Editor’s Note: Why the tenure of B2B CMOs can never be long enough

B2B CMOs 2019
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Maybe numbers will come out eventually, but I’m dying to know if B2B CMOs will have time on their side in 2019.

Just before the recent holiday season, a B2B sales intelligence software provider called Winmo released the results of a study of marketing leaders and the average tenure they could expect to have in their roles. As usual with such research, the results weren’t terribly encouraging. CMOs tend to “rotate up or out of a role,” the study says, just after three and a half years, which is less than half of the time CEOs spend in a particular job. This is fairly similar to other studies I’ve looked at, and while tenure doesn’t seem to fluctuate a lot, there’s no question marketing leaders have the clock ticking almost from the moment they start to develop a vision and strategy.

“CEOs expect a new CMO to be the magic bullet that will turn around disappointing sales, grow a lagging market, or inspire a new generation of customers,” the Winmo study’s authors write. “Marketing decision-makers have to move the needle faster and earlier than their C-suite counterparts do.”

Although the report breaks down the findings by industry, they’re all B2C examples, such as retail, financial services and consumer packaged goods. “Digital business providers” were added, but the study says this could mean anyone “from Amazon to Tinder,” versus strictly AWS to LinkedIn.

In B2B organizations, however — such as enterprise SaaS companies, for instance — I would argue the pressure on CMOs is even higher. In some cases the brand might lack much of the awareness of even the worst-performing soft drink company. Budgets might be significantly bigger in a consumer firm’s marketing department than one targeting CFOs or CIOs. Hiring the right people can be more challenging, as is the need to drive highly specific results like leads for the sales team.

Most of all, B2B CMOs are increasingly trying to appeal to a diverse cross-section of coworkers who make up a buying team versus individual consumers. Given all those constraints, how much longer or shorter do B2B CMOs take to be successful? Or to put it another way, how long do they tend to survive?

The Winmo study (and some of the coverage I read around it on other sites) suggested CMO tenure should be of primary concern to those aiming to become agencies of record (AOR) for a particular brand. The real impact, however, goes much deeper. It affects the entire marketing department, other lines of business that are coming to depend on marketing (like sales and service) and of course the customers who take part in whatever experience the brand offers them.

Until I can find the right data, I’ve decided to dedicate January as our “CMO Issue” on B2BNN, sponsored by SiriusDecisions Canada in the leadup to its second annual Summit in March. We’re looking at all the opportunities for marketing leaders in 2019, as well as ideas and advice to address many of the issues they’ll face. Unfortunately, no matter the length of their tenure, I can’t offer B2B CMOs more time. But I can try to give them helpful information to make the most of the time they have.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.