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Opportunities Abound to Become the Next CMO

In her bestselling book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg shares her best advice for women looking to grow their careers and become leaders: join growing companies, she recommends, because they represent the best opportunity for growth. My experience at a fast-growing technology company called Crystal Decisions (which was bought by BusinessObjects, and then SAP) absolutely helped me get to where I am now. The rapidly changing world of marketing and the evolving role of the CMO, similarly present a host of opportunities for young marketing leaders to take charge and grow in their careers.

A recent IBM CMO Survey of more than 1700 CMOs worldwide also identified the opportunities available for young leaders:“Create a small action team composed of eager marketing futurists – individuals within your organization who have the potential to be CMOs themselves someday. Give these people a short timeframe to review the issues and develop recommendations for resolving them. Breaking the challenges into smaller chunks will enable you to address the big picture as well as the details and dependencies.”

I recently shared this idea at a customer meet up, as I felt that it would resonate with our customers, and it did: one of our customers spoke up that she felt this represented the people at the table. There are “marketing futurists” in your marketing teams who are our future marketing leaders. And, there are huge opportunities for these marketers to drive positive change in their marketing organization. So this got me thinking: “How can today’s marketers start taking a leadership role in their marketing organization?” Here are 3 ideas:

  • Try and solve the hard problems. Allocadia is a growing company in a fast evolving market, and team members who want to solve the hard problems are essential. Our current COO, Richard, was hired as VP of Marketing but when it became time to grow our sales team, he quickly began the hiring process. He went to where the biggest gap was and where the biggest challenge was. For marketers there are always lots of “hard problems” in this new world, such as addressing the CMO’s three strategic imperatives mentioned in the IBM report (1. Deliver value to empowered customers, 2. Foster lasting connections, and 3. Capture value, measure results). Measuring results is never an easy problem to solve, but doing so will take you into leadership territory as you become an invaluable part of the team.
  • Become an influencer. As any entrepreneur will attest, doing investment rounds are tricky business. You need to create a win-win scenario for the investor and the company, for the present and the future, with relationships and contracts layered into the process. In the end, the deals often become less about the actual deal terms, but more about what I call “the psychology of people”. Deals often come down to your ability to connect with people and to get them on-board with a common goal and plan. For marketers looking to be leaders in their marketing organizations, your ability to connect with people, influence them to get on-board to a common vision, and bring them together — will be invaluable to your CMO, especially as everyone learns to navigate in the fast-changing world of marketing where change becomes mandatory.
  • Create something from nothing. I believe that humans are truly happy when we create — whether it’s a house, a painting, a team, or a company. The act of creating something from nothing and seeing it come to fruition brings a true form of happiness and satisfaction, something I’ve learned building Allocadia (it also comes with a whole bunch of other stuff, more on that in future posts!). As a marketer in these changing times, you have infinite space to create. We all create campaigns, but what about something “bigger”? What about tackling that hard problem in an entirely new way? Or what about creating a new “Marketing Operations” discipline in marketing? (The analyst firm, SiriusDecisions, has more on this, by the way.) Get out of your comfort zone of what you know how to do, and create – not only will it be fulfilling, you will also grow professionally.

What tips do you have for future marketing leaders? I’d love to hear from you.

As CEO of Allocadia, I’ve had to learn to lead in a rapidly growing, fast-moving market. And as marketers building Allocadia, we have learned a lot about selling to CMOs: their needs and challenges, and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in this new Marketing 2.0 world. This Leading in Change: CEO Blog Series is intended to help inspire CMOs and marketing operations to lead and build data-driven marketing organizations.