
1. Be proud of what you do and who you are.
2. Listen as much as possible for the first few
months. Your company has done great things
to get to where they are, and you are there to
be part if the team to take them further. Listen
to what made people proud and successful,
and try and do more of that and bring your flare
Zena Weist - @zenaweist
VP Strategy & Social Media, Expion
The best CMOs I have had the privilege to work with are leaders, not managers. They persuade, not
command. They champion, not direct. They lead through servant leadership traits with a focus on long-term
relationships - the journey not the campaign.
The servant leadership mantra is just as much about clients as it is staff.
Please listen to the clients - really listen and pivot where you can (I recommend meeting with key clients ASAP)
and become the internal advocate for optimizing the customer experience. Organic growth is the best marketing
ever! As CMO, promote the clients as industry leaders - I know, it's a given but we are in proof point mode so
much these days we forget who is actually behind the wheel sometimes. It's not the agency's great work as SMEs
but it is really about how working together with your clients in a true partnership ecosystem you are creating kick
ass initiatives - it's the process not the end game. It's the journey not the win. It's making changes along the way
to be nimble enough to align with each client's needs without losing your swagger.
My favorite CMO backed me publicly and coached me privately. He was a tough love boss but I always knew he
had my back, trusted my perspective and was humble enough to seek out and act on his team's advice. I was
appreciated. I mattered. It was because of his leadership that I came to work everyday and loved my job. My
favorite agency CMO had client summits that brought together small groups of individuals for networking and to
ask advice. I was appreciated. I mattered.
Because of your leadership style, clients and staff thrive. I know, I know - no pressure, right?
Boil this rabble down to three words - The relationship CMO.
Thanks, and share your advice!
What advice do you have for a new CMO? Tweet or
otherwise post it with #newcmo, or email it to me. I
may publish updated or follow-up editions to this if
this advice proves helpful to others.
Thanks so much for reading this.
@dberkowitz / @mry